Resumption: Pupils express their Ebola fears

Monday’s proposed resumption date for primary and secondary schools in the country has caused a sharp division among the pupils write IHUOMA CHIEDOZIE, CHUKWUDI AKASIKEFEMI MAKINDE, SUCCESS NWOGU and MOTUNRAYO JOEL

Tomorrow is Monday, September 22, when primary and secondary schools in the country are expected to resume for a new session according to the directive of the Federal Government.

Apprehension still hangs over the fate of schools more so as the Nigerian Union of Teachers has directed its members to shun the directive if adequate preparations are not put in place on their protection and their pupils’ against the Ebola Virus Disease. The Federal Government had initially postponed the resumption date to October 22.

The first shot fired against Monday’s resumption date was by the Nigeria Medical Association, whose National Secretary-General, Dr. Olawunmi Alayaki, said “schools should be shut till the last suspected case or patient is certified free of the virus.”

There have been cases and suspected cases of the EVD in Lagos,Rivers, Kwara and Osun states.

A cross-section of pupils from the affected states, in separate interviews with our correspondents, expressed divergent views about the proposed resumption date.

A JSS 2 pupil of Whitesands Secondary School, Lagos, Nnamdi Otiono, said, “The school resumption should be shifted because the Ebola disease has not been totally eradicated from Nigeria even though no new case has come up. What I heard about the disease is that it is deadly and kills within 21 days, we should all take necessary precaution. Moving the school resumption would be in our best interest. I would request that the health and education ministers sit down and discuss what is best for the education sector. At the same time, the Federal Government should ensure that thermometers are provided for all government schools. However, I plan to protect myself when school resumes, I will always carry my hand sanitiser and try not to take part in sporting events. I will regularly wash my hands.”

Another pupil from a government school, Fred Williams Primary School, Lagos, Preye Osuwo, 13, said she is scared about resuming school on Monday.

“I first heard about the Ebola disease on radio and it made me scared. I heard that the disease is killing people fast and that those who don’t wash their hands and clothes can get the virus. I wish the government will move the resumption date till schools are provided with the machine to detect the virus. I plan not to shake hands with anyone when school eventually resumes. But if the school resumption is moved forward, I wouldn’t mind because our toilets are dirty, when I want to defecate, I go to my church. The government should make our school clean so that we won’t contract ebola disease.”

An SS1 pupil of Somori College, Lagos, Deborah Michael, also said, “I am resuming school on Monday and this makes me happy and sad. My reason for being happy is that I wouldn’t have to stay at home all day any longer. It’s boring staying at home all day doing nothing. I’m desperate to go back to school. But I’m also sad because I don’t want to contract Ebola. I first heard about the disease on radio and that it kills easily. I also heard that it was one man that brought it into Nigeria. In school, one wouldn’t know who has it. I plan not to hug or shake hands with anyone in school.”

A pupil of Chrisland High School, Lagos, Oluwatofunmi Layi-Babatunde, who wants to become a medical doctor, said she might have a change of heart.

She said, “Ever since the Ebola scare, I’ve been worried and I don’t know if I still want to become a medical doctor. The whole thing has affected me, I pray Ebola will be eradicated by the time I get to that stage and that they would have found a cure. I also hope doctors would have stopped going on strike by that time. May the soul of the late Dr. Adadevoh and others that died rest in peace.”

On school resumption, she said was happy the government fixed the date for September 22, “I am happy to resume because, if we don’t resume we are going to be behind in the scheme of work.”

A pupil of the Air Force Primary School, Enugu, Nnamdi Ibemam, said he would only resume if his parents allow him to attend school.

Ibeman, who said he intends to become a mediccal doctor, added that his mother was not favourably disposed to the resumption. He said, “My mother said I should not go out again because Ebola is in Enugu,” Nnamdi said.

Another pupil, Maisy Nkiru, of Pinecrest Model Primary and Secondary School, Enugu who wants to be a banker, expressed fears over the Ebola disease.

“I don’t want to go to school, I don’t want to fall sick,” she said. She explained that her parents had hired a private tutor, who comes to the house to teach her, three days in a week.

However, a JSS 2 student in the Command Secondary School, Enugu, James Eziri, said he was ready to return to school.

James who wants to be a professional footballer, told our correspondent that he was tired of staying at home and wanted the schools to resume.

He said, “I look forward to going back to school, I am tired of staying at home and I want to see my friends again. But I will not shake hands with anybody because of Ebola. My elder sister bought a hand sanitiser for me, I will go to school with it.”

Despite being aware of EVD, a JSS 2 student of Craft Development Centre in Port Harcourt, Divine Maduabuchi, is not afraid to return to school. The boy who wants to be an artist, however, has a piece of advice for the government: It should “try its best to find a cure for the disease.”

Another JSS 2 pupil, Patience Sunday, who attends Orowuoruko Secondary School, said, “I am afraid of Ebola because it is a disease that kills somebody. I want to become a professional hair dresser in future. The Ebola disease cannot come near me because I don’t shake hands with people for now. I am ready to go to school. Our parents have been talking to us about the disease and we can protect ourselves when school opens.”

A Basic 4 pupil of Niger Nursery and Primary School, Port Harcourt, Faith Amadi, said, “I am not afraid to go back to school. I will not have Ebola because I believe in God. I want school to resume. We have been taught by our parents to always wash our hands. I want to be a lawyer in future and by God’s grace, Ebola cannot stop me from becoming a lawyer.

Justice Amadi, an SS1 pupil of Niger Grammar School, Port Harcourt who wants to be a journalist, sees personal hygiene as the solution to the disease, hence he is taking it seriously.

In Osun State, Opeyemi Adebisi, an SS 1 pupil of Our Lady St. Francis Catholic College, Osogbo said she was a little bit scared of returning to school on Monday because of the Ebola virus. Her fears were stemmed out of her lack of faith in the nation’s health system.

An SS 3 pupil of Baptist Girls High School, Osogbo, Afeez Mukaila also expressed fear about the resumption date. He, however, said that he had missed his friends and teachers.

He said he got to know about the EVD about a month ago when participants in this year’s Osun Osogbo Festival were screened before being allowed to enter into the groove.

He said, “ I heard about the virus on the radio but I became fully aware of it and how deadly it is when some doctors where using an instrument like a gun (non-contact thermometer) to check our temperature. They explained that they were doing this to prevent those who might have contracted the virus from spreading it to other participants at the festival. I became scared when we were enlightened about it. Although I am scared, I am eager to return to school. We pray that we would not be affected by the virus.”

Bolaji Yusuf of Government Secondary School, Ilorin, Kwara State said he was not afraid to resume school because the state is Ebola-free. He added that the state government had given the assurance that it had made enough preventive measures against the disease.

To Mary Adeola of Queen Elizabeth School, Ilorin, the only source of worry is her friends who had travelled to some of the states where the EVD had been noticed. She expressed doubts over adequate preventive measures to protect pupils from contacting the virus.

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