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COVID-19: Ugwuanyi’s Poor Governance Exposed As Enugu Pupils Call For UNICEF Intervention




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(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Like other nations of the globe, Nigeria, the acclaimed giant of Africa with over 200 million population, will not forget in a hurry the devastation and havoc the deadly novel killer pandemic, called Coronavirus, wrecked on various sectors of her economy in year 2020.

The deadly infectious Covid 19 disease which was declared pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), spread like wildfire from China where it was first discovered sometime late last year 2019, to different parts of the world including Africa and Nigeria.

Since it broke out, the pandemic, which is still roaring like Lion looking for whom to devour has sent millions of people across various continents, including Africa, to their untimely graves.

As part of measure to check spread of the disease, the Nigerian federal government under the watch of president Muhammadu Buhari, had some time in February 2020, announced a total lockdown in major cities of various states in the country perceived to be more vulnerable to the disease due to their geographical locations.

After the federal government’s lockdown announcement, various state governors, did not hesitate in doing same.

The lockdown idea by governments was a good one and a right step in the right direction, as it really helped in   checking spread of the pandemic.

However, its impact on the various sectors of the economy, including education has remained catastrophic and unbearable due to the fact that some state governments in the country have only be paying lip services to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control NCDC  precautionary measures .

 Most Nigerian governors were busy providing medical facilities to check the disease only on pages of the newspapers and electronic media, whereas there was nothing practically on ground in that regard.

Even some of them who claimed to have purchased huge quantity of palliatives to cushion effects of the ugly development ended up packing such items in their  various private facilities and  government warehouses without distributing them to the hungry and suffering citizens.

There is no gainsaying the fact that the nation’s educational sector was adversely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, as the ugly development completely disorganised and shattered the 2020 school calendar programme.

Following the outbreak of the disease, students and Pupils were forced to stay at home for over six months, as all schools be it primary, Secondary and tertiary institutions both public and private were shut down by governnent.

 Although, schools have finally resumed in parts of Nigeria, including South- East region, but the students, Pupils, and teachers are still grappling with the impact and effect of the dreaded pandemic.

In Enugu state, South East Nigeria, which announced its own lockdown on March 28, 2020, teachers and pupils in the area particularly the rural Communities are not happy with the state government over the poor manner it has been handling the pandemic in primary schools.

For them, “the Enugu state government is just playing to the gallery as far as the issue of checking spread of the pandemic in primary schools, is concerned, especially in the localities ” said a primary school teacher in one of the schools visited recently by African Examiner to ascertain the level of pupils compliance to the NCDC protocols.

The teacher, who identified himself as Mr. Christopher Egbo, and teaches at Community primary School Amodo in Nkanu West Council area , said the COVID-19 impact has not been palatable to them since they returned to the class rooms, “because government has not really done the needful regarding provision of hand  washing facilities such as soap, sanitizers, and running water to schools.

A recent visit to some primary schools in some local government areas of Enugu state, by our Correspondent, revealed that most Schools in the rural Communities do not have hand washing or any hygiene facilities, as well as do not observe the NCDC protocols at all.

At densely populated Community primary Central school, Ndiuno- Akpugo, in Nkanu West Council area of the state, which has a total of 405 pupils, both the teachers and pupils berated the governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, led government for not providing them with the needed hygiene facilities.

They alleged that the administration has not been handling the pandemic issue in schools with the seriousness it deserves.

Head teacher of the School, Mrs. Caroline Ugwu, told our Correspondent that though, the teachers and pupils are happy and excited to return to school, after staying at home for almost six months, “but our problem is that government is not providing us with the needed hygiene facilities to contend with the deadly disease.

She said: “Can you imagine, in the whole of this school what government gave us through the state Universal Basic Education Board EBSUBEB is just only 9 pieces of face  masks and one plastic bucket, and when I complained, they said I should use my discretion to share the 9 face masks among the pupils over 400 pupils.

“It is really sad and a pity that in a school like this, we don’t have water, sanitizer, soap, and toilet, and yet, they are talking of observing NCDC hygiene protocols.

“The pupils still practice open defecation in the bush because of lack of toilet facility in the school, and there is nothing the school management can do about it, because we don’t have any alternative.

“And you know without all these, items I mentioned, how can we observe the NDCD protocols, or check the spread of the deadly Coronavirus disease, especially in rural Communities as ours.

Mrs. Ugwu, added that ” it has not been easy for us to cope, since we came back to our duty posts because government has refused to the the needful, including paying us some kind of incentive to ameloriate the suffering of Covid 19 effect.

According to her, “frankly speaking, the effect of the COVID-19 has been biting hard on us since we returned back to classroom, and we are using this medium to call on organizations like UNICEF to come to our assistance.

She disclosed that some parents withdrew their wards and children from the school due to lack of finance occasioned by the Covid 19 effect.

The Head teacher admitted that the pupils do not observe social distancing because of lack of class room spaces.

Secondly, “because of the way our pupils are clustered in the classrooms, some parents have withdrawn their children and wards and send them to private schools where they have enough spaces and observe social distancing.

Another teacher who craved anonymity said ‘We don’t have water and toilets in this school, our pupils defecate in the bush,  which endangers their life. So, we are calling on organizations like UNICEF to come to our assistance since government is not ready to do it for us.

Master Damian Ndubuisi, a male primary 5 pupil of the school said he is so excited returning back to school, but expressed displeasure over government’s refusal  to provide the school with water, toilets soap and sanitizers.

He said: “We are begging Enugu state government and rich people to help us build toilet in our school.

Ndubuisi told our Correspondent that he was so happy the day government announced the resumption of schools, “because  I will now complete my primary five and move to primary six .

Similarly, a female primary six pupil of the school, Miss Onwudinjo  Ebube, equally  corroborated her colleague,   lamenting  lack of water and toilet facility in the school .

“We are begging Enugu state government to come and help us provide toilet, eater and face mask.

Also, some parents who spoke to our Correspondent in the locality, via Igbo language, including Mr. Nwodo Ezenna, a palm wine tapper and petty trader, appealed to UNICEF, and other international donor agencies to assist the school in building more classroom blocks and toilet facility.

He expressed worry over the use of bush by the pupils in answering call of nature, stressing that such development could make them fall prey to all manner of reptiles, particularly snake.

“We are appealing to wealthy individuals, Churches, and international agencies like UNICEF and WHO to come and help our children with medical and hygiene facilities during this period of Covid 19.

He said life has not been the same in his family since after the lockdown was relaxed, as his business which was the source of his family’s livelihood crumbled during the lockdown.

At Central school Agbani, in Nkanu West Council area of the state, it was also a tale of lamentation by the teachers and pupils who said nobody has given them anything like soap,  or Sanitizer since they resumed school.

Head teacher of the school, Mrs. Joy Ogbodo, said after resumption, the state Ministry of education through ENSUBEB provided the densely populated school with about 427 pupils with only nine pieces of poorly prepared face mask.

She said apart from the 9 face masks, government has not deemed it necessary to provide them with hand washing facilities such as soap, sanitizer and water to enable the school promote hygiene culture  amongst the pupils.

The Head teacher, who spoke on behalf of her Staff, said adhering or enforcing the NCDC protocols in the school had been a major challenge, because we don’t have all  that are  needed to do that.

“We don’t have water, no soap, no toilet facility, no Sanitizer, unless any time I manage to buy soap with my personal money, adding that coping with the situation has not really been easy.

Mrs. Ogbodo, stated that the Covid 19 effect has forced most parents to withdrew their children from the school, particularly those that do not have steady income and source of livelihood.

“Because of the Covid 19 impact, most of the parents who are mainly peasant farmers now finds it extremely difficult to buy writing materials for their children or wards. So, it is really a big problem.

 Some of the pupils interviewed including a female primary 4 pupil, Miss Odey Jenifer from Cross River state, said they are willing to wear face mask and observe all the NCDC precautionary measures if provided with the hand washing facilities.

A parent in the locality, Mr. and Mrs. Okafor Nnamani, noted that the state government has not shown enough commitment in checking spread of the disease in schools especially at the grass root level.

They said it is high time government should rise up to her responsibility and begin to take issue of Covid 19 matters in schools, especially primary very seriously and stop paying lip service to it.

There is no doubt that good hygiene is the first line of defense against any infectious disease, including Covid-19, hence there is need for Enugu state government to rise up to the challenge of providing all the items needed in schools, primary inclusive, for the checking of the spread of the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic in places of learning.  

 For instance, National statistic has shown that 66 percent of the residents in Enugu state do not have hand washing facilities with soap and water close to the home, while 62 percent have no access to basic sanitation, and 28 percent do not have access to clean water.

It also a known fact that lack of access to water, Sanitation and hygiene (WASH), infrastructure makes the practice of good hygiene difficult, with attendant negative consequences on health, livelihood, gender equality and socio-economic outcomes.

Against the backdrop of the present regrettable situation at the state primary schools, as it relates to issue of non-availability of hygiene and hand washing facilities in checking spread of Covid 19, there is need for government to urgently rise up and do the needful before it’s too late.

However, since the Enugu state government alone may not have the financial and technical capacity to shoulder the responsibility of tackling the Coronavirus pandemic issue, there is need therefore, for national and international organizations operating in the state and Nigeria to emulate UNICEF, in its constant support to state government on tackling the scourge since it broke out.

Worried by the devastating and alarming effect of the pandemic, which seem to have overwhelmed government at all levels, including Enugu, UNICEF, had intervened in Nigeria in  providing hygiene facilities in institutions and public places .

Aside provision of hand washing facilities in public spaces, UNICEF, had trained scores of health care givers in Enugu state, including those working at various isolation Centers, morgues and designated hospitals.

The international organization which has biased on issues concerning Women and children has continued to be at the forefront of preaching strict adherence to Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) protocols.

UNICEF, via it’s A field office Enugu, had   strengthened  the capacity of health care workers in the area of  management, infection prevention, and control, as well as surveillance, of the dreaded Coronavirus pandemic, even as it trained  over 100 skilled and non-skilled health personnel in the state.

Participants at one of her integrated training programme were made up of medical Doctors, Nurses, Laboratory handlers, pharmacists, Morticians, cleaners, among others, and were drawn from the three isolation and treatment centers in the state.

Speaking at the event, Dr. Ifeyinwa Anyanyo, Health Specialist, (UNICEF) Enugu Field Office, explained that the international organization was   holding the integrated training “in conjunction with the Enugu state Ministry of Health.

She said: “Following a gap analysis by the State Ministry of Health, a need to train Health workers on COVID -19 Case Management; Infection, Prevention and Control; as well as Surveillance was identified.

“As a result, 100 skilled and non- skilled health workers pooled from three Isolation centers in the state were trained in two batches over the week.

According to her, “At the end of the training, the capacities of 100 health care workers will be strengthened in the areas of case management, surveillance and Infection prevention and control, thereby enabling them to efficiently manage and tackle the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the resource persons and an expert in infection disease control, Dr .Eddy Ndibuagu, from Enugu state university of  science and Technology  ESUT, had applauded UNICEF for organizing and funding the training workshop for health care providers, stating that the agency is empowering them to tackle COVID 19 pandemic.

The Medical practitioner, hinted that among the participants are also Consultants, adding that the 100 persons were picked from the three functional isolation and treatment centers, which includes, ESUT Teaching hospital, Diagonostic Center and the center located at Nsukka.

He however, stressed the need for health care providers to be properly equipped with the necessary knowledge to enable them to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the globe including Nigeria, describing the participants as front liners in the battle against the dreaded Corona Virus.

Dr. Ndibuagu, equally reminded health care providers that they are like soldiers in the war front, stating that soldiers do not run away when there is an ongoing war because if they do, the enemy will overrun their community or territory and will also kill the soldier at last, hence the need for health workers to live up to expectations in this critical period.

Also speaking, at the event, a resident doctor at the (ESUT) Teaching hospital , Dr  Chidi Ikpekaazu, of the Department of Community Medicine, said what they expected to learn from the workshop is  to improve their level of care for the patients of the dreaded disease, adding that “the whole aim of the training exercise is to reduce drastically, the level of COVID-19 in Enugu state and Nigeria in general.

UNICEF, which promotes quality education among the girl child, had always assured  that  it will continue to support state governments in Nigeria, including Enugu state  to improve healthcare, protection and development of children in Nigeria.

ENDS


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