THE President, National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Lagos State chapter, Chief Yomi Otubela has cleared the air on the alleged controversial directive from his stable that all private schools in Lagos should reopen on Monday, September 22, 2014, against the new resumption date of Wednesday, October 8, 2014, announced by the state government to enable all schools in Lagos State put in place the required preventive measures against the spread of the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease. He said the public only misunderstood the directive by Governor Fashola as it only affects public schools. This and much more were revealed when ENCOMIUM Weekly was at his office at Lagooz College, Orile Agege, Lagos on Thursday, September 25, 2014.
Contrary to government’s order that all schools should remain closed until Wednesday, October 8, 2014, to enable such schools put in place all the necessary preventive measures against the spread of Ebola Virus Disease, you issued a directive that all private schools in Lagos should resume on Monday, September 22, 2014, what informed the directive?
The truth of the matter is that there was no contrary directive from me or our association to the one issued by Lagos State governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN). Rather, people misinterpreted the directive of Lagos State government. The state governments had agreed with the Federal Government prior to Sunday, September 21, 2014. And the announcement prior to that time was that schools in Lagos State were free to resume on September 22, 2014. He said this on the basis of the fact that since the last man that was put on close observation had been noted to have had secondary contact with the index case had tested negative to Ebola Virus Disease. So, the statement was that there was no basis for private schools not to reopen. And that was during a Jumat service at Alausa Secretariat Mosque, Ikeja, Lagos on Friday, September 19, 2014.
Two days later, that was on Sunday, September 21, 2014, there was a meeting by Lagos State Schools Head Teachers and Principals. The meeting was not inclusive of private and federal schools operators, meaning the state government was only assessing the readiness and availability of preventive measures in public schools. It was at that Sunday, September 21 meeting that it was discovered that some of these schools were not ready while some were. But it was unanimously agreed between the governor and the attendees of that meeting that schools should not open as directed by the governor himself and they all agreed with him. He announced to them the new resumption date, and that has nothing to do with federal and private schools.
Aside that, we had an understanding with government before now that each time the schedule of school resumption is being written out from the Ministry of Education, private schools should be given window of a week or two to resume before the general resumption date. The reason is basically because there are programmes that private schools run that public schools don’t. such programmes include International Certification, Cambridge Certification, GMAT, TOEFL and more which often come earlier than the West African School Certificate Examinations (WASCE) and National Examination Council (NECO), which public schools often present candidates for. Even when the directive was made, we put calls through to the Department of Private Education in the Ministry of Education, and it was confirmed to us that the announcement was meant for public schools only in order to provide the needed preventive measures against the spread of Ebola Virus Disease to public schools and not private schools. If private schools had provided preventive measures, so what are they waiting for? That’s just the situation.
How prepared are you now as a proprietor against the spread of Ebola Virus Disease?
Immediately the news broke that Nigeria had recorded the first victim of Ebola Virus Disease, in person of Patrick Sawyer who imported the disease from his country, Liberia, we knew the children in our care, including ourselves are at risk. We went into rigorous planning. A think-tank committee was set up to see what we can do against the spread of Ebola Virus Disease. So, we liaised with the state government and wrote to the Commissioner for Health. We also wrote to the Special Adviser on Public Health, Dr. Yewande Adesina, who came around to facilitate a special workshop that was held by school owners and two representatives from their respective schools that will be trained as focal staffers that will be responsible for emergency cases and infectious diseases related cases in the schools, including the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease. So, at that meeting, which was held at Victory Grammar School, Ikeja, Lagos, on Thursday, August 28, 2014, Dr. Adesina was available and gave a lecture on comprehensive way to prevent the spread of Ebola within school system. Apart from this, we also contacted the National Orientation Agency and the Director here in Lagos State was on hand to also take us round this lecture for the second time, including this time around, safety in school. All these were documented in CDs that were made available to all members to go back home and listen to it again and again until they ensure that the right preventive measures are put in place.
We also directed our members, that’s NAPPS to ensure that they convene Parents Teachers Association (PTA) meetings. And here in our school, we invited parents and also enlightened them on what we need to put in place in our school before resumption. And at that point, we came up with what we called Ebola Virus Bible and Management Plan. This is a step by step action plan to be taken by schools to ensure that the needed things are put in place, and the roles of all the stake holders are properly played. Among those things that we agreed we should put in place are a running tap with wash hand basin close to the one we use in bathing, with the ratio of about 2:50 children, then 4:100 children positioned very close to the entrance, with a soap dispenser and liquid soap poured in that dispenser. This will enable us to teach the students hand washing culture. When anybody enters the school premises, it’s better and even mandatory to go to the place set aside for that purpose and wash his or her hands very well in a manner that’s World Health Organisation (WHO) standard. We also produced flyers to this effect so that everybody can see the illustration very clearly.
For instance, all finger tips must be washed differently, the palm and other hidden places must also be washed clean. Even the wrists are not exempted. We also told our members that they register their schools with a close health centre or hospital. The doctor in that hospital or health centre should visit the school at least once in a week to ensure total compliance and sustainability of that process. And to make sure people don’t get easily carried away and forget the process.
So, the visit by the doctor will serve as a reminder on a weekly basis. And to make sure there is total compliance among member school, we informed the PTA executive council of each school to ensure that they check the school that this weekly assessment management plan that we gave to each parent is being adhered to. In a situation where anything is left out of this plan, parents should write our secretariat, and we’re going to make sure we advice such schools to put that thing in place before they resume. We also made flyers in the name of the association and we asked members to customize the flyers in the names of their school and do enlightenment and sensitization programmes within their communities.
This is necessary because in our findings, we discovered that if there is any outbreak of the disease within the communities where we operate, we won’t be able to have a very peaceful process of teaching-learning. And these flyers were distributed among all and sundry.
We also had that non-contact infrared thermometer is essential here to detect visitors, parents, teachers and students that have high temperature. And we recommended that each school must have at least one of such thermometer at the gate, and ensure that the temperature of all the visitors to the school are taken as they enter. And that anybody with 38oC and above should be disallowed to enter. Not only that, such a person should be taken to or advised to go to hospital for clarification for the reason for his or her abnormal temperature. We also ensure that the formerly called Sick-Bay, now Recovery Room is well put in place, and with the nurse there being enlightened on how to protect herself against the contact of this deadly disease. All these we have done, and they are available for verification. That’s why we’re sure that children can go back to school. Nevertheless, we’re aware of what’s going on out there that there is this fear of Ebola Virus Disease in the country.
So, it’s the responsibility of government and people like us to continue the sensitization programme so that we can allay the fear. At times, people die for lack of knowledge about a particular thing. So, that knowledge is what they need. And school is a place for knowledge acquisition. Will you now shut that place against the people seeking knowledge?
With all your explanations now, why is it that some private schools are yet to resume? Are they not aware of your directives?
There are two major and other minor reasons some schools are yet to resume. The two major reasons are some of these schools you’re talking about are not approved. They are not yet recognized by the government. They don’t even have basic health facilities to ensure safety of children in their schools from the outset even before the outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease. So, it’s understood that they have not provided these required facilities, and such schools are not safe. The information we gave out is that you can only reopen your school if you have passed through the training and you have put in place the needed preventive measures against Ebola Virus Disease.
The second issue is that some of these schools themselves lack information just like the populace thought the resumption date announced by the government was for all schools, they also felt the announcement was meant for all schools. Then about 25 of us now started going round to enlighten them on the issue. We let them know that if the government said the reason for postponing the resumption date to October 8, 2014 is because it will allow the government to provide preventive measures in the schools, the question is that is the government providing for private schools? If it’s not doing that, so what are the private schools waiting for?
A lot of people have misconceived your action to mean you are anti-Fashola’s government. How would you react to this?
People can easily peddle rumour, and start making hasty comments. Governor Fashola as he is known to our association has been a very responsive and responsible man. He is a kind of leader that people like us will want to follow. But the truth is that Governor Fashola himself has not come on air to say we flouted his order neither has he given a directive to private schools not to reopen. So, where is the basis that someone is fighting Governor Fashola? If the information he passed was ambiguous to some people, then it’s our job to clarify it.
Governor Fashola has not said we disobeyed him. So, people should be able to read within the line and draw a genuine conclusion, not a distorted one.
How much will it cost a school to provide these preventive measures you’ve talked about?
It doesn’t cost fortunes to do that. An average school can spend between N30,000 and N50,000 to put them in place. While it can go as high as between N200,000 and N300,000 to install very sophisticated facilities just like we have in Lagooz here.