Lecturers can’t ensure social distancing in crowded classes, hostels –ASUU

The Academic Staff Union of Universities, on Tuesday, said it cannot guarantee social distancing in crowded classes and congested hostels.

The union also said the government was yet to put safety measures in place at learning centres amid the second wave of the pandemic.

According to ASUU National President, Biodun Ogunyemi, the safety of university lecturers and students is a priority, adding that the union is worried that university professors are dying of COVID-19.

Ogunyemi spoke in Abuja while featuring on a television programme monitored by The PUNCH.

He said, “We have not seen government and university authorities taking concrete steps to access the level of safety for our members and for our students.

“In as much as we are ready to go back, we are ready to put in extra efforts but it appears that government is not doing enough to address the two emergencies that we have – the emergency in the health sector as well as the emergency in the educational sector.

“Take for instance, how can we ensure or assure social distancing in crowded classes and congested hostels? Our hostels, are they fumigated? The classrooms, what flexible arrangements should be in place? I’m not sure universities can cope.”

The PUNCH had earlier reported that ASUU, on December 24, 2020, conditionally suspended the nine-month-long strike by the lecturers after a lot of foot-dragging by the union and the Federal Government.

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 subsequently ordered schools to remain closed till January 18, 2021 to contain the spike in COVID-19 infections in the country. The National Universities Commission later asked universities to comply with the directive but the PTF on Monday said the January 18 date is subject to review.

But speaking on Tuesday, the ASUU president said the NUC and the government were yet to enforce all Covid guidelines in the universities. The don also said the government should visit universities in the country and ensure all Covid protocols were in place just as it did before the reopening of the aviation sector.

Ogunyemi further said lecturers are working on an alternative mode of learning, noting that some lecturers will blend virtual and physical classes to avoid overcrowding and maintain social distancing at universities.

“But the universities don’t have functional ICT (Information Communications Technology) infrastructure and you need some huge funds to do this,” he stated.

“People are saying start virtual classes but we know that more than 60 per cent of our students will run into problems because they cannot afford data on their own and the wifi you are expected to see on campuses are not there. We have this limited capacity where government should come in and ensure that the university environment is conducive for alternative models of teaching and learning,” Ogunyemi added.

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