UNIZIK NUESA President speaks on COVID-19 and school resumption

The President of Engineering faculty, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka (UNIZIK), Rotr. Comrade Nwachukwu Bruno Chukwudi (popularly known as Casablanca), has given an insight on how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected education in his institution and other Nigerian Tertiary institutions as he states his view on the present issue of school resumption amid the pandemic.

UNIZIK NUESA President gives insight on COVID-19 and school resumption

Comrade Nwachukwu who spoke with EliteMedia through a chat interview voiced his frustration at the situation the pandemic has put Nigerian students, hinting that the lockdown of schools has affected final year students more than others.




Speaking on school resumption, Comrade Nwachukwu supported the government’s decision to stall school reopening. He urged the government to give the green light only when they know it will be safe, stating that safety is of paramount importance and education is meaningful only to the healthy and living.

“I think the government should give a go ahead in the reopening of schools only when they feel that they would be able to handle the situation if another outbreak occurs, because health is wealth and it’s better to be safe than sorry. In a situation where schools are reopened and there are no or not enough facilities to handle another outbreak many lives will be lost. So I feel they should reopen when they know they can perfectly handle the situation at anytime. Safety remains the watchword because education is meaningless to a dead or sick person.”

Comrade Nwachukwu who is also the president of UNIZIK NUESA (Nigerian Universities Engineering Students Association) outlined some measures he will take with his fellow faculty executives to protect his students in case schools reopen.

Awareness has to be created in the first place. I think everyone should be aware by now but we still have to continue creating awareness and then give guidelines on how to go about our school activities everyday and not contact the virus.

“We have to make the use of nose mask compulsory. We will make sure no lecturer allows a student without his/her nose mask into their class. Also, we would have to decongest the classrooms, find ways to reschedule classes so they don’t clash; that way the population will be under control.

“Again, we will provide hand sanitizers and access to running water at designated points such as the doors of lecture halls so that students can use them when coming in or going out of the classrooms. I think with this we should be able to reduce the contact and spread of the virus in the faculty.’

Comrade Nwachukwu advised the government to invest seriously in E-learning as it is the safest insurance for education in situations like this.

He also noted that the pandemic has its advantages as it has forced the government to improve the health sector and given people time to reconsider their priorities.

Finally, he advised students to make good use of the free time, urging them to use this period and learn meaningful skills and reassess themselves.

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SEE FULL INTERVIEW BELOW:

Good day sir, please introduce yourself.

Good day. I’m Comrade Nwachukwu Bruno Chukwudi, the Executive President Faculty of Engineering Nnamdi Azikwe University Awka, Anambra State, Nigeria.

Thank you sir. We’re glad to have you today. It’s a great pleasure

You’re welcome. And the pleasure is all mine.

Sir, we believe you’re acquainted with the present global condition; the coronavirus pandemic. Can you tell us how the pandemic has affected you on a personal level ?

Well, the present coronavirus pandemic has really affected a lot of people, not just me. As an outgoing and social person, been locked down has been so hard fro me. Then as the President of NUESA Unizik chapter, and considering that I just got into office before the abrupt lockdown, it has affected my goals massively. I have not been able to carry out a lot of tasks I planned out for my administration and its frustrating. A lot of projects I wished to begin and complete have been placed on hold. Many planned conferences I organized may also not be able to hold due to the lockdown.

Thank you. As the President of NUESA and Engineering faculty in UNIZIK, one of Nigeria’s most prestigious Tertiary institutions, can you intimate us on how the pandemic has affected education in your institution and the country at large?

The coronavirus pandemic has affected us greatly. Students are no longer able to come together to learn in their respective institutions. Schools have been closed indefinitely, so there are no access to certain books needed for learning which is usually and mostly found in the institutions libraries. Final year students seem to be the most affected by the closure as it’s just a couple of months to their final exams and all their plans have been stalled. Right now, education is on a stand still both in Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra state and in the country at large and it’s becoming unbearable for many students including myself.

As President, what steps have you taken to mitigate the adverse effects of the pandemic on education and studies in your faculty?

Myself and the entire faculty executives have been able to successfully create various group chats on different social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Telegram, where the students are grouped according to their departments and levels for easy communication. We also ensured that each level is being guided by students in higher levels who have already passed through that path as we all know that lecturers are currently on strike. We also created a broadcast channel where useful and reliable information are passed to everyone in the faculty, thereby keeping them updated on what is going on in Nigeria and even the world at large.

That’s awesome sir. Do you think there has been any benefit from the pandemic? Any lessons learnt?

Yes, the pandemic notwithstanding the fact that it has been nightmarish has benefits too. For one It has opened our eyes to see the importance of technology in the education system. E-learning is something that cannot be ignored in this age any longer. The world is fastly turning into a digital village, the pandemic have helped us realize that e-learning can actually be a reality.

Secondly, a sense of awareness has been put in us. Everybody is now taking personal hygiene seriously as we conform to the preventive measures to curb the pandemic; cleanliness and physical distancing. There is a reduction in body contact as no one knows who has the virus.

Again, it has given students time to make research on our own, learn new skills, reunite with our loved ones and many other things. It has also brought the government to take a proper look at the country’s health sector, right now we can say there is an improvement in the health sector as the government has renovated, built and provided more equipment in hospitals and medical health centers.

We understand many students are frustrated and bored at home, and they want to resume school. Do you think the government should give in and give the go ahead for school resumption?

I think the government should give a go ahead in the reopening of schools only when they feel that they would be able to handle the situation if another outbreak occurs, because health is wealth and it’s better to be safe than sorry. In a situation where schools are reopened and there are no or not enough facilities to handle another outbreak many lives will be lost. So I feel they should reopen when they know they can perfectly handle the situation at anytime. Safety remains the watchword because education is meaningless to a dead or sick person.

Can you outline any ways the government and the Ministry of Education can prepare the country’s institutions for a situation like the pandemic in the future?

It’s not our prayer that something like this should happen again in our generation or generations to come, but all the same I think It’s all about E-learning. That’s the key. With E-learning education will continue even in a pandemic or similar situations. Books and other learning materials should be provided on online platforms for easy access to students incase of a pandemic like this.

Many people believe that the statistics of the pandemic in Nigeria is inflated, and some others even insist that the coronavirus is not in our country, what’s your take on that?

You won’t blame anyone who thinks the number of cases have been inflated. Some even feel like there is no case of COVID-19 in the country, yes, but the truth is that we don’t exactly know what is going on. We have seen videos and pictures of empty isolation centers which were said to be filled up like that of Kano State. Videos of isolation centers have been leaked out where supposed patients are playing and having fun. We have also heard claims from people about the NCDC trying to bribe them with some amounts of money so that they can pretend to have the virus and so many other things. So I won’t blame people for believing what they believe.

In case the government gives the green light for school resumption, how are you preparing to keep your faculty safe amidst the pandemic?

Awareness has to be created in the first place. I think everyone should be aware by now but we still have to continue creating awareness and then give guidelines on how to go about our school activities everyday and not contact the virus. We have to make the use of nose mask compulsory. We will make sure no lecturer allows a student without his/her nose mask into their class. Also, we would have to decongest the classrooms, find ways to reschedule classes so they don’t clash; that way the population will be under control. Again, we will provide hand sanitizers and access to running water at designated points such as the doors of lecture halls so that students can use them when coming in or going out of the classrooms. I think with this we should be able to reduce the contact and spread of the virus in the faculty.

Okay sir. Do you have any advice to give to students, any tips on how to maximize their free time during the lockdown?

Yes, to all the students out there, this is a time to recollect and make a sincere and thoughtful assessment of ourselves. See where you started from and analyze the journey so far. Ask yourself questions like ‘Am I on the right track? Is this where I should be? Where do I want to be in the nearest future?’ If you observe that you have gone out of line with your initial plan, it’s not too late. Assess and rearrange yourself, take your time to plan out your routes, reset your goals and work hard towards achieving your goal. Sometimes things don’t go as planned but you should have a backup at all times. Again, get yourself acquainted with skills, especially entrepreneurial skills that will help you in the future. Its very good to have a degree, it’s every student’s dream to a have first class degree, but the question is, ‘Is your degree enough?’. In the course of this pandemic we observed that a lot of jobs were lost, what do you think have become of this people? Diversify your source of livelihood. When you are equipped with skills, you can start up something small for yourself without going up and down looking for another job when cases like this arise. So I encourage us all to study hard, learn new skills and above all stay safe.

Thank you so much sir for giving us your time. We hope to meet again in the future. It has been a great pleasure.

Thank you.

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