RESUMPTION OF SCHOOLS: BEFORE NIGERIA DETERIORATES TO THE LEVEL OF SIERRA LEONE!
I wonder why we Nigerians always place our material gains before the unity or survival of this country ? When federal government initially announced the postponement of the date for the resumption of schools to October 13th,2014, I was very happy believing that the government could extend the date further but I was jolted when private school proprietors started calling for the head of the federal government and at the end, federal government expectedly succumbed to their pressure.
I write as a private school proprietor and as a practising medical doctor. These private school proprietors attacking the federal government are doing so for their selfish reasons. Every private school proprietor does not play with the months of August and September and some have equally included the month of July. This is a period to get new students for the new session .This is a period that the pupils who passed their common entrance examinations will be admitted into junior secondary school while those students that passed their junior secondary school certificate examinations will be admitted into senior secondary schools whereas those that finished their nursery schools will be admitted into primary schools(recently called basic classes).
Meanwhile,many school proprietors normally embark on different campaigns in order to increase the number of students/pupils that will be admitted into their respective schools. Almost all school proprietors embark on renovation exercises in order to attract many students/pupils and their parents during this period. If you listen to our different radio and television stations you will hear a lot of advertisements aimed at marketing their respective schools. However,it has to be noted that in order to carry out these massive renovation exercises and the media campaigns ,many of the private school proprietors including me,borrow money from banks;issue post-dated cheques to suppliers;borrow money from cooperative societies,money lenders,village meetings etc believing to pay back once school reopens in September.
Meanwhile, when the federal government initially announced the postponement of the resumption date of schools,it was only the private school proprietors that were crying foul. The question begging for an answer is ,why are the NUT(Nigerian Union of Teachers) and TUC(Trade Union Congress) in support of the postponement of the resumption date while NAPPS (National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools) is opposing it? The answer to this question will show how unpatriotic many Nigerians are to this country. NUT is mainly occupied by teachers in our government owned schools while NAPPS as the name sounds is manned by private 'entrepreneurs'.My little knowledge of Economics taught me that the aim of every business organisation is for profit maximisation .If the resumption date for schools is postponed ,the private 'capitalists' will be left with no revenue /income at the end of the period and they have to extend their media campaigns along with other campaigns longer which involve more money whereas the government teachers in NUT will be receiving their salaries at the end of each month whether they work or not. The smart ones among them will use the period to consolidate on their 'petty' businesses which many of them embarked on in order to supplement the salaries that the government pays them each month.
This brings us back to the problems of our country. When Nigeria medical association called off her strike,I went back to work,in one of my discussions with a friend who is a member of JOHESU(Joint Health Sector Union) ,I learnt that the members of this joint association were actually happy that we went on strike because those 55 days we spent on the strike,gave them enough time to rest as the smart ones among them used the time to consolidate on their small supplementary businesses. No wonder when federal government suspended residency programmes in our federal hospitals,many of them organised parties while those that had the temerity went on air to grant media briefings thanking federal government for doing the 'needful' at the right time hence an average Nigerian then saw the Nigerian doctors as demons and people that were callous,insensitive,selfish,remorseless etc. Meanwhile,it was obvious to all members of the JOHESU that there was no way the tertiary hospitals could function without the resident doctors who are the labour force of our tertiary hospitals but they were happy because by suspending the programme,patients would not be admitted hence no work for them. What a selfish and unpatriotic act?
Also,during that period a renowned medical doctor granted press briefing that there was nothing wrong in non-medical doctors being appointed as consultants and non-medical doctors being elected chief medical directors of our tertiary hospitals. Owing to these assertions,many gullible Nigerians eulogized him as a rare breed among doctors. However my little investigation will surprise my reader. This man made those assertions because his own wife,a nurse,benefitted from the first non-medical doctors that were appointed consultants. Today,the members of APC are those who could not get any political appointment in our PDP led government. That is how unpatriotic we Nigerians are,once a government does not favour you selfishly ,that government becomes your sworn enemy and there is nothing the government will do that will be good to you as Ola Rotimi asked in his play,The Gods Are Not To Blame,'can the cockroach be innocent in the gathering of fouls?'
Coming back to our topic,it is now clear that our government teachers,though right at this time, are supporting the postponement of resumption date of schools because they must receive their salaries at the end of each month whether schools are closed down indefinitely or not while my fellow private school proprietors are opposing the extension of the resumption date for schools because that will amount to extra expenses for carrying more media adverts and other adverts even when the proprietors are yet to repay the loans they got from different sources. Sequel to this,if the post-dated cheques they gave to their school suppliers finally bounced due to no money in the account they will be heading to jail. However, I want to state categorically clear that the health of Nigerians must take preeminence in our decisions. This is because one of the delegates that flew into Port Harcourt to teach health care workers how to handle this Ebola told us that she had not received a dime from the government but she took that personal decision because if she refused at this stage,the Ebola virus disease must definitely come back to her family,what a patriotic decision?
Meanwhile, I will also warn my fellow private school proprietors to place the future of this country first in all their endeavours because I am aware that if the federal government had announced the postponement of the resumption dates for the SECOND and THIRD terms,these private proprietors would welcome it because they had nothing to lose and they were not expecting new entrants in those two sessions. Also,many private school proprietors do not pay their teachers during holiday periods while those that are lenient pay half salaries during vacation hence they would have welcomed the idea had the government announced the postponement dates for second and third terms .They should be aware that if we don't contain this disease now,we must definitely surpass Sierra Leone .This is because our supposed health institutions are far below expectations with respect to the WHO standards of managing the deadly virus disease let alone our private schools ,many of which are slums. Also,they should be aware that it is practically impossible for students in a school to avoid body contacts and I am aware that many of the private schools cannot afford the current high costs of infrared thermometers. What was our experience like when there were outbreaks of gastroenteritis,cholera,Hepatitis A,Acute hemorrhagic conjunctivitis (commonly called Apollo),Measles etc among students/pupils in a school?We should know that these diseases mentioned above are just 'kids' when compared to this dreaded Ebola virus disease. If our children contracted these diseases from their fellow students/pupils in their respective school during the outbreaks,will that not teach us now that it will be difficult for them not to contract Ebola virus disease from their fellow students/pupils. Thereafter,they will come home to infect us and the cycle continues .
More so,it is clear that it is still difficult for many private schools to provide clean water for drinking and for washing of hands,and even if the schools manage to provide clean water,if the students/pupils are not properly taught and closely monitored ,they will end up contaminating the clean water hence endangering the lives of the next students/pupils that will make use of the water. How many of our private schools can employ the services of health care professionals?Prevention,they say,is better than cure,just like I have said in my several articles,HIV AIDS was discovered among men having sex with men in America in the early 1980's ,but the attitude of the Americans has ensured that the spread of the disease is brought to the barest minimum. However,our negative attitude to emergencies,in Africa has finally made Africa the epicenter for HIV Aids .Also remember that this present outbreak of Ebola in west Africa started around February this year but Sierra Leone ,Liberia and Guinea never attached much importance to this health emergency until when many heads rolled and now many of the countries are shutting down their ministries ,schools etc while some are currently using full military actions to contain the spread of the virus .What a belated intervention?
I will also warn our government not to vacillate in her ealier decision,I suggest that resumption of schools be postponed indefinitely since we are not aware if there will be another 'Dr Iyke Sam Enemuo' somewhere in the federation treating or have treated another Ebola patient. The government has not even traced all the contacts in Port Harcourt and those who were said to be under surveillance in Port Harcourt are being monitored in their respective homes. Our government should rather reduce the closure of schools during the Christmas period to only Christmas day and the Boxing day while that of Easter period will be from Good Friday till Easter Monday in order to make up for the period lost while containing the Ebola virus disease. This is time for the government to act before this virus disease deteriorates to the level where our security challenges have reached. Although I am not a security expert,my knowledge of surgery taught me that the best way to manage any cancer(now represented by Boko Haram and Ebola Virus Disease) is early detection and immediate surgical removal with wide resection margin hence this is the time for our government tho right the wrong steps she took at the onset of Chibok girls' problem and the Boko Haram insurgency by tackling this Ebola virus disease now or never.
Also,my fellow health workers who refuse to attend to patients because the management has not allegedly provided the personal protective equipment(PPE) should know that the 'astronaut' suit is meant for only confirmed Ebola cases and should not be worn to attend to patients whose neither clinical history nor physical examination points towards Ebola virus disease. Also,we should know that our hand gloves,face masks,aprons etc are still part of the much-taunted personal protective equipment. I still enjoin the appropriate authorities to do the needful in making the working conditions of health workers favorable in line with international best practices. All health workers should know that if we chicken out at this time,this Ebola must surely come back to us ,if not now then later. This is because turning the Ebola patients back to the society is like throwing a stone inside a busy market since the next victim may be our brother,sister,in-law,mother,father etc. We should learn from the mistakes of other west African countries who never stood up to the challenge initially ,today that seed of dereliction of duty they planted has grown to a level of wiping out an entire nation.
Also,I may advise state governments to postpone the resumption date for the schools in their respective states should federal government remain insensitive to the clarion call for the postponement of the resumption for schools by experts like NMA.
Dr Paul John
Port Harcourt,Rivers state