Ebola Virus and School Resumption in Nigeria

Should schools resume September 22nd or should they remain closed? When can we really be sure that the Ebola virus is under control? What does under control mean, is this when all quarantined patients have been cleared? How can Nigerian citizens test when the Government announces it has the Ebola virus under control? These are all thoughts and questions that are top of mind and giving parents cause for concern right now.

ebola temp gunI was talking to a doctor who shared that it is not only the schools ability to manage the virus we should be concerned about but also about the awareness of parents. The temperature gun measure during drop off in the morning, while useful is not 100% foolproof. If a parent administers calpol to a child in the morning before heading to school, the chances are that the temperature reading will be normal. Will parents be required to keep their children at home if they should be unwell and be asked not to self-medicate at home.

One of the preventive methods that is encouraged is the use of sanitizers and washing hands often. What about the schools that rely on Government funding or might not be able to afford sanitizers. What about schools that do not have running water to wash their hands. Fake sanitizers are being sold, how do innocent customers check for this? These are real issues.

We can definitely see that there have been positive strides made in tackling this disease. However I still question if people really know what to do. At the point of entry at a popular bank branch, I decided to ask the security man what temperature would cause him to raise an alarm. He did not know. So if those checking have no idea what temperature is a red flag then what is the essence of the temperature gun?

The doctor’s death in Port Harcourt from the Ebola virus came two days after the Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu had reported that they had “thus far contained” the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria. So we have to ask if we are not being a bit too hasty in saying that the disease has been contained.

The Port Harcourt case is one that shows how one or two people making reckless decisions exposes so many other people to danger. What happened? A diplomat in Lagos violated a quarantine order and fled to Port Harcourt where he met a doctor in secret at a hotel who treated him.  The doctor got infected and spread it to his wife and possibly other patients as he continued attending o patients in his clinic and even reportedly carried out surgery on two patients.

The doctor had numerous contact with relatives and visitors who came to visit him on the birth of his new baby before he turned himself in at the hospital. He also had contact with people from his church who came by to pray for him and lay hands on him.

The domino effect continued at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife when a sick student confessed having had contact with the late Port Harcourt doctor before returning to campus. Apparently the management of the school initially denied the development until the Oyo State Commissioner for Health confirmed the case. She has to be isolated and tested for the virus, thankfully it turns out that the results of the test show that she is negative.

The ability for the virus to travel is real and is even harder to contain when people disobey rules by acting selfishly or are affected through ignorance. The reality is that the movement between state lines and borders is not restricted.

Having to quarantine and isolate a suspected case who is an adult is hard enough, no one wants to imagine the nightmare of having to isolate a class of 40 children if they have been exposed to a suspected case who might be a classmate, teacher or cleaner.

People are not sure what to believe, do we believe the Government who says that the virus is contained? Yet there are stories that show that perhaps this is not really the case.

No one wants to risk exposing their children unnecessarily, missed time at school can always be made up with adjustments to the school calendar. One case or suspected case at a school would be difficult to control amidst fear and hysteria.

We need all parties to collaborate on this one keeping only the well-being of our children in mind. The Nigerian Medical Association and teachers are resisting the earlier resumption date of schools in Nigeria. They are protesting that schools are not ready with gaps in preventive measures. We definitely don’t need this to become a power struggle. There will be no prize for anyone should this situation worsen because people rushed to give the illusion of safety that is not real.

I want students to go back to school as much as anyone else, it is tough to have them stuck at home bored and not learning after months of an already long summer break. However as a parent and as a concerned citizen I would rather we err on the side of caution and keep the children at home for as long as it takes to be certain that we truly have this virus under control. We cannot be successful in this war on Ebola if we unnecessarily expose the children whom we need to be protecting.

God help us…But we must also make wise decisions as a Nation!

photo source: cbc.ca


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