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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Have Schools Jettisoned Preventive Measures Against Ebola Virus Disease in Nigeria?

Have Schools Jettisoned Preventive Measures Against Ebola Virus Disease in Nigeria?

ABOUT two months after schools re-opened behind schedule due to the Ebola Virus Disease, EVD, it seems that the instituted regulations and hygiene policies have been abandoned by staff, students and management of some public and private schools.

Recall that the EVD was brought into Nigeria in August with the arrival of the late American-Liberian, Patrick Sawyer, and it killed over eight people. This resulted in the shift in the resumption of schools by the Minister of Education, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, who charged all state Ministries of Education to immediately organise and ensure that, at least, two staff in all public and private schools are trained on how to handle any suspected case of Ebola and also embark on immediate sensitization of all teaching and non-teaching staff in all schools on preventive measures.

Also, as a result of pressure from the state chapter of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, the Lagos State governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola further postponed the resumption date to October 13 to enable it adequately distribute EVD preventive kits to all public schools in the state.

But despite these, most schools have relaxed on enforcing or have completely jettisoned the preventive measures as directed by the Minister of Health so as to prevent further contact and spread of the virus, giving rise to the question: should hand washing be just to prevent further contracting and spread of EVD or should it be part of our daily hygiene?

Have Schools Jettisoned Preventive Measures Against Ebola Virus Disease in Nigeria?
A visit to some schools in Lagos revealed that while there were still different degrees of compliance by different schools, some have totally abandoned these preventive measures.

For Amarachi Francis, a student of Promiseland College, Weighbridge, Ikorodu Road, “we don’t wash our hands any more neither do we have our temperatures checked in my school because Nigeria is free of Ebola so there is no need for us to continue to practice such, especially as they are time-consuming.”

Likewise, a student of Jestoban College, Ketu, Adeola Dairo, students are at will to decide whether to comply or not as there are no strict enforcement of these preventive measures.

She said: “Initially, we used to have our temperatures checked, wash our hands and use the sanitizers before entering the school and even before we enter the school bus. But now, nobody enforces that anymore, so we decided to skip those checks and would not be penalised.”

Giving reasons why they have relaxed on enforceing the measures, the Head Nurse, Rybeka Model College, Olodi-Apapa, Joy Ogechi, said: “We have been checking their temperatures but it is really time-consuming, especially as they are having their continuous assessment tests, we hardly check them now. The bucket and soap are still there and the children use them.

“Though the country has been declared Ebola free for over a month, we have continued the hand-washing and temperature checking, at least, till the end of the year. This will give us more time to instil the hand- washing habit in the students so they will grow with it.”

Though a student from DeLight International School, Olodi Apapa, said her temperature has not been checked for a while though she still washes her hands, the Principal, Mrs. Rita Ofoegbu, however, said the reason why they didn’t check their temperatures was because it was on a Friday, which is a half day for schools.

“But we have been checking their temperatures because we have had reasons to send back children who are not feeling well as some parents are in the habit of dumping their sick children on us. The digital thermometer has made it easier and saves us a lot of trouble because even if it is not Ebola, we send any sick child back”, Ofoegbu said.

Pointing out that his students have already imbibed hand-washing habit, the Head Teacher, Umbrella Schools, Lagos, Mr. Ben Teah, said: “We still check their temperatures, and will continue doing so till the end of the session as directed by the proprietress. The children are already used to hand-washing so we can’t take that away. They wash their hands when they come in the morning or after using the convenience. If the water is finished they go to the person in charge to fill it up for them. It has become a habit, which is not a bad one to imbibe.”

Public schools are not left out as a visit around town showed that a good number of them are guilty of failing to comply with the preventive directives.

Defending their failure to completely comply despite insisting that teachers would not resume till the necessary EVD preventive kits have been supplied to all public schools in the state, the Chairperson, Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, Lagos State Chapter, Comrade Segun Raheem, said most schools don’t have access to water to for their students to wash their hands. According to Raheem, “it is true we insisted that these preventive measures be provided and at the right quantity, and have held several meetings since resumption to ensure full implementation by all because we insist that these hygienic steps be part of our lives and not just to prevent EVD.

“For schools that have abandoned these measures, especially hand-washing, it is as a result of lack of access to water due to no public power supply to power their generators (if they have any) or have run out of funds to buy water. But despite these, I’m assuring you that the implementation committee would look into this.”

Despite the various reasons given by these schools, a community health specialist, Dr. Ifeoluwa Sulaimon, insists that regular and proper hand-washing habit go a long way in preventing us from being sick and from spreading germs to others around us.

“For example, you sneeze or cough into your hands or even touch fecal matter after using the toilet/handling a pet and use same hands to scratch your eyes, pick your nose, bite your nails and touch others by shaking/hugging them or using same hands to handle food materials which become contaminated and consumed by you and other persons. The chain of events could be unending.

Introduction of bacteria

“Our hands are the most exposed parts of our bodies to germs and the aforementioned body parts are lined by very thin mucous membranes through which germs could easily gain entry into the body system thereby leading to the introduction of bacteria into the body and then the individual becomes sick!

“This concept is the reason why emphasis was placed on regular hand washing in order to ameliorate the scourge of the dreaded EVD as the chain of events resulting from germ transmission from person to person can only be interrupted by regular washing of hands.

“This would reduce the load of germs transmitted thereby reducing the chances of you and others falling sick. Therefore, take responsibility by washing your hands regularly after coming in contact with diverse surfaces.”

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