The attention of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ibadan Branch, is drawn to a directive of the Oyo State Government issued on 15 June 2020 as it concerns the resumption of pupils and students in Primary 6, Junior Secondary School Class 3 and Senior Secondary School Class 3 for academic activities on Monday, 29 June, 2020.
The rationale for the resumption of the above categories of student is to enhance their preparation for forthcoming state and national examinations.
As at today, Oyo State has recorded 575 confirmed cases of Covid-19, 242 recoveries and 7 deaths. We sympathise with the bereaved and pray for the speedy recovery of those who are infected. We must state that the comparatively low figures above are due to the mercy of God and are direct consequences of the proactive steps taken by the State Government to curb the spread of the deadly disease. We commend the state government under the leadership of our Governor, His Excellency, Oluseyi Abiodun Makinde, FNSE on the efforts put in place to cur the spread of Covid-19.
The new directive for resumption of pupils in final classes in primary, junior secondary and senior secondary schools ispredicated on the assumption that in the next two weeks Covid-19 would have been eliminated or reduced to the barest level. This may be a very ambitious expectation.
The Government of Oyo State has in the past year invested heavily in education and it is of utmost importance that this huge investment be complemented by policies that focus on the best interest of children. Section 3 of the Child’s Rights Law of Oyo State provides:
In every action concerning a child, whether undertaken by an individual, public or private body, institutions or service, court of law, or administrative or
legislative authority, the best interest of the child shall be the primary consideration. (Emphasis supplied)
It is our considered view, and judicial authorities have confirmed this position by recognizing the presumption, that children are naturally playful. One may be demanding too much from them to
observe necessary safety precautions to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Regrettably, some of our adult citizens still carry on their activities as if Covid-19 does not exist. In this context, we have not laid down good examples for our children to emulate.
Despite the efforts put in place by the
government,particularly the protocols regarding social distancing and use of face mask, majority of our citizens do not adhere to these protocols. Even our transporters ignore safety measures to
prevent the spread of Covid-19. It is our considered view that opening our schools at this time may create a veritable avenue for community spread of this infectious disease.
There are instances of spikes in infection rates in some countries as a direct result of premature resumption of schools. In Western Cape Province, South Africa, 98 teachers, 1800 students tested positive for Covid-19 almost two weeks after school resumption. Three weeks after Israel
reopened the doors to all its schools, 347 pupils and teachers tested positive. These are territories which have better health infrastructure than we do in Nigeria.
While it is desirable that our children, particularly those in the final classes of their present programme, prepare adequately for the state and external examinations they are to write in the
nearest future, the immediate concern of Government and all stakeholders should be to secure the constitutional right of our children to life as well as their rights to survival and development and to enjoy the best attainable state of physical, mental and spiritual health guaranteed by the
Child’s Right Law of Oyo State, other relevant national laws and norms contained in regional and international instruments.
In our humble opinion, only children who are alive and in sound health can sit and pass examinations. It is only through these healthy children the investment of
government and parents and guardians will not be wasted.
On the auspicious occasion of the International Day of the African Child celebrated today, the 16th day of June, 2020 we call on the Governor of Oyo State, His Excellency, Engr. Seyi Makinde FNSE, to reconsider the decision that schools some pupils and students resume on the 29th day of June, 2020, until there is sufficient scientific evidence that positively indicates that the safety and well-being of our pupils and students, their teachers and other workers, their parents and guardians and other family members, and the good people of Oyo State, are guaranteed.
We therefore appeal to the Government of Oyo State under the dynamic leadership of Governor Seyi Makinde to rescind the decision to reopen schools. We are assured of a decision in the best interest of children.
Dated this 16th day of June, 2020
Akeem A. Okelola