COVID-19: Teachers Should Be Declared Essential Workers

Labour leader and a member of National Institute Kuru Jos has called on the Federal Government of Nigeria to classify teachers as “essential workers” to enable the country guarantee continuous educational service delivery during the COVID-19.

This is coming as Nigeria gradually eases out after prolonged lockdown to contain the devastating impact of COVID-19.

The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 in its guidelines had classified essential workers as medical personnel, diligent journalists, courageous fire service personnel and telecommunications workers.

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Labour leader and a member of National Institute Kuru Jos, Comrade Issa Aremu made the case for teachers as essential services in his remark at the Virtual 4th Edition of Annual Ramadan Lecture in honour of his late wife, Hadjia Hamdalat Aremu.

Aremu who was Labour Party (LP) Governorship candidate in Kwara State also observed that, it was time the Federal government focused on the all sectors impact of COVID-19 pandemic which had claimed 200 lives and ruined many livelihoods.

He called for an immediate impact assessment of the lock down on education, saying that, “before COVID-19, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) indicated that the population of out of school children in Nigeria has risen from 10.5 million to 13.2 million, the highest in the world.”

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He observed that not less than 120,000,000 children and students are currently out of school in West Africa, mostly from Nigeria adding that if measures are not in place urgently, there might be renewed worsening mass illiteracy in Nigeria and Africa. “One of the eased lockdown measures as directed by the Federal government should be on the education sector”.

He said while the official focus had been on impact on businesses, employment and incomes with series of bailouts, it is time to critically assess the impact on education, advising that, the government should make the period of lock down to “reinvent the public schools in terms of provision of water, sanitary personal protective materials for students and above all space for physical distanced interactions in the condition of pandemic”.

According to him, “COVID-19 had once again exposed the underdevelopment of educational infrastructure and the inherent inequalities between the education of the children of well having parents and mass of children in abandoned public schools.”

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While calling for bailouts for public education through public and private partnership as envisaged by UN Sustainable Development Goals, Aremu suggested that all states governments should adopt the award-winning “Opon Imo” Tablet of Knowledge launched in 2013 under the leadership of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola in Osun state.

He stated that the new Normal calls for technology innovation in education sectors. “Opon Imo” Tablet of Knowledge, is an innovation which arms every pupil with all the books in every subject needed by the students in the conditions of COVID-19. “Continuous Education of students is critical to minimize the pains and maximize the gains of COVID-19.”

He suggested unconditional cash transfers to all students by both the Federal and states governments, adding that, “Teachers should be declared frontline workers with better incentives, remuneration and above all comprehensive health insurance to ensure educational service delivery”.