The latest on schools and the Ebola crisis in Nigeria is that schools were postponed until at least October 13th by the Ministry of Health – a couple of schools were forcibly closed by armed personnel. Then private schools lobbied the government and schools are now due to resume September 22nd.
Since then the debate has been raging for parents – should schools be open or closed.
The arguments to open
- Most parents work and do not have materials, time or inclination to teach their children at home. Perhaps they don’t even really have a home suitable for children to be cooped up all day or left to their own devices.
- Some children are preparing for exams – for them every week of school they miss could make the difference in their grades.
- Parents have also in many cases already paid school fees that schools are unlikely to refund. They are highly invested in getting value for this money, Ebola or not.
- Yes there is Ebola but Nigeria is a country of many plagues, from dengue fever to malaria which kill thousands every year. To date Ebola has only killed 18. Under such circumstances the mentality is very much – life must go on. Weddings, naming ceremonies, funerals and church services. School too. It’s not like there’s an end point in sight. This could go on for some time.
The arguments to stay closed
- Adults can quickly learn the language of Ebola. Preventing transmission requires avoiding physical contact with the fluids of an infected person, so no kissing, handshakes, touching sweat, vomit , blood, diarrhoea etc. Washing hands with soap and water and using hand sanitisers as well as practice good hygiene can go a long way to keeping Ebola from spreading. Even teenage children struggle to keep this up. Children love to touch, are generally nasty and do not understand the seriousness of the instructions.
- Schools in Nigeria are not regulated and held to the same standards as most Western schools. Some do not have running water never mind soap. Many do not have toilet paper and, especially less developed areas, the ‘toilets’ will be as basic as you can imagine. Ebola would rip through such schools leaving the nation with the horrific spectacle of children in isolation and possibly dying.
- Ebola seemed to be trailing off at one point but has broken out again in another Nigerian city where there are reportedly 400 people under surveillance. This is far from over. Schools should wait until it is over – safety first.
- It’s easy for me to say schools should be closed as I only have 1 pre-K age son who I’ve already been homeschooling for a year and a toddler who is nearly 2. I also think Ebola has been managed pretty well by the authorities here and do not feel too much at risk, hence why I’m still here in the country. I am with my children pretty much all the time so I can limit their activities with strangers and monitor their sanitation personally.
- We still don’t have Zmapp in Nigeria. There’s a lot of talk about trials and getting Zmapp but it’s not here.
There are pros and cons and the safety of our children should always take priority. I don’t think the new earlier resumption of September 22nd is wise. I think we should still wait but I do understand this is a tough decision and a huge responsibility for the Health Minister also my child is not going to school so I will reserve judgement and try to stay positive