From Steve Oko, Umuahia
UNICEF in conjunction with the National Orientation Agency, NOA, has commenced intensive sensitisation of schools in Abia State on the imperative of observing covid-19 protocols ahead of a possible second wave of the global pandemic.
The UNICEF team visited schools in all three senatorial zones in the state to monitor the compliance of both pupils and students as well as teachers to covid-19 protocols, and further educate them on the need for strict adherence.
Some of the schools visited during the 3-day tour include: Amato-Ezi Igbere Community School in Bende Local Government Area, Girls Secondary School Abayi Umuocham Aba, Constitution Crescent Primary School Aba , Uzuakoli Methodist College, and Girls Technical College Aba.
UNICEF Desk Officer in charge of Media and Publicity in the state, Mr. Okezie Nkpa, said the sensitisation and monitoring tour had become necessary to ensure pupils and students were fully armed with the right information about covid-19 and the necessary protocols.
He expressed satisfaction with the level of awareness among the students and pupils in the schools visited while urging them to help in educating others particularly their parents on the imperative of observing the safety protocols.
Addressing pupils, students and teachers during the visit, the Abia State Director of NOA, Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Okechukwu, also commended the students and teachers for their impressive compliance level with the protocols.
The NOA boss urged them to discountenance the erroneous belief among some folks that the pandemic was not real.
She warned that a relapse in observing the protocols could spell doom to the state especially as the second wave of the pademic had been reported in some countries.
The NOA Director identified the vital protocols to include: constant washing of hands with soap under running water for at least 20 seconds, compulsory and proper wearing of face mask when outside the home, maintenance of social distancing of at least two metres, amog others.
A public Health expert, Mr. John Onwugbufo, who was also on the team sensitised the students on maintaining personal hygiene and healthy life style including eating balanced diet for adequate body immunity.
In their responses, the Principals and Headteachers of the schools including Mrs. Chike Chinyere, Ulonma Jonathan, Very Rev. Chima Umezurike, and Owunna Onyinyechi, thanked UNICEF and its partners for the enlightenment campaign, saying it had greatly complemented their internal efforts to increase awareness on the safety protocols.
Interactions with some of the teachers revealed that despite inadequate testing thermometers, the body temperature of every pupil/student or teacher including visitor to the school was checked before gaining entry into the premises.
Buckets and soap were also strategically positioned in the schools for easy access by all.
However, the challenge of easy access to water was observed in some of the schools especially those in the rural areas where students complained that they had to travel to village streams to fetch water.
Some of the teachers also complained that lack of adequate class room posed challenge to social distancing in some of the schools with infrastructure challenges.
They equally appealed for more hand sanitizers and face masks as some of the pupils easily lose theirs, thus increasing financial burden on their parents who sometimes failed to replace them.
Some teachers also appealed for regular payment of their salaries as a motivation to enable them cope with the extra pressure on them to closely monitor the students.
Students during the interaction said they had learnt to make observance of the covid-19 protocols especially wearing of nose masks and washing of hands part of their daily routine.
Abia has so far recorded a total of 926 cases of covid-19 with nine deaths and 908 recoveries.
Some of the schools visited have functional sick bays although no covid-19 case has been reported in any school in the state.