COVID-19: If we insist on having all issues sorted, students’ll be home for 10 years – UNIBEN VC

Uba Group

BY LINUS CHIBUIKE

THE Vice-Chancellor of the University of Benin, Prof. Lilian Salami, has said the university will make do with provisions on ground now to ensure the safe resumption of students.

Salami said if universities did not take responsibility and ensure students and workers were not unduly exposed to COVID-19, within the limits available, but insisted on having everything in place, students could be at home for as long as 10 years.

She spoke on NTA’s Good Morning Nigeria programme on Wednesday.

She said this just as she assured that the University of Benin would ensure strict compliance with COVID-19 protocols.

Students in Nigeria’s public universities have been away from school for almost 10 months, owing to the protracted strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities in March 2020.

The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has however led to another controversy over whether the January 18, 2021 resumption date announced by the Federal Government is safe, in view of rising cases.

ASUU called off its strike on December 24, 2020, but academic activities have yet to resume.

On the resumption controversy, the UNIBEN VC said, “I want to say categorically that Vice-Chancellors are responsible persons, having gone through the furnace. We will not in any way want to expose our staff, our students to any danger.”

But she noted that public-funded universities were now a shadow of what they ought to be.

“We have said this over and over that there is poor funding. Infrastructure is down and decayed. The ratio of staff to students is quite large for proper learning to take place. We have to address these issues,” she said.

Salami said, “We know that these issues exist, but how long are we going to wait until these issues are taken care of? These should not continue to be used as reasons schools should not reopen.

“We will make do with what we have available. For instance, we know that residential students are about 10 to 15 per cent of total students’ population. We will, as much as possible, enforce compliance.

“They (students) are very restless; but we will try as much as possible to protect our students and our staff so that we don’t unduly expose them to COVID-19. But to say that if all of these are not taken care of, we will not reopen, I can assure you that in the next 10 years, the kids will all be at home.

On a lighter note, she said she had heard some students say they would beat up lecturers if schools did not reopen.

“Maybe other Vice-Chancellors can take up the beatings but I can assure you that Professor Salami is too fragile to be beaten,” she added.