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Providing Palliatives For Nigerian Students When Schools Reopen Is Their Right

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By Ogwezzy, Richardson G
Education is the bedrock of any nation. It is the pillar for national development particularly for developing countries like Nigeria. It is equally regarded as basic for human right, a key to enlightenment and important tool which serves as a key to industrial and technological advancement of any nation in the world.

Students are persons who are willing to study, acquire knowledge, skills and experience from professional and experienced teachers (lecturers) through interactions and socialisation in an institution. Students can be seen as the wealth and pride of a country. Simply put, they are future leaders. The future of any country, therefore, depends on the young ones (students) who constitute potential human resources required for continuity of the nation.

To ensure sustainable development in any society (nation), the students’ population must not only be preserved, but efforts should be made by the government on students’ exigencies. Students are the most vulnerable group on the issue of COVID-19. This is because they are almost hundred percent (100%) dependant. Some students are even in more pitiable situation; a case where students have no parents or guardians. The issue is, if students’ parents and guardians are adversely affected economically and otherwise by cases of COVID-19. What is the hope of children (students) who wholly depend on them when schools resume and the cases of Coronavirus is put to rest by God’s grace?

There is no gainsaying if I say many students may not be able to resume school because of insufficient funds. I know, it will not sound funny. That is the simple truth, because money that many parents and guardians have reserved for their children’s education might have been used. Some parents’ businesses might have crumbled. Some may lose their job. Students’ house rent may have elapsed and a likely worsening effect is that prices of food stuffs and other items that students need may be very high.

Palliatives are things that are intended to make bad situation seem better but do not really improve the situation. The term palliatives became a household name in Nigeria during the early stage of the Coronavirus pandemic which led to lockdown that caused hunger, starvation and hardship of various kinds to citizens. I know mere mentioning of the term palliatives for students; it will look ambiguous to many, because during lockdown some government officials provided palliatives, mostly for the vulnerable in the society, as in the case of Nigeria. But palliatives for students are supposed to be given when they have gone back to school after cases of Coronavirus have subsided by God’s grace.

From my findings, I discovered that, there are specifically two types of government palliatives. Namely, government palliatives by giving (offering) of relief materials and government palliatives by mediation. Government palliatives are by offering (giving) of relief materials to citizens with special attention to the vulnerable. This involves giving of gift items like bags of rice and beans, fish, indomie, oil, spaghetti, tubers of yam, fish etc while government palliatives by mediation is a situation whereby government of a country at all levels will intervene in certain problems which have been orchestrated by COVID-19 pandemic.

For instance, when money was needed by the Federal Government to eradicate the Coronavirus pandemic, having seen that much money will be involved, at that time, the Federal Government called for financial assistance from well meaning Nigerians and corporate bodies. Many of us read on the print media and heard of the billions of naira that was donated to Federal Government. The Federal Government saw problems that will befall the country and mediated on behalf of the nation. This is palliative by mediation.

In a similar vein, Federal Government of Nigeria made provision for loan(s) to those Nigerians who were engaged in medium and large scale businesses and suffered loss or their businesses collapsed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. They accessed loans from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) provided they have proof for such claims. This is Government mediation. On the other hand, I have read of some State Governors in Nigeria that slashed salaries of their political appointees in order to attend to the case of COVID-19 pandemic and provided necessary relief materials to their citizens. Good examples are, Governor of Oyo State, His Excellency, Olusaseyi Abiodun Makinde, Governor of Cross River State, His Excellency, Prof. Ben Ayade and Governor of Delta State, His Excellency, Sen (Dr.) Ifeanyi Okowa. In addition to that, the Governor of Delta State has been assuring the good people of Delta State, that he will do everything humanly possible to ameliorate their suffering at this traumatic period. When COVID-19 was at its peak, he crashed the price of daily tickets of tricycle (keke) and motorcycle (Okada) operators in the state. According to him, he said, the measure is part of government’s efforts to assuage the plight of operators and passengers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Governor of Delta State Dr (Sen) Ifeanyi Okowa was one of the governors that performed mediatorial role in an extraordinary manner for his people to get the desired assistance, because of his good leadership style, many political office holders in the State followed suit with the idea that only State Government cannot cushion the effects of the suffering of the people. Notable politicians like Hon. Ifeanyi Osakwe, Ogbuefi V.O.T Abanum (Chairman, Governing Council, College of Education, Warri), Hon Charles Emetulu, (Member Representing Ndokwa West in DTHA), Hon. Monday Onyeme, Hon. Leonard Anoka, Hon. Festus Ochonogor, Engineer Dan Ossai to mention but a few joined by donating huge sum of money and relief materials to people in their immediate constituencies.

I was saddened each time I go through Nigeria Daily Newspapers, writers suggesting to give palliatives to farmers, market women/traders, private school teachers, pensioners etc without any emphasis made on students, forgetting that students are mostly affected and our future leaders. Worst still, our students kept mute on the issue of palliatives which I feel is their right. It seems to me, that Nigeria students have forgotten that, it was Nigeria students of old that fought for the independence we are enjoying. Now, our students cannot agitate for what is their right. I hate Indomie-like students. Please wake up. If palliatives are given to NDDC staff and presently allegation of millions of naira rocking at the Senate over palliatives, why no such allegation leveled on students and let them be asked to provide evidence.

I am perceiving that the government and some people at the helm of affairs in this country may feel that there will be no funds to venture into that, because of cases of COVID-19 and oil crash (seeming poor revenue). That is a wrong assumption. Is there any economy in the world that is economically buoyant (robust)? Moreover, if the country was once robust (rich) and now seems to be poor, that God that made Nigeria buoyant is forever alive to make Nigeria robust again in no distant time. It is a matter of interest and the love that the government in power has for its people and education.
The Federal Government of Nigeria, having seen in advance the inherent suffering of the people in the country, reduced the cost of petrol by N20 per litre and made it readily available. Citizens enjoyed it at that time. If the Federal Government could do that to ease the suffering of the people, what will make anyone from any quarter of government feel students’ palliatives should not be looked into, bearing in mind that good quality education is the only thing that can set Nigeria free from all these shackles of under-development.

The following are ways Federal, State or Local Government Areas can provide palliatives to their students by mediation. This involves the, President or his Minister of Education at federal level, the Governor or his Commissioner(s) of Education at state level, the Chairman or his LGEA Secretary at Local Government level going into the institutions in their domains and finding out areas where students are having problems (challenges) that need intervention.

Palliatives in school system could mean giving students longer periods to pay school fees on resumption, reduction of school fees, reduction of hostel accommodation, ensuring adequate water supply and power supply especially for tertiary institutions in Nigeria. But for Primary and Secondary Schools certain levies should be removed while some reduced. Concession could be given at least for one academic session to enable parents and guardians cope with the challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic. Proprietors of schools can mediate as well at their own capacity. This process of mediation is just like a saying that says, ‘A Nigerian hawk carried a Nigerian chick and dropped it on Nigerian iroko tree.’ You see, the hawk, the chick and the iroko tree are Nigerians. The students, parents or guardians and the school belong to the government.

It is therefore imperative, for all stakeholders in education – students, parents and guardians, Parents Teachers’ Associations(PTA), teachers, principals, school’s immediate communities, all and sundry etc to by this message reach the appropriate quarters, the Federal, States, Local Government Areas and proprietors of schools to mediate for students in their Schools.

Ogwezzy Richardson G. is a Statistician. Edu. Administrator and currently a Ph.D candidate of Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria

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