The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 on Monday lamented the increasing rate of COVID-19 cases among people in government, saying it was directly impacting on governance and security in the country.
The PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who stated this at the task force press briefing in Abuja, also said the possibility of ordering a fresh total lockdown to curtail further spread of the virus could not be ruled out.
The SGF, who advised prominent Nigerians to take COVID-19 protocols seriously, said the virus does not respect status.
Mustapha’s warning came amid rising cases of COVID-19 among state governors and other prominent Nigerians. Recently state governors, including David Umahi of Ebonyi, Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta and their Ondo State counterpart, Rotimi Akeredolu, contracted the virus.
Warning people in authority, the SGF said, “Of recent, we have witnessed a high rate of positive cases especially among people in authority. This has a direct impact on governance and security of our nation. We urge that vigilance and care should be exhibited by all Nigerians, irrespective of status. This virus does not discriminate and the PTF shall keep sustaining its sensitisation messaging.”
When asked if the task force would be considering a fresh lockdown in the face of what it observed as disregard for guidelines, Mustapha said events of coming weeks would determine the next line of action.
He said, “We will not speculate on what will happen in future but we will protect the lives of Nigerians.
“To achieve that, if it means to lock down again, we will not shy away from that responsibility. We will recommend to the President who will look at the report and take a decision on our recommendation. What happens in the next two three weeks will determine what we will do.”
The SGF also said members of the task force met with heads of security agencies earlier on Monday.
He said the meeting centred on how to enforce compliance with guidelines among other issues.
The Minister of Health, Ehanire Osagie, said the ministry planned to boost overall COVID-19 sample collection by preparing all eligible public and private hospitals nationwide to become collection sites.
He said a 17-man team of the ministry left Abuja for Calabar to engage with the Cross River State Government in setting up its COVID-19 response and aligning it with the national response.
– Three dynamic movements –
by Colt St. Amand, Luisa Derouen
When I was contemplating coming out as transgender to my Catholic parents, I was paralyzed with fear. My mom, a physician and cradle Catholic, affirmed that although she didn’t understand, she knew I was a good person and that God knew me and loved me more than anyone. My dad, a psychologist and Catholic convert, took longer, but assured me that no matter what, we would get through this together. —Dr. Colt St. Amand
In my recent essay in Global Sisters Report, I shared my disappointment with a document by Bishop Thomas Paprocki intended to guide Catholics in his Springfield, Illinois, Diocese in their understanding of and interactions with transgender people. I tried to explain the journey of self-acceptance that transgender persons move through in order to live a more authentic life. But in addition to self-acceptance, it is also crucial for transgender people to find acceptance from their parents, and for many that is difficult. —Dominican Sr. Luisa Derouen
No one is spared the human experience of navigating through unexpected challenges. No matter the circumstance, the process of responding responsibly will involve three dynamic movements: to be present to the reality (to gather), to listen with openness, then to respond with love. These movements weave through all our relationships.
In Catholic liturgy, the dynamic of gathering, listening and responding is the fundamental action by which we surrender ourselves to become the body of Christ in our world. Since the rituals of liturgy are meant to help shape our dispositions of life, they may be instructive in reflecting on the relationship of parents with transgender children. When faced with a child coming out as transgender, a parent’s process of responding responsibly will involve being present to the reality, listening with openness and respect, then responding with love.
In liturgy and in life, we must be ready to receive the truth, whether we like it or not, understand it or not. The truth always leads us to God and will lead parents and their child closer to God if they can stay present to the possibility that yes, their own child may well be transgender.
Learning their child is transgender can be overwhelming for parents. The temptation to deny and discredit this news can be strong. Parents may fear that the church and God are against their child. Some fear their child will be a target of violence, or will try to end their life. Some worry that they will not have enough emotional energy and spiritual strength to accompany their child. It is important for parents to name and process these fears.
Parents need to believe in the inherent sacredness of their child and trust God’s love and their love for their child to sustain them in the journey, wherever it may lead. This helps them walk with their child and stay centered in their faith. Essential to the search for truth is the virtue of humility by which parents can acknowledge that they don’t understand what being transgender means, but they want to learn.
In liturgy and in life, we hear God’s Word as it comes through the Scriptures, through other people and through life’s experiences. To listen well is to allow ourselves to be changed by what we hear and experience, and that takes courage and compassion.
Tragically, religion may challenge parents’ ability to nurture their transgender child. Though there are supportive faith leaders, many know little about transgender people. But worse than ignorance are clergy eager to offer guidance based on woefully outdated and harmful information. Parent’s inability to support and accept their transgender child is often reinforced by inaccurate and harmful responses from religious leaders.
Rejecting their child because of religious beliefs traumatizes and moves the child closer to self-harm or even suicide. Transgender young people who are highly rejected by their parents are more likely to attempt suicide and to report high levels of depression.
Listening is a skill and a grace. It’s important that parents listen and ask questions in order to understand, not correct or judge. Listen to the pain, fears, hopes and dreams of their transgender child. Parents can listen respectfully even when they believe that being transgender is wrong.
Parents need their own trusted confidant to lean on and to process the grieving that accompanies their changing expectations, hopes and dreams for their child. This is part of the process of allowing their child to gradually live as the person they know themselves to be.
Seeking out other parents of transgender children and getting accurate and professional information are signs of a sincere effort to understand their child. Helpful resources are Family Acceptance Project, World Professional Association for Transgender Health, and the American Psychological Association.
In liturgy and in life, deeper living comes only through surrender in love. To be the body of Christ in our world is to allow God to love through our presence.
The cultural and religious context in our country is often divisive and complex. This makes it tempting to grasp for absolute certitudes that weaken our commitment to be inclusive of everyone, especially transgender people.
When parents disagree about how to respond to their child, the child is often caught in the middle trying to stay connected to both parents and make sense of conflicting reactions.
When parents succumb to pressure from others to alienate their child unless they conform to gender expectations, risk for suicide, depression and other serious health risks are significantly increased. The university-based Family Acceptance Project research shows how parental rejecting behaviors contribute to serious health risks in their children and informs evidence-based support work with racially and religiously diverse families.
God’s presence in the love for their child is manifest when they make their best effort to use the name and pronouns that honor the truth of the child’s gender identity. Parents show love when they require others to treat their child with respect.
Love is shown when they speak openly and proudly about their child and help them find positive transgender mentors.
Parents’ inability or unwillingness to accept their transgender child has profound psychological and spiritual ramifications for the child. It erodes the confidence of their child to trust their own inner self-knowing. The child believes God does not and cannot love them. Constantly challenging and denying their human reality and their dignity is spiritual abuse. It undermines their sense of self-worth, erodes the parent-child bond and increases risks for health problems.
Everyone’s life is a beautiful, mysterious, complex reflection of God in our world. Parents will surely not get it right all the time. No one gets it right all the time. Our final word of guidance is to acknowledge mistakes along the way and to ask for forgiveness. Far from being a sign of weakness, asking for forgiveness and a willingness to forgive is a most powerful expression of love.
[Dr. Colt St. Amand (he/they) is a transgender person, psychologist and physician, a family medicine resident at the Mayo Clinic. He is a WPATH GEI SOC7 certified member and co-founder of the Gender Infinity organization. Sr. Luisa Derouen (she), a member of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, began ministry among the transgender community in 1999. She has a master’s degree in liturgical theology and is a trained spiritual director, particularly a spiritual companion to transgender people across the country.]
The Lagos State Government, on Friday, directed that schools should reopen on Monday, August 3, for only Senior Secondary School Class 3 and Technical Schools Class 3.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu stated this at the 16th briefing on the COVID-19 response at the State House in Marina, adding that pupils in Junior Secondary School Class 3 would need to wait for “about a week or two before resumption.”
Sanwo-Olu also sustained the ban on churches and mosques, as well as on social gatherings, while clarifying that the schools’ reopening was only for day schooling as boarding activities were prohibited.
For the Primary 6 pupils, the governor noted that they would be graded by their already recorded Continuous Assessment to cross over to secondary schools.
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 had on Monday approved the “safe reopening of schools in the next phase of the gradual easing of lockdown” ordered to stop the spread of the infection.
Sanwo-Olu, on Friday, announced the gradual reopening of the schools from August 3, directing students in transitional classes, with mandatory public exams ahead of them, to resume for revision classes and examination.
He said, “Students in transitional classes, who have mandatory public exams ahead of them, are now permitted to resume revision classes and examination. All education establishments are to follow established public health guidelines and protocols for reopening the schools for these categories of students. The commencement date for this opening will be August 3, 2020, for SSS 3 and TEC 3 students only. Dates for JSS 3 schools’ reopening for revision classes and examinations will be announced in due course.”
The governor added that churches, mosques, bars and other public places remained closed until further notice.
Meanwhile, the Ogun State Government has said it is sustaining the closure of schools, churches and mosques as COVID-19 cases reached 898 in the state with 270 active cases and 19 deaths on Friday.
The state government said this in statement by Kunle Somorin, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Dapo Abiodun, adding that one of the border local government areas had the highest number of cases.
The state added that it was sustaining the phase of eased restrictions for another two weeks, after which it would review and modify the guidelines.
“Schools are to remain shut. A committee has been set up to engage all stakeholders, public and private school owners, and develop guidelines for a safe reopening of our schools, especially to allow certificate classes to resume and sit for their examinations,” it said.
The Federal Government has lifted the ban placed on interstate travels with effect from July 1, provided such journeys are made outside curfew hours.
The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, disclosed this at the daily briefing of the task force in Abuja on Monday.
Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, also said the government has approved the safe resumption of domestic flights in the country.
He disclosed that the latest developments were contained in the task force’s fifth interim report which was submitted to the President Muhammadu Buhari earlier in the day.
Mustapha said, “I am pleased to inform you that Mr President has carefully considered the 5th Interim Report of the PTF and has accordingly approved that, with the exception of some modifications to be expatiated upon later, the Phase Two of the eased lockdown be extended by another four weeks with effect from Tuesday, June 30, 2020 through Midnight of Monday, 27 July, 2020.
“Specifically, however, the following measures shall either remain in place or come into effect:
“Maintaining the current phase of the national response, for another four weeks in line with modifications to be expatiated by the National Coordinator;
“Permission of movement across state borders only outside curfew hours with effect from 1st July, 2020;
Enforcement of laws around non-pharmaceutical interventions by States, in particular, the use of face masks in public places;
“Safe re-opening of schools to allow students in graduating classes resume in-person in preparation for examinations;
“Safe reopening of domestic aviation services as soon as practicable;
“Publication of revised guidelines around the three thematic areas of general movement, industry and labour; and community activities;
“Provision of technical support for states to mobilise additional resources for the response.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic swirls ferociously, a decision to reopen schools closed in the wake of the outbreak has become a hard nut to crack. The predicament is worsened by the daily spike in the number of confirmed new cases of the highly infectious virus and the palpable carefree attitude of the public in the enforcement of the protocols for its containment.
The Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, at one of the Presidential Task Force briefings on COVID-19, raised hope of an imminent resumption when he issued a set of guidelines that schools should follow. “All institutions of learning must have hand washing facilities, body temperature checks, body disinfectants at all entering points to their major facilities, including the gates, hostels, classes and offices,” he said. “Ensure social and physical distancing in class sizes and eating spaces. The whole premises of each institution must be decontaminated and all efforts must be geared toward maintenance of the highest level of hygiene.”
A few weeks later, the Chairman of the PTF, Boss Mustapha, poured cold water on this expectation with the insistence that it was not yet safe to do so. Nwajiuba said the country had 138,000 primary schools and without COVID-19 testing capacity at utmost level, “the best we can do is to keep our children, our future leaders, and schools under lock and key.” But the Oyo State Government has decided to take the bull by the horns with the June 29 date for teachers’ resumption, a precursor to the reopening of classes for Primary Six, Junior Secondary School 3 and Senior Secondary School 3, a week later. Pupils in the three categories are in exit classes — to take final examinations that will qualify them to enter JSS1, SSS1 and tertiary institutions respectively.
The Federal Government has frowned on the move. In a guideline the Federal Ministry of Education submitted to the National Assembly, it advised states bent on reopening schools to hold adequate consultations with the PTF and the parents. Besides, the schools should create temporary isolation spaces and fully equipped clinics; establish a referral system and protocol to take care of learners, teachers and school administrators, should emergencies arise. School proprietors are to “construct additional structures and employ more teachers to ensure that they accommodate their pupils by adhering to the two-meter spacing system in classrooms.”
All this has generated public anxiety, exacerbated by the spike in the number of cases of the virus. The government argues that the pandemic is yet to peak hence circumspection is required. The trend in other countries where schools were shut down shortly after reopening in the wake of a resurgence of the virus has not helped matters either. In Israel, for instance, schools were closed hurriedly just three weeks after resumption. Its Ministry of Education announced that 442 students, faculty and staff were infected with the virus. Consequently, 144 schools and kindergartens were closed and 24,000 students and staff quarantined. This is scary.
To assist countries to reopen their schools, UNESCO, in a guideline, listed three priority areas — finance, infrastructure and human resources. Readjustment of education budgets is critical. Others include discussion with health authorities, establishing a set of conditions that must be met; renovating and improving hygienic facilities like toilets, washrooms; guaranteeing hand-washing points, availability of disposable towels and running water. Very crucial is free school feeding as an incentive for children to return; preparing out-of-school classes and making use of technical resources. Training of teachers to monitor children and identify those with difficulties, UNESCO says, is imperative.
The hard truth is that schools cannot remain closed indefinitely. The huge challenge, it is argued, is how to strike a balance among competing priorities: the health and safety of those in the school community, the impact of the pandemic on jobs and families, and the need to effectively educate students. Families will definitely balk at returning children to school if they sense that school authorities have not taken the COVID-19 threat seriously or have done too little to shield students from harm.
Many countries have reopened their schools with a cocktail of COVID-19 protocols and advisories to guide school heads and managements. Like economic activities in lockdown for three months virtually all over the world, but gradually, reopening the schools cannot be frozen forever. This was why the United Kingdom reopened on June 15. It adopted the strategy to reopen classes for year 10 and year 12 pupils. The Department of Education in its guidance for secondary school resumption stipulated a phased return of some pupils for face-to-face contact with their teachers. With this, schools are able to have a quarter of the pupils back. Younger primary schools pupils have also been prioritised because “the early years of education are crucial for social and educational development.”
With COVID-19 protocols, local and other guidelines from abroad, both federal and state governments should ensure the conditions are largely met before reopening schools. However, the bitter truth is that it would be easier said than done in Nigeria given the schools’ decrepit conditions before the pandemic. Rural primary schools with pit latrines and no water are non-starters in this case. Even urban schools are similarly challenged, including the universities that lack basic facilities such as running water, conveniences, while over-crowded halls of residence, classrooms and underfunding are intractable challenges.
The desire to return to in-person classes should not outweigh the risks of exposing students and staff to a highly contagious virus. School reopening plans must be based on scientific data and public health guidelines — not political pressure. The feasibility of physical distancing measures is already the subject of debate, with experts tending towards the view that they will not work for the youngest children. These are potentially life-or-death judgments that have to be made.
School reopening requires caution, planning and vigilance. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert, rightly says, “I think we better be careful [that] we are not cavalier in thinking that children are completely immune to the Covid-19 deleterious effects.”