In the last one week, increasingly, parents have been worried sick with fear. This is especially worse for parents with school children. Because of the ebola outbreak in Nigeria, (thank God it has been contain or hopefully so), the resumption date for nursery and primary schools in both the private and public schools had been postponed until recently. Initially, the news was that schools would resume on the 13th of October, 2014. Parents were still trying to work out what this could mean for them and their families, when the date was brought forward to September 22nd, 2014. Soon after the date was announced, some parents and doctors became scared for the future of this country, and with good reasons too.
Parents decided to take the children to hospital to carry out every investigations known to man before sending them back to school. That was their own way of coping with the situation. Some other parents decided to go ahead and treat for malaria and typhoid whether or not the children had the symptoms or even if the drugs bought from over the counter were the correct ones or in the right doses. The fact that the hospital I work with decided to offer free consultation to patients to mark her 25th anniversary, served to increase the patient load. But I thank God for it, because it helped to dispel some wrong notions. What else do you really expect these parents to do? They are in a country where people drink and bathe with salt water to cure ebola.
With all I've said so far, my question is why are we in a hurry to set a resumption date for schools, (especially nursery and primary schools)? The secondary and tertiary schools, I can understand perfectly. This group can be educated and expected to comply. How do you protect a 2 year old from contacting the disease from a classmate/friend? Granted, the minister of health has informed us that there have been no new cases in the country in the last 1 week or so. However, Senegal just recorded their first case because someone crossed the border by road. How are we going to prevent new cases from entering the country? These little children don't know what we are so worried about. They come to the hospital and lie on the floor. They are ready to pick their food from the floor and put into their mouths. They have no idea what you mean by avoid contact with someone that have fever. Do they even know what fever is? What about all this fuss we are making about regular hand washing and use of sanitizers? Can they understand the reasons behind them?
Let's leave the children out of this for a minute. What about their schools? How equipped are they? Have proper provisions been made for soap and water? What about their carers? Imagine one teacher to 30 children (that is the standard right?). Anyway, just yesterday in the clinic, I was attending to a mother and her 3 children. and myself and the lady had our share of trouble trying to prevent one of the children from putting her hand into the trashcan. Tell me then, how 1 teacher/carer can cope with trying to keep these children safe and ensure they do the right thing.
Another thing, some children are in boarding schools, with resumption, they will most likely come in contact with children from other parts of the country including those that have experienced the ebola outbreak. I know that the incubation period is 2-21 days oh, just saying sha.
Finally, if I was a parent, here's what I'd do; I'll keep my children at home and tutor them myself in my free time. They'll be safe for me that way. Loosing a term means absolutely nothing especially for these nursery/primary school children. What exactly is it that they learn anyway? The alphabets or numbers? Growing up in this same country, there was a year that we concluded the curriculum for a whole session in 2 terms. That is how it came to be that first term now starts in September, It used to be in January.
Let us learn from Liberia and other affected countries to take the proverbial bull by the horn. We should be careful not to put our comfort or greed and selfishness as parents, proprietors or government before the safety and lives of our children. They are afterall, the leaders of tomorrow. Ebola is not a JOKE!!!