1.1. BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Unplanned school closures are often used as public health interventions during infectious disease outbreaks in an attempt to minimize the spread of infection. However, if students continue to mix with others outside the home during the closures, these measures are unlikely to be effective. Gaining control of an infectious disease outbreak can require making difficult decisions, particularly when infections are human-to-human transmissible. Students are often in close physical proximity at school, have less-than-perfect hygiene behaviors and have low prior immunity to many infections (NHS England, 2017). For this reason, school closures are often proposed as one way of delaying the spread of infection (WHO, 2019). There is evidence to suggest that social contacts should reduce when schools are closed. For example, it has been reported that students have contact with fewer people during weekends (Munasinghe, Asai & Nishiura, 2019) and that the number of contacts students have with others approximately halves during the holidays (Eames, Tilston & Edmunds, 2011; Eames, Tilston, Brooks-Pollock & Edmunds, 2012). Several studies have also examined illness transmission rates during planned school closures, reporting a reduction in illness during school holidays (Cauchemez et al, 2018; Hens et al. 2019; Wheeler et al, 2010) and teacher strikes (Heymann et al, 2014).
However, school closure is not a step that can be taken lightly. Clearly, closures can have an impact on the education of the students involved. But they can also have an impact on the healthcare system, on the wider economy if large numbers of the workforce stay home to look after their students, on household incomes, on social policies implemented at school and on the likelihood of students engaging in other risky behaviors if they must be left unattended at home (Cauchemez et al, 2019). Indeed, the secondary economic and social effects of school closures are potentially very large (Rashid et al, 2015).
The evidence for the effectiveness of school closures and other school social distancing measures comes almost entirely from influenza outbreaks, for which transmission of the virus tends to be driven by children. It is unclear whether school measures are effective in coronavirus outbreaks—for example, due to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), or Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and, most specifically, COVID-19, for which transmission dynamics appear to be different. School closures can affect deaths during an outbreak either positively, through reducing transmission and the number of cases, or negatively, through reductions in the health-care workforce available to care for those who are sick.
In the absence of an effective vaccine, public health interventions that provide social distancing may reduce infectious disease transmission by limiting contact of infectious and noninfectious persons within populations. These measures include school closures, the cancellation of large public gatherings and the use of facemasks. Such drastic interventions can be socially disruptive, costly or ethically unappealing. Hence it is critical that early public health efforts focus on estimating epidemic severity and transmission potential to guide the implementation of social distancing measures.
Understanding whether the effectiveness of school closure in terms of reducing the spread of disease outweighs these impacts is therefore important. One of the key unknowns is what happens to students after a school is closed. The optimum answer from an epidemiological perspective is that students remain in their homes for the duration of the closure, never coming into contact with another person (Halloran et al, 2018; Germann et al, 2016). However, this is impractical and from front-line experience of outbreak management, there are many accounts of students continuing to congregate after being sent home from school and sometimes engaging in behavior likely to increase the risks of infection spreading (Braunack-Mayer et al, 2013; Osterholm, 2001). Any full assessment of the impact of school closures should take this into account.
A related issue is the extent to which students have contact with people, particularly those in vulnerable groups, with whom they would not usually have contact on a typical school day following a school closure. While their number of social contacts may be lower following closures.
Finally, given that school closures are often accompanied by advice to parents to limit the contact their students have with others, understanding what practical or attitudinal factors affect the likelihood of students mixing during a closure may also be helpful in improving the advice that is given out.
Given these considerations surrounding school closures, we aimed to look at students’ activities and contacts made outside the home during unplanned school closures in this rapid evidence review.
What is currently known about the impact of unplanned school closure on students’ interaction with others outside the home, What factors are associated with students interacting with others outside the home during a closure, and What affected parents think about closures?
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
In practice, it is extremely difficult to control for all factors that could potentially affect the reproduction number during an epidemic. In general, the effectiveness of school closures will depend on their starting time, relative to the outbreak onset, duration and intensity, and on any pre-existing immunity in school children. These interventions are expected to have a greater effect on transmission when put in place early and for prolonged periods of time, and when immunity in children is lowest. Time-dependent changes in the age distribution of cases can be the result of changes in population mixing structure. In particular, for the coronavirus pandemic, the proportion of cases occurring daily is on the increase and being considered when schools were in session. Likewise, a decline in this age ratio concomitant with the school closure period is indicative of the effectiveness of school-based interventions on reducing coronavirus transmission. However, monitoring coronavirus cases does not in itself provide a quantitative estimate of the effectiveness of school closures on students contact. Moreover, incessant closures of schools have limited the ability of higher institutions in Nigeria to give students a very sound and qualitative education which is a major reason for the establishment of higher institutions. Despite the measures taken over the years in curbing the pandemic, the virus seems to be on the increase. Therefore, this study is basically focused on identifying the impact of unplanned school closure on NTI PGDE student’s contacts in Nasarawa state.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THIS STUDY
The main purpose of this study is to examine the impact of unplanned school closure on NTI PGDE student’s contacts. The specific objectives are to;
1) To examine the adverse consequences of unplanned school closure in NTI Nasarawa state.
2) To examine the cause of unplanned school closure in NTI Nasarawa state
3) To examine the impact of unplanned school closure on NTI PGDE students contacts in Nasarawa state
4) To examine factors that influence unplanned school closure in Nigeria
5) To recommend ways of improving learning during an emergency school closure in Nigeria
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1) What are the adverse consequences of unplanned school closure in NTI Nasarawa state?
2) What are the causes of unplanned school closure in NTI Nasarawa state?
3) What is the impact of unplanned school closure on NTI PGDE student’s contacts in Nasarawa state?
4) What are the factors that influence unplanned school closure in Nigeria?
5) What are the recommended ways of improving learning during an emergency school closure in Nigeria?
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS
HO: Unplanned school closure has no significant impact on NTI PGDE student’s contacts in Nasarawa state
H1: Unplanned school closure has significant impact on NTI PGDE student’s contacts in Nasarawa state
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study is significant in two dimensions which are theoretical and practical. Theoretically it is hoped that the outcome of this study will constitute a scientific body of knowledge that will become a point of reference for other scholars who would want to carryout similar research. It will also add to existing knowledge of the impact of unplanned school closure on NTI PGDE student’s contacts in Nasarawa state.
1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This study is restricted to the impact of unplanned school closure on NTI PGDE student’s contacts in Nasarawa state.
1.8 LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
In the cause of the study, the researcher encounters some limitations which limited the scope of the study;
Time constraint: The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
Inadequate Materials: Scarcity of material is also another hindrance. The researcher finds it difficult to long hands in several required material which could contribute immensely to the success of this research work.
Financial constraint: Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
1.9 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Epidemic: The occurrence of cases of a disease or illness in a community or region in excess of what is usually expected over a given period of time.
Contagious: A contagious disease is easily spread from one person to another by contact with the infectious agent that causes the disease. The agent may be in droplets of liquid particles made by coughing or sneezing, from contaminated food utensils, water or food, or from direct contact between two individuals.
Isolation: The physical separation of a person suffering from an infectious or contagious disease from other persons in a community.
Outbreak: The confirmed presence of disease or infection of one or more cases of disease or infection in a defined epidemiological unit (i.e. flock, herd, farm or village) and during a specific period of time.
Pandemic: An outbreak of a disease that affects large numbers of people throughout the world.