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Coping with home-schooling amid COVID-19 lockdown

By Ujunwa Atueyi
30 April 2020   |   3:25 am
It is now seven weeks since the Federal Government shut down institutions of learning and instructed them to embrace homeschooling through online learning due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It is now seven weeks since the Federal Government shut down institutions of learning and instructed them to embrace homeschooling through online learning due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sadly, a lot of Nigerian kids have been staying idle at home with parents and school managers striving to work out feasible learning methodology, with little or no success.

For some, the idea of homeschooling is not just realisable considering the socio-economic effect of the shutdown, while for others, it is a necessity in the interest of the children.

The Guardian checks, however, reveal rising frustrations for schools, parents, and students, who noted that lockdown of this measure has put a strain on families for apparent reasons.

In developed climes, teachers are using Zoom and Google classroom to teach various subjects, and these tools cannot work effectively where there is poor connectivity. It is worthy of mention that in this part of the world, Internet connectivity is still a major issue.

Federal Government had earlier announced its plans to commence online classes for students in its 104 unity schools. In the interim, students are asked to stay glued to their radio and television for educational programmes.

Regrettably, the much-touted online learning seems to be gathering momentum only in the media, as a source confirmed to The Guardian, that not much has been achieved in that regard and the existing platforms are not appropriate.

In fact, parents on their part have alleged that the system/platforms adopted by the government and individual schools have not only succeeded in further widening inequality gap, but has also unjustly separated the wheat from the chaff.

While elitist schools are partnering with parents to through various learning apps, email and recorded video keep their children on track, some are at the mercy of electricity service providers to at least listen/view the government’s radio and television programme, while others are oblivious of the pandemic homeschooling for obvious reasons.

Parents’ homeschooling experience
Narrating her experience, a parent, Mrs. Blessing Ginger-Eke, said, “For some weeks now, the school has been engaging them with online classes. Initially, it was very difficult to log into the school’s website because so many parents were trying to log in at the same time.

“When you finally logged in, you will be greeted with a prompt notifying you that it has reached the maximum numbers that are required. Although the school kept reassuring parents that they are working to improve on their website, we always try to log in on time from 8:30 am to meet up with the classes at 9 am.

“We are also experiencing some issues with network providers and their data services. In our area, all the network providers’ data are usually epileptic and they fluctuate so much, which is always frustrating.
To ensure seamless participation in the online classes for our kids, we have tested virtually all the networks to see if we can get a better or steady network but to no avail.

“We spend an exorbitant amount of money in subscribing. At first, we subscribed for N5000 and it finished within three days because of the visual classes being taken by my older son in the higher institution. Now, we subscribe with N10, 000, which gives about 40gig & it lasts for just nine days. So far, that is how we have been coping with the kids’ online classes in this lockdown. We pray that God will heal our land shortly.”

Another parent, Mrs. Eucharia Ikpor, said her children are studying on their own as no such exercise is going on. “There is no homeschooling or online learning for now. My children study on their own. The food consumption is much now, they are becoming lazy as well and glued to phone too. The only good thing about it is the family bonding.”

For Mrs. Anuli Udobi, a banker, who also said it is more of a bonding period for her family, informed, “We are not connected to any online educational programme in my house. Nothing is happening, at least not the one I’m aware of. They are at home eating and watching a cartoon.”

Mrs. Divine Uwakwe, who affirmed that her children are engaged in online teaching, stressed that such services have its own challenges and default, even though it comes at a cost.

Uwakwe who is a lawyer, while listing some of the challenges, stated, “The challenges of online learning are enormous, this probably explains why some parents are unconcerned. First, the students may not be opportune to ask questions to their teachers; actual learning is hindered as there is no face-to-face interaction; also teachers cannot teach as much as they would like to because there is a limit to what the teacher can say over the internet; the comfort and relaxation at home can make students be nonchalant towards learning; parents who are on essential duty may not be able to provide an online platform their kids need for learning.

Noting that teachers may also be negligent towards duty since there is no principal to supervise or monitor them, she highlighted that issue of content is also a challenged.

“Not all essential textbooks needed for learning can be provided online and when provided, accessibility can be a hindrance. For those who use video interaction, the network may be too slow to ensure effective communication. I will also not feign ignorance about the illiteracy of most Nigerian parents and students in the area of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). For instance, not all parents have heard about zoom and Google classroom as well as its functions. These are the challenges. The digital divide can be a great hindrance as a lot of Nigerians do not have access to Internet,” Uwakwe stated.
AFED, homeschooling and lockdown challenges

Ever since the lockdown, the situation has been very unpleasant for members of Association for Formidable Educational Development (AFED), an umbrella body of low-cost schools.

Their challenge is more of ‘stomach infrastructure’ than home schooling, as a lot of teachers operating in low-income schools are daily earners.

President of the group, Orji Kanu Emmanuel, who affirmed this in a chat with The Guardian stated, “The advent of the pandemic took everyone unawares. For low-cost schools, even if we were given 10 years to prepare, we probably would not have done much. So, it is a terrible situation for us, and for what it is, we only have to align ourselves with what the government has provided, like the radio and television programmes as provided by the Lagos state government.

“You know our kind of school is even poorer than the public school setting, so for the teachers of low-cost schools, they are being paid the very little sum of money, which invariably is not sustainable. So, as it is now, the teachers are hungry, very hungry. We have reached out to authorities, both the state and Federal Government, that while they are talking about palliatives, they should also remember us, but we appear to be having only the palliatives in the north. We don’t see it going round.

He continued, “So it’s beginning to make some of us who find ourselves in this circle, regret why we are here. Because a lot of teachers wake every morning calling on us crying that they are hungry and you find yourself being able to do nothing. So, the issue of coping with online learning, people who cannot afford what to eat, cannot afford data as well. And when it comes to technology, it is an end-to-end use. There must be some of the level of hardware that will enable the person to engage with it. And these are lacking in low-cost schools.”

Private school administrators’ approach
So many private schools are putting up internal measures to meaningfully engage their students ever since the lockdown. But not much success has been recorded considering the challenges associated with online learning.
While some are still at the preparation stage, others have kicked off.

Narrating the school’s coping methodology, Executive Director, Amville School, Lagos, Mrs. Mosun Owo-Odusi, said, “We are keeping up with all that we know how to do and even more. Our calendar was good, and we finished our second term examination the same day government ordered schools to shutdown. So, we don’t have any outstanding.

Now, we are making use of the already existing education portal on our website. Every class has its own menu on the portal. So the teachers prepared their sessions via power-point presentation and these were uploaded on the portal. And every child in our school already has their email, so we sent a mail with a password to their parents urging them to go to the website and download the children’s work and get them to do the work.

“For us, our children are younger, they are all between the ages of three to 11, so we usually don’t want them online for too long. Those were the things we also factored by using that approach. So on Mondays they download their materials. Tuesdays, we lead them to do some work. By midweek the teacher now had a zoom meeting with all the children in her class, to further discuss the work and assignment given to the children and also take questions from them. By Thursday they continue with their work and some additional information on the portal.”

For submission of the assignment, Owo-Odusi said, “we tried to make things easier, we asked them to mail or snap whatever the child has done and send to the class teacher. We are flexible in our approach so there won’t be much stress for parents and our teachers. It is also too much of a cost for our teachers from their respective homes, we give them data allowance every two weeks.”

Speaking on the challenges and sustainability, the school administrator said, “Already there is uncertainty about how we are going to continue, sustainability is a major concern, especially as it affects teachers salary, but we are already engaging our parents. We sent out an e-survey last Friday, expecting their feedback, this is our second week in the online lesson; by the third week we will know our parents’ stand, if they really want us to continue, after which we discuss terms and conditions.”