Education worst-hit by COVID-19 pandemic, says commission
As the search for the cure for coronavirus continues, the six states in the south have disclosed that beyond health, education is the next most affected by the global pandemic.
The states, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta States (BRACED) at a meeting by the six commissioners of education, reviewed the challenges and how to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the pandemic to advance quality, inclusive and technology-driven education in the region.
The meeting convened by the Director General of the BRACED commission, Ambassador Joe Keshi observed that the inequalities existing before the pandemic in the sector have widened as many students, especially those in public schools, rural and disadvantaged communities, despite the commendable efforts of the state governments were unable to access the radio and television school programmes of the governments.
He called for urgent consultations between governments, educators and parents on the feasibility of the Federal Ministry of Education’s guidelines for the re-opening of schools, while advising that any decision to reopen schools must consider local conditions and put in place as well, measures to nip in the bud any spread of the virus in schools.
Keshi urged the states to begin to think of how best to take advantage of the opportunities provided by COVID-19 to bridge the inequalities in the sector, utilise technology to drive education and prepare the students for a world already being driven by technology.
Accordingly, the DG called for a regional educational framework that would promote the utilisation of technology across all levels of the system and ensures as well, internet penetration throughout the region
The meeting recognised the long-lasting impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdowns, which led to the closure of all schools in the region. It recounted the various efforts and measures taken by various governments in the region to ensure that some modicum of learning was provided to students through radio and television programmes. This it noted will help significantly to keep students studying and learning throughout the period of the lockdown.
On the utilisation of technology, the body identified the various policies of the state governments to promote the use of technology to drive education in the region and observed that the pandemic had made it even more imperative and urgent for all concerned to invest in science technology, particularly, information and communication technology to accelerate the bridging of the digital gaps.
It expressed hope that such an investment would not only help in preparing students of the region for the future, in which only those with digital literacy will promote efficiency and productivity throughout all sectors and accelerate development in the region.
At the end of discussion, the body resolved that the region should set up a platform for e-learning for primary, secondary, technical and higher education and recommended the setting up of a committee to work out modalities and implementation.
They also urged the Federal Government to consider urgent financial assistance to the states to enable them cope with the extra burden imposed by the pandemic and ensure that they meet government’s protocols/ guideline for school reopening.
Besides, the commission appealed to corporate bodies, especially those operating in the region, to support the states in meeting the stipulated guidelines for schools reopening.
In attendance were the six commissioners of education namely, Prof Kaniye Ebeku (Rivers); Prof Nse Essien (Akwa Ibom); Dr Iniobong Essien (Akwa Ibom commissioner for science and technology); Dr Godwin Amanke (Cross River); Patrick Ukah (Delta State commissioner for basic education) and Patrick Muoboghare (Delta State commissioner for higher education).
Others are Matthew Itsekiri (Delta State commissioner for science and technology), Stella Maris Imasuen (Permanent Secretary, Ministry of education, Edo state) and Walton Liverpool (Permanent Secretary, ministry of education, Bayelsa state). Also in attendance were Prof Hope Eghagha, University of Lagos (UNILAG) and Chief Executive Officer, Etiam Innovation Systems, Mr Mark Anthony.
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