Continuous learning through COVID-19 era
When the outbreak of COVID-19 started globally, it was as though Nigerian citizens were different species of humans who were not prone to the virus unlike every other country in the world.
Unluckily for Nigeria, this global pandemic was first discovered on 28th February 2020 from United Kingdom returnees. It was almost two months after the first case was discovered that 343 cases were confirmed.
There and then, the Ministry of Education pronounced a temporary closure of all schools in Nigeria which took effect from March 3rd in other to curtail the spread of this deadly virus. However, bearing in mind the Nigerian educational sector and the challenges faced beforehand, three sacrosanct questions were raised! Do schools have the technology to cater to over 50million students affected? Do households have the right facility to engage their children/wards remotely? Are Nigerian teachers having the right resources to deliver live classes or record huge open online classes? Contrary to many other countries in the world, the Federal Ministry of Education schools closure pronouncements didn’t come with any clear cut modalities on the challenges of teaching and learning digitally.
In setting the record straight, the Nigerian government has not been taking education paramount starting from the budget allocated which is always 6 to 6.7% as against 15% to 20% recommended by the Federal Ministry of Education retreat held in Abuja in 2018 and likewise the recommendation of the UNESCO on Education in Nigeria.
Should one feel concerned about the education sector whose only meaningful documents one can assess during this Global Pandemic for Education is the Nigeria Education in Emergency Working Group (NWIWWG) Strategy, published on 7th April 2020 The objective of the strategy is to mitigate the negative impact of schools’ closure on students and teachers in North-Eastern Nigeria.
Although the Federal Government gave full support to some sectors like Economic and Health sectors, but they couldn’t support the education sector as expected which is also detrimental to the growth and development of the Nation. It has however been stressed by UNESCO that temporary schools’ closures come with high social and economic costs cum serious effort on children from a snag background. Although children whose parents could afford E-learning due to social-economical uprightness were able to continue with studies during COVID-19. Inversely, 70% of parents couldn’t, for the cost attached to E-learning.
When schools were pronounced closed due to COVID-19, what that simply Implies is that educators, school owners, and policy makers should be rethinking of a way forward in which quality education should be easily accessible by students, irrespective of their parents’ economic status. Some countries were able to create a solution to their educational sector challenges.
For instance, Portugal was engaged in postal services to deliver working sheets to students who do not have access to internets/ learning gadgets at home. Chinese government was able to provide computers to students from low-income households and also offered mobile data packages and Telecommunication services. In France also, efforts were also made to lend devices to students who did not have access to computers.
In the instance of Nigeria, only two states of 36 states adopted local media channels. There were also Radio programmes to reach out to students in remote communities. Although to some extent, it serves as an alternative to only a little percentage of students. Therefore, the global pandemic being forehand known can erupt at any period without notice.
Having identified that the most challenged sectors in Nigeria is Education during COVID-19 lock down period I; therefore, wish to suggest the following as a support system for education.
1 A pre-loaded with offline academic resources such as tablets used in the SUN BOOKS project should be provided to students in disadvantaged and vulnerable areas/communities.
2 The Nigerian Education in Emergency Working Group (NWIWWG) strategy should also scale up to include all regions of the country as a target of UNESCO in inclusive education. They should consider a policy Measure that would require Significant Financial Investment and such investment should be worthwhile for the progress of the economy in the long term.
3 Ministry of Education Retreat in 2018 and UNESCO recommendation on Education Budget of 15 -20% should be adopted for Quality Education and Inclusive Education In the Nation.
4 Teachers, Educators, Stakeholders should be well trained on how the devices would be used for better delivery of subjects to students.
However, it is pertinent to note that learning should never stop irrespective of the challenges faced Globally.
Alabidun is executive director Inmates Educational Foundation, graduate of educational management, Lagos state university.
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