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COVID-19: Panacea to sustaining teaching, learning during a pandemic

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Students learning in a normal classroom setting

“All schools and institutions – primary, secondary and tertiary – remain physically closed. Students are expected to continue learning via online and media channels.”

That was vintage Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State speaking last Wednesday during a media briefing where he released details of how the five weeks and one day coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown of the state, which started with the closure on non-food markets on Thursday, March 26, would be gradually eased from Monday. The schools had been shut immediately it became obvious that Lagos State would be the epicentre of coronavirus pandemic in the country, few weeks after the index case was recorded two months and five days ago. Extraordinary measures needed to be taken to slow down the spread and ultimately limit it.

The update on the pandemic on the website of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) as at 10.22am yesterday indicated that out of the 1932 cases in the country, the Lagos State accounts for 976 with 756 cases on admission. Expectedly, it also accounts for most deaths with 21 out of 58. Although the state has also recorded most recoveries with 199 patients successfully treated and discharged out of 319 across the country, the situation still remains
precarious. But Lagosians need to get on with their lives, hence the gradual relaxation of the lockdown by the Federal Government from Monday, May 4. However, Sanwo-Olu considers re-opening the schools too risky at this moment.

The NCDC update cited above showed that coronavirus has spread to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and 34 out of the 36 states of the country with only Kogi and Cross River states yet to record any case of the virus. Like Lagos, most of the states had also shut their schools and institutions in a bid to contain the spread of the disease. And still like Lagos, they may not be in a hurry to reopen them. But the pupils and students need to get on with their studies; leaving them blank academically for as long the restrictive measures last could come with dire consequences. Nevertheless, the big question now is: How can the country ensure that the pupils/students remain engaged academically?

Sanwo-Olu proffered online and media channels as the way out, a method that is otherwise known as virtual learning. But do the available technology, infrastructure and economic power of majority of Nigerian parents support virtual learning? Do pupils, students and their parents have the basic foundation to cope with the method?

The Guardian found 14-year-old Ademola Adeosun, who claimed to be a student of Ajumoni Junior and Senior Secondary School, Isolo, Lagos, playing football with friends on the street in the early hours of last Wednesday. Asked why he was not taking advantage of online and media classes available in the state, he responded that his school had no such programme.

“My school did not make provision for online programme, at least none that I’m aware of. My younger brother and I attend the same school and we have been at home since the closure of the school. But even if there is such programme, how do I access the platform since I don’t have a phone, neither do we have a laptop at home. In fact, none of my parents use android phones so there is absolutely no way I can participate in any online class.

“However, my father compels us to read our textbooks especially when he thinks we have played too much. But he doesn’t even monitor us. I read literature books most times because I enjoy the stories. But picking up real text books to study has become challenging since I don’t feel pressured as there is no test or exam to write anytime soon. After all, they said no one knows when the coronavirus vaccine would be invented meaning we might not go to school for a very long time,” Adeosun said.

He said he would be willing to participate in online classes should the government provide him the necessary tools. “I will be very happy; I actually wish my parents could at the least own an android phone. I can do a lot of things online with their phones rather than playing with my friends. Some of my classmates bring android phones to school and we browse the Internet during break period. So, I don’t think I will have any difficulty accessing an online study platform,” he added.

For Chidinma Innocent, who is in her final class at Ilupeju Senior Secondary School, environmental factors make it difficult for her to concentrate in a virtual class. “I don’t really know much about the online learning but I try to follow the radio learning programme. However, it isn’t easy as I find it difficult to concentrate due to the noise in my area. Also, at times, the transmission won’t really be clear; some other times there won’t be light to charge the phone, which I use to listen to the programme. For now, I prioritise going through past WAEC questions and note books. I just hope this situation will pass very soon so I will write my SSC examinations and hopefully graduate from secondary school,” she said.

Some parents expressed reservations about the virtual learning model. While some said they didn’t have money to buy data for their children to enable them partake in the classes, others said unavoidable distractions have also made TV/radio tutorial sessions unsuitable.

Mrs Miracle Akpan, a cleaner, said: “I don’t know about virtual learning; I have not even heard about it. And I can’t even afford to buy data on my phone to help my children partake in online learning. I am not all that educated so how can I even put my children through. The option that is left for me is to get another person to put them through the process; but where is the money? To even feed them now is a big challenge. The government should find another way to help the children to continue with their education because the online learning cannot work for so many especially those that have difficulty to feed at this time,” she said.

Miss Bisola Rahim, a single mother, told The Guardian that she doesn’t have an android phone not to talk of buying data so her son could participate in online learning. But she tries tutoring him by herself in some subjects.

“I am a hairdresser with no shop of my own and also a single mother. I don’t even have an android phone not to talk of buying data. But I make sure he studies his books for two hours a day after which I ask him questions on what he read. I flog him if he makes mistakes. It has not been easy though but I have to dedicate my time to making sure my son is educated and better than me,” she said.

Mrs. Rasheedat Yusuf, a trader at the Mushin market, said: “My eldest daughter who is currently in SS2 tries her best to keep up with the learning programme on WAZOBIA FM, which is aired from 2-4pm Monday to Friday. But she finds it difficult keeping up with the programme due to the irregular power supply. Also, it is difficult for her to comprehend what she is being taught as she doesn’t see what is being explained. She is meant to call the radio station if she has any question pertaining what was taught but most times they don’t pick her calls or the call would be delayed with so much airtime wasted. With that, she appears to be losing interest in the programme. I see this as a stressful way of learning and it isn’t encouraging at all. I just pray this whole issue pass by quickly, so she and other students will be able to go back to school.”

Mr Eniola Adedeji told The Guardian that the money he spends on buying data so that his sons, aged 10 and 12 years, could participate in online learning appears to far outweigh the impact of the programme. “I spend a lot on the purchase of data. My children are not in the same class so I have to buy data on both of my computer device, which cost me much. During the learning process, I still need to be around to help them operate the device or better still I need to stay around so they won’t damage the device.

“I know the online learning is for the betterment of the children but after most of the learning sessions my 10-year-old son becomes confused because there are some aspects that requires clarification.

“Most children don’t comprehend easily without the teacher being around to put them through. I can’t be spending so much on an online learning session that isn’t benefitting my kids. I just hope these kids would be able to go back to their classes very soon,” Adedeji said.

Aside from Lagos, few other states in the country have also introduced one form of virtual learning or the other to preserve the academic verve of pupils/students pending when the coronavirus crisis would convincingly ebb. But there are other states that are yet to come up with any learning initiative for pupils/students who do not presently know how long they would stay at home. The reports below details what is presently going on at Abia, Enugu, Ondo, Cross River, Akwa Ibom and Imo states.

‘Radio Classrooms’ Make Waves In Abia
From Gordi Udeajah, Umuahia
Before the indefinite closure of schools by the Abia State government as part of the precautionary measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu admitted that the state could not completely ignore the education of its children as a result of the pandemic.

He, therefore, set up a committee under the chairmanship of the state Commissioner for Education that was mandated to launch an innovative education programme that would keep pupils and students busy throughout the period.

For tertiary students, the governor urged the management of the institutions to commence online lectures using the appropriate technologies. He further announced that each of the state’s four tertiary institutions would get N10 million to support the initiative.

Children in a virtual class. PHOTO: Nairametrics

Findings showed that in keeping with the governor’s promise, the state has created a radio learning programme for primary and secondary school pupils/students. Tagged “Radio Classrooms” the programme took off on April 20. For pupils to participate in the programme, their parents are to set up seats, tables and transistor radios at home to mimic a classroom setting while carefully selected teachers drawn from the state school system teach various subjects through the Broadcasting Corporation of Abia State (BCA) radio and television studios from 8.00am to noon while secondary school students are taught at noon and then weekends.

Parents are also expected to be part of the programme as well as helping to mark their assignments based on scripts issued by the radio/TV teachers.

Speaking about the programme, the Commissioner for Education, Dr Kananechi Nwangwa, noted that it has helped to keep the pupils/students busy.

“It helps to keep the school children busy and abreast of their academics pending the resumption of normal classes. The state is also developing a customised online learning application that will be available to pupils and students whose parents have data connections to link to the learning software,” he added.

Commenting on the programme, a parent, Mr Dick Elechi, described it as worthy but noted that it has come with the cost of setting up a classroom at home, procuring a radio and powering the radio dry cell batteries due to poor power supply in his area.

Another parent, Mrs Joan Ogbonna, said her children were already used to the programme, saying they mimic the teachers after the lessons conducted in both English and Igbo languages.

For the tertiary sector, findings showed that it had not taken off but the managements of the institutions were concluding the modalities for the take off of the programme.

A retired educationist, Chief Israel Kanu, lauded the programme, noting that it could outlive the lockdown when perfected. He commended the government for the timely innovation saying that “necessity is the mother of invention.”

‘School on Radio’ Keeps Students Busy In A’Ibom
From InemesitAkpan-Nsoh, Uyo
Akwa Ibom State is one of the states in the country that didn’t hurriedly close down its schools as a result of the outbreak of coronavirus. With the end of the second term in sight before the outbreak, the government gave public and private schools two weeks to conclude their examinations and end the term.
But foreseeing that the end to the pandemic was not in sight, Governor Udom Emmanuel ordered the state Ministry of Education to set up a programme known as ‘School on Radio’ to assist pupils and students preparing for the Junior Basic Education Certificate, WASSCE, NECO and NAPTEB examinations while at home.

The programme was launched a week ago. The Commissioner for Education, Prof. Nse Essien, while launching the programme said ‘School on Radio’ was designed to impart knowledge to students particularly those in examination classes.

According to him, the three-hour daily programme is aired every Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10am -12noon and 3pm – 4pm for junior secondary school students; and Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10am – 12noon and 3pm – 4pm for senior secondary school students.

Subjects taught include English, Basic Science, Agricultural Science and Civic Education for junior secondary school category and English, Civic Education, Commerce/Economics and Government for senior secondary school category.

Although many parents extolled the programme, some criticised it for being aired only on the state radio station. They urged the ministry of education to involve all the private radio stations in the state so as to give the students and pupils a wider choice of channels and time flexibility.

Aside from that, some parents said that poor power supply was preventing their children from participating in the pragramme, saying they lack the resources to buy dry cell batteries to power their radios.

However, further findings revealed that some private schools in the state preferred interacting with their pupils/students on the WhatsApp platform through the their parents phone. But it was discovered that many of them just give assignments to pupils/students, which would be submitted whenever schools resume.

A vice principal in one of the schools in the state, who does not want his name mentioned, picked holes in the subjects taught in the programme. He advised that more attention should be given to science
subjects. He also aligned with those who say that more radio stations should be used for the programme. He, however, noted that it was wise not to adopt television as the channel, saying most homes may not have the appliance.

No Plans For Virtual Studies In Cross River
From Agosi Todo, Calabar
So far, the Cross River State government has not put in place any programme to ensure that pupils/students remain engaged during the period of the closure occasioned by COVID-19 outbreak. But some private schools in Calabar, the state capital, have introduced online teaching for their pupils. Some of the students, however, lamented that they didn’t have necessary devices like phones, laptops or desktop computers to work with. Some also lamented that there was no electricity to power the devices they even had.

A pupil of a private school in Calabar, Bridget Elom, told The Guardian that she didn’t have a smartphone to receive lectures online, saying she relied on her mother’s phone which sometimes was not available during the lesson period.

A student of one of the state owned secondary schools, Fredrick Anyafulu, who was set to sit for the West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE) before it was postponed indefinitely, said he reads his notes and textbooks to ensure that he does not lose focus.

“We have not been told of any progamme online but what I do to ensure that I don’t lose focus is that I do a lot of revision on past questions, notebooks and my textbooks,” Fredrick said.

Speaking on the issue, an Associate Professor of Economics from the University of Calabar, Dr. Okey Ovat, said that online learning programme would not yield any positive outcome because of the level of underdevelopment in terms of infrastructure and the technical know how.

He pointed out that the epileptic power supply being experienced across the country was one of the challenges that would render such programmes useless.

“Even if the learning programme would be on television or radio, what would become of those living in the rural area that does not have means of power supply?” he queried.

“You see, this online learning works in developed countries but in Nigeria, with our level of underdevelopment, in terms of infrastructure and all that, it can’t work. In the urban centre where we are expected to have power for 24 hours, for example in my area, since September last year, we have not seen light. So we have been running our homes with generators. Can you imagine living in the state capital and that kind of thing is happening. What of those in the rural areas? It is not going to be easy and it will not yield anything positive,” Ovat added.

He continued: “I heard there is an online programme whether on NTA or so to keep the pupils busy as a result of this coronavirus pandemic. In fact, television is better because if you are there, you see what the instructor is teaching and all that. I don’t know if the programme is ongoing at the federal level or not but if it is to engage pupils and students, they will be targeting only those in the urban centres because those in the rural areas might not have access to television.

“Even those in the urban centres, power supply is another issue. The programme maybe on and there may be no power. So, I don’t think the online programme would achieve its objective based on our level of development.”

He, however, advised parents to take it upon themselves to engage their children in academic learning for as long as the schools remain closed.

“This should rather go to the parents. They should make sure that the pupils and students get the necessary time to read and keep them busy academic wise. Parents that are literate should from time to time give them some sort of assignment and when they finish, they check their work to see whether they have done the proper thing. For those parents that are not literate, they should advise their wards to read their books,” Ovat said.

All efforts to get the state Ministry of Education to speak on the matter proved abortive. The Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mrs. Aniedi Ekpenyong, declined to speak. She directed The Guardian to the Commissioner, Mr. Godwin Amanke, who did not answer phone calls placed to him or reply to questions sent through test messages.

Students Commend Enugu Radio School
From Lawrence Njoku, Enugu
Two weeks ago, Enugu State government began a radio school programme to bridge the academic gap caused by the ravaging coronavirus in the country.

The government had forcefully shut all private and public schools in the state last month when it recorded the first two cases of the pandemic. The incident had caught some schools unawares as they were either racing to cover the syllabus for the term or preparing for the second term examinations. There were some who had started the term’s examination in earnest but couldn’t conclude them.

To ensure that the students are kept busy while at home, the state Ministry of Education introduced the daily radio school programme for primary and secondary school students.

Radio stations in the state air the programme. Subjects like Mathematics, English Language and Basic Sciences are taught by teachers drawn mainly from urban areas.

Besides what the state government is doing, some private secondary schools have also launched online methods of keeping their students glued to their books during this period. For instance, the Spring of Life International Schools has continued to reach its students online on the homework they would do each day. The students are only required to log in to the web address to access the homework.

Although, the state government has continued to advertise the radio school programme, part of the challenge has been lack of the needed facilities. While some students complained that they had not joined for once due to lack of power supply, others insisted that they didn’t have radios in their homes to be part of the programme.

Oluchi Ugwu of Urban Girls Secondary School, Enugu, said she only listened to the programme once and had not done so again. She blamed the development on poor power supply in her Obiagu area.
“They don’t give us light and since the situation is that everybody should sit at home, I cannot be looking for somebody’s house to enter. I have not followed the programme for some time, so I don’t know what they are doing,” she said.

Another student, who identified himself as Ikechukwu, said his parents doesn’t have a radio set, adding, “I don’t even know that they do radio school.  What I have been doing is to read my books as much as I can when there is chance to do so. My parents are always asking us to do one thing or the other to help the family. So I read on my own.”

A student, who said she participated in the programme on the “day one of my teachers taught”, explained that it was a good experience.

“That day was Mathematics and I followed everything she said including the assignments that were given as she progressed. But I want them to be doing it in the evening because most of the time they do it in the day and we don’t always have light in the day,” she added.

A teacher in one of the private secondary schools in the state, Mrs Grace Nnamani, told The Guardian that she had on two occasions listened to the radio school programme, describing the initiative as “a good one.” She said the programme would make much impact on schools, especially government schools, running similar scheme of work.

“You know that our teaching methods differ and some of the teachers don’t use the same scheme of work. So, I think from the ones I listened to, the teachers based their teaching on their scheme of work and not what probably is obtainable elsewhere,” she said.

The English teacher said that her manual was different from what her counterpart used during one of the lessons, stressing: “Planners of the programme should also go a bit further to define the category of students who should benefit from the teaching. This is because you cannot be teaching same topic the same way with someone in JSS2 and SS2 probably.”


Executive Chairman, Post Primary School Management Board (PPSMB) Enugu, Nestor Ezeme, explained that the programme for secondary students began on April 14, 2020, adding that it is aired from 5-6pm from Monday to Friday.

According to him, primary school classes, which are aired daily from 11:00am to noon, began on Tuesday, April 21.

Imo Students Demand Virtual Learning Or Re-Opening Of Schools
From Charles Ogugbuaja, Owerri
As at the time of filing this report, the Imo State government has not initiated any educational programme aimed at engaging the pupils and students in public primary and secondary schools in the state.

Although Governor Hope Uzodimma has twice made statewide broadcasts on efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus, no reference was made to virtual learning to aid pupils/students in the state.

Meanwhile, schools were hurriedly shut immediately it was obvious that the state needed to take serious measures to ensure residents do not contract and spread the disease.

The Commissioner for Education, Prof. V. E. Ikegwuoha, could not be reached for his comments as the newly sworn in commissioners, special advisers and senior special assistants were yet to fully start work due to the pandemic.

A secondary school student in the state, Tochukwu Okechukwu, however, told The Guardian that he and his friends were eager to return school, lamenting that they have stayed at home doing nothing for about a month.
His words: “I and my friends are bored at home. We want to start learning. We do not read the way we used to when the schools were in session. We are appealing to the government to either re-open schools or make us to start learning somewhere else so that our brains can remain open.”

Ondo Coastal Areas Lack Access To Government’s E-Learning Programme
From Oluwaseun Akingboye, Akure
Despite all efforts made by the Ondo State government to cushion the effects of COVID-19 on the educational sector of the state, more than 500 communities are shut out from the initiatives due to total blackout in the South Senatorial District of the state.

Immediately the coronavirus pandemic became a reality in the state, resulting in the immediate closure of schools, the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) initiated e-learning programmes to salvage the situation.

But four local government areas in the South District, namely Okitipupa, Irele, Ilaje and Ese-Odo, have been grappling with total blackout for over 10 years. So, aside from crippling their socio-economic livelihood, it has further deprived a large number of students living in the area of the e-learning opportunities.

Speaking on the e-learning initiative for pupils, the SUBEB Chairman, Princess OladunniOdu, said it was meant to enable the pupils to continue learning from home.

“The home lessons started by airing for the primary school pupils in the state on Orange 94.5 FM. It was a strategic effort of the Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu administration to keep the pupils busy,” she said.

Odu said it would also reduce the negative impact of the closure of schools as a result of the spread of coronavirus pandemic, stressing that it would keep the pupils abreast of their school curriculum.

Subjects taught in the programme include English and Mathematics but Odu gave the assurance that General Paper would be included subsequently. She urged parents, guardians and caregivers to ensure their children/wards participate attentively in the programme.

Further findings showed that the Ministry of Education has been making efforts to partner with Quickens Computers on e-learning in the state.

Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Pastor Femi Agagu, explained that the partnership was part of the state government’s plan to ensure that pupils get access to studies while staying at home and to provide platform for electronic-learning.

Agagu said the partnership would ensure that the school curriculum is maintained regardless of school closure.

Managing Director of Quickens Computers, Mr. Lawrence Ehindero, said the partnership with the state would ensure that teachers at all levels in the state become ICT compliant, saying the platform ensures availability of comprehensive data base for planning purposes, human resources and information management.

Ehindero encouraged parents to allow their children to access to their mobile phones in logging to their individual school websites already captured into the system.

“It helps to reduce to the barest minimum issues relating to ghost students, pupils and teachers as they will all have unique identification numbers and ensure proper tracing.
“The educational portal will provide parents with instant access to information relating to their children by logging to the website,” he said.

Listing other benefits of the e-learning initiative, he emphasised that it would transform the education sector by eradicating manual processing across schools and replacing them with modern and dynamic online digital learning.

However, pupils/students in the coastal areas lamented that they were not benefiting from such initiatives.

A parent, Mr. Augustine Ikuejawafrom Okitipupa, bemoaned the situation.

“How does the state government expect us to provide food for our families and fuel generators regularly for our children to key into the e-learning initiative with the harsh realities of this COVID-19. Even television and radio, how many families can power them even if they have them in the house?

“The other question is how many parents are using smart phones? How many can afford something for their kids? Even if parents have, how many can sacrifice their phones as learning tool for their kids?”

Abayomi Ikuyelorimi, a student of Ayetoro Happy City College in Ilaje Local Government Area, noted that most people in the community were not aware of the e-learning programme.

Ikuyelorimi appealed to state government to purchase ICT-compliant phones for students in the area, give them stipends for data subscription and alternative power source.

Meanwhile some parents in cities and Akure metropolis who spoke with The Guardian expressed some misgivings towards the online platform for learning, saying it does not ensure uniformity in the learning process.

They explained that though power supply in the area was relatively stable, the pupils and students might not be able to tune in to the radio and television stations at the same time as the distribution company rotates supply in some areas.


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