Private school owners, parents differ on online teaching
With the shutdown of public and private educational institutions across the country, as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), students have been away from schools since March. And they may likely remain in their homes furthermore based on the recent government decision to suspend its earlier announced July 13, 2020 for the reopening of schools for students in Basic 6, JSS 3 and SSS 3.
Aside this, the government also suspended Nigerian schools from writing this year’s West African Examination Council (WAEC) examination scheduled to run from August 4 to September 5, insisting schools will not reopen until the COVID-19 pandemic drastically subsides in the country.
Owing to this, all Nigerian students are now in forced holidays pending when the ‘almighty’ COVID-19 will leave its shores or be averted. As the forced holiday continues, owners of private schools in Lagos State, especially primary and secondary, their teachers, and those that provide ancillary services to the schools have been finding it tough to make ends meet.
Consequently, many private schools have devised ways of engaging their pupils through various social media platforms, including Whatsapp, Facebook, Zoom, Chat, as well as through e-mails, where they now send instructional materials and get feedback.
Since the commencement of online learning in some schools, some parents are appreciative of the stopgap measure, while others say the initiative is far from what they described as ‘the real teaching,’ as it is plagued by complaints, ranging from poor network connectivity, epileptic power supply, data challenges, to poor handling of devices by their wards, among others.
As if these do not constitute enough worries for affected parents, some private schools have, contrary to the warnings by the Lagos State government, begun demanding for part payment of third term school fees, despite its non-commencement. Those that are not asking for part payment of school fees are, all the same, asking parents to pay for their services, hinging their demands on the fact that teachers have to be paid for the services they are rendering, in addition to the data, and other services, which are all part of the mix.
While some schools are charging as much as N175, 000 monthly (depending on the class and location) for these services, others charge fees ranging from N100, 000 to N50, 000; N20, 000; N15, 000 and N10,000 monthly, respectively.
However, some parents are peeved that schools are being unreasonable with their charges not minding the austere period that the entire country is into.
A school proprietor, who simply gave his name as Babatope, confirmed that the disparity in fees charged for these online lessons might be as a result of the school’s location and class, adding that for most school owners, such funds would come in handy for the payment of teachers’ salary for the period of schools’ closure since third term resumption has now been postponed until further notice.
Babatope revealed that most private schools are using the online medium to teach some topics that they could not teach before the abrupt end to the second term, while those that were preparing for examination are now beginning to teach new topics having finished with revision exercises.
According to him, this is advantageous because it would keep pupils abreast of topics that they would treat upon resumption for the new term.
“Some school owners have continued to incur costs during this period, including paying their teachers and other members of staff that combine efforts to execute online teaching. The school equally makes available computer sets for teachers’ use, aside data purchased to prepare the lessons. So, we expect parents, who are opposed to the payments to please reason with us too, and pay the agreed charges for their children’s online lessons.
For the proprietress of Sejing Schools, Oshodi, Celina Unuegbu, depending on funds from online learning to pay teachers is a very challenging exercise because not all pupils are participating in the programme. She said that school owners need to treat their teachers well at this time; provide the necessary palliatives, including salaries for them to put in their best.
Unegbu, who implored school owners to draw from their savings to pay their teacher explained that she borrowed to pay teachers and other staff members from March to May, so that, they would continue to do their best during the period.
“Does it mean school owners do not have savings or cannot draw from their past profits? Running a school is also a form of business, and proprietors should stop deceiving teachers that they do not have money to pay salaries, no matter how little,” she noted.
Emeka Ikedu, a science teacher in an Ikeja-based school, said COVID-19 has opened a new way of survival for him, as he had to resort to taking students on private lessons since his school could not pay him and his colleagues before schools were shut by the government.
According to Ikedu, to survive the hardship created, he has to depend on home teaching, going from house-to-house of some of his students and others outside the circle to teach.
Ikedu is not alone as far as private home lessons are concerned. Thousands of his colleagues are equally engaged in it across the state. While these online lessons go on, Dansuki Mantu, whose kids are in Senior Secondary School (SSS), and in the Junior Secondary School (JSS) III, thinks the exercise as a scam, alleging that it is a calculated attempt by school owners to extort parents, especially considering the number of subjects taught via the channels.
Insisting that the process does not allow for effective teacher-pupil interaction, he queried if such a process could adequately prepare pupils for external examinations, as feedbacks seldom come, and when they do, they come late. He further alleged that he spends N3, 000 to N9, 000 on data weekly, apart from fueling the power generating set and forgoing his pleasure to help in solving some of the assignments sent to his children.
Another parent, Omolara Salami, claimed that the process is inflicting more pains on parents, who are currently finding it difficult to make ends meet, especially with the introduction of the monthly payment for the online teaching. She appealed to schools to, for once, make online lessons free.
The Guardian discovered that the way some schools are handling the online teaching/learning is giving some parents reasons to worry. For instance, a school at the Iyana-Ipaja area of the state, which began its online classes via WhatsApp early April, recently changed gear midway into the project and introduced a new app that likened the school’s online programme to a computer-based test.
To worsen issues, the pupils (both primary and secondary) were mandated to buy laptop computer sets, tablets or notebooks, and also pay an undisclosed amount to the coffers of the school within a week.
Although many parents kicked against the idea and refused to make the payment, the development, however, shows that some schools’ intentions are not as genuine as they appear.
Hakeem Hafeez, an educational psychologist, however, advised parents to keep an eye on what their children and wards are doing with the Internet-enabled devices used in learning as they could stray to harmful sites when not kept in check.