COVID-19: Televised classes and the fate of rural communities


By Efe Agabi

The multiplier effects of Covid-19 are incalculable. No sector is immune to the negative impact of the pandemic, from entertainment to tourism it is the same story. The Nigerian economy is currently hemorrhaging uncontrollably but the worst is yet to come if urgent measures are not put in place look diversify the economy; as a seasoned columnist Dele Sabowale bluntly espoused “Covid-19 has cornered the 2020 budget”. It is pleasing to see some thinking outside the box in the NNPC that is known for intrigues and drama.

The decision to privatize the four refineries to engender efficiency, and open the space for investors is equally commendable, also very heartwarming is the decision to scrap petrol subsidy that was reported to have been scrapped in 2015 as a basis for increment of PMS from #98 to #145. Five years after, the refineries promised have not been built, the conventional refineries that have gulped billions of naira in the guise of turn around maintenance are still near-moribund. Covid-19 is rebooting out thought process, to realize that the age of stone ended not because there were no stones, the age of oil is in its twilight.

As we grapple with the novel Covid-19 and the economic consequences of over reliance on crude oil, schools across the country are currently locked.

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University would have been locked without COVID-19. No thanks to the annual ASUU ritual of industrial action and the endless negotiations with FG that is tilted towards welfare of lecturers without genuine efforts to improve infrastructure in higher institutions.

To keep students academically engaged, some state governments have commendably adopted electronic techniques to complete the syllabus of various subjects via radio and television for students in secondary schools, particularly students preparing for WASSCE AND NECO examinations.

While this idea have been largely endorsed and commended, it has again resurfaced conversations around the neglect of rural communities in the implementation of government programs, and given vent to the need to design government programs bottom-up.

It is safe to say, some schools in rural communities are centres where certificates are procured, with no drive to build capacity.

In some rural communities, students are made to learn under trees, dingy classrooms, with dilapidated roofs, and made to sit on the floor.

Some of the instructors are community volunteers employed by the Parents Teachers Association and Community Development Unions, this is compounded by the absence of libraries, laboratories and teaching materials.

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The gap between the rural and urban centres is inexplicable, but even the urban centres where some schools are finding it difficult to accommodate trained teachers that refused posting to rural communities are still below par.

Nigerian budget for education in the 2020 budget is 48 billion which is slightly above 35 billion earmarked for the renovation of the National Assembly, the government also budgeted 112 billion for Universal Basic Education (UBEC), but there is currently no national action plan to provide free and inclusive education across the country.

If the 57% budget implementation recorded in 2019 is replicated in 2020, less than the proposed amount would be released to the Ministry of education, and this cannot revolutionize education in Nigeria.

In 2019, only 20 students enrolled for national common entrance into the unity colleges in Zamfara. This figure may not change in 2020. It is also safe to say the electronic learning is for children of the elites and not for the poor and rural communities where electricity is either inadequate or non-existence.

Perhaps, the various state government proposing lectures through television and radio have developed an operational framework to deliver generators and PMS to house holds or have interfaced with the DISCOS to provide power during the lectures.

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Whichever way, a good percentage of students would be excluded if power is available as most homes in rural areas are currently without radio and television sets.

For parents in rural areas, this is the time to leverage on the lockdown of schools to mobilize kids to the farms to work, only few would understand the implications of academic inactivity, and the benefits of the electronic lectures.

COVID-19 is not only exposing our fragile health care facilities, and the stories around economic diversification. The rot in our educational system has been exposed.

We are not up to speed with global best practices and televised classes would not perform magic. Going forward, government must as a matter of necessity, change the current narrative across the country.

The development of a unified template to urgently revolutionize the education system should become a national priority, this should encapsulate the use of digital devices in both urban and rural areas as the same curriculums are designed for rural communities and urban centres.

On televised classes, rural communities would wait for Post COVID-19 era. There are more serious issues to contend with.

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