By Mahfuz Alabidun
When the outbreak of COVID-19 started globally, it was as though Nigerians were different species of humans who were not prone to the virus unlike every other country in the world.
Unluckily for Nigeria, it recorded its index case of the pandemic on 28th February, 2020 from United Kingdom returnees. It was almost two months after the first case that 343 cases were confirmed.
There and then, the Federal Ministry of Education pronounced a temporary closure of all schools in Nigeria which took effect from March 23rd in order 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 for over 50million students affected? Do household 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 developing countries.
Should one feel concerned about the education sector for which the only meaningful document one could 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 the North Eastern Nigeria.
While the Federal Government gave full support to sectors like the economy and health, it couldn’t support the education sector as expected. That is detrimental to the growth and development of the Nation.
UNESCO, over the period has stressed that the temporary schools closures come with high social and economic costs cum serious effort on children from a snag background.
Children whose parents could afford online learning due to social economical uprightness were able to continue with studies during COVID19. Inversely, 70% of parents couldn’t for the cost attached to online learning.
When schools were shut due to COVID-19, what that simply implies is that educators, school owners, and policy makers should be rethinking of a way forward for accessible and quality education to students irrespective of their parents’ economic status.
Some countries were able to create solutions to their educational sector challenges.
For instance, Portugal engaged postal services to deliver working sheets to students who do not have access to internets/ learning gadgets at home.
The Chinese government was able to provide computers to students from low income households and also offered mobile data packages and telecommunications service.
In France also, efforts were made to lend devices to students who did not have access to computers.
In the instance of Nigeria, about thirty states of the thirty-six and the Federal Capital Territory adopted local media channels. There were radio programmes to reach out to students in remote communities.
To some extent, these served as an alternative to only little percentage of students.
Having identified that the most challenged sectors in Nigeria is Education during COVID-19 lockdown period I; therefore, wish to suggest the following as a support system for education.
A pre-loaded device with offline suitable academic resources on tablets should be provided to students in disadvantaged and vulnerable areas / communities.
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 investments and such should be worthwhile for the progress of the economy on the long term.
The Ministry of Education Retreat in 2018 and UNESCO recommendation on education budgetary allocation of 15 -20% should be adopted for quality education and inclusive education in the nation.
Teachers, educator, 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.
Mahfuz Alabidun is the Executive Director Inmates Educational Foundation. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org