The online teaching and learning style is trending in every part of the country. Many private schools that have websites added a page where students and parents can log in to access learning materials. Some schools went as far as creating websites in order to join in this trend. This development in developing countries, such as Nigeria, is a welcomed idea but it comes with a price, and that price is an impending crisis in our education system.
In Nigeria, schools are regulated by government-owned agencies. These agencies provide curriculum for each class and insist that it must be finished before a child is said to have completed a class. These agencies also set up general academic calendars that specify periods of resumption and closure for each school. No school in this country, no matter who the owner is, can ignore the directives of these agencies and go scot free.
Some may say that tertiary institutions have their own academic calendars and sets of curriculum for different schools and departments. Well, this may be so in other countries but never in Nigeria. Polytechnics, for instance, get their curricula from the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and this board comes for regular inspections to make sure that every department sticks to the stipulated items in the curriculum. Failure to do so leads to the withdrawal of the department’s accreditation or the agency may mete out any other sanctions it deems fit.
As for the dates for yearly resumption and closure of higher schools, Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) sees that. This agency controls schools resumptions through the UTME exam schedules, result release and posting of students for admissions. When they post students to the school, it is expected that their admissions should be processed within a certain period of time. Schools that miss that period may be denied access to freshers for the following session. However, tertiary institutions are in positions to decide when and how their semesters run. The most important thing is that they resume and close within a specified period of time. And that they cover up the contents of the curricular before the students graduate.
Now, you must have noticed that some schools have already gone deep into the scheme of works for 3rd term (for primary and secondary schools) and course outline for second semester (for tertiary institutions) through online classes. But one special thing about these schools engaging in online schooling is that they are all private-owned. No government-owned school has been recorded to be engaged in any of this practice, and no announcement by the government directed schools to start online classes. In fact, just recently about twelve universities have been approved to start distance learning, which they are yet to do. This is just to say that all the schools in Nigeria that carry out online teaching and learning are, like our people will say, on their own.
Now, let’s look at how the educational crisis will happen as a result of these online schools.
- Paying Salaries when Schools Reopen
From what I know, many schools engaging in online classes have made their students pay their 3rd term school fees. This must have been used in paying salaries and settling other logistics because these schools insisted that their teachers come to work. We know that very soon schools will definitely reopen for the completion of second term/first semester, and the resumption of third term/second semester. One is then left to ask how these schools plan to pay teachers and other workers their salaries when they resume fully and officially.
- Re-Teaching Previously Taught Contents of the Curriculum
It is obvious that these schools are going to re-teach physically all they have taught virtually. This comes to ask how the teachers and children can stand this repeat because it will definitely lead to loss of interest in academic activities. It is more worrisome when one considers that this is bound to happen for about three months or more within the term. It would be better if schools are asked to reopen and vacate at their own discretion, but that will create more problems. Besides, it is unwise to leave some children at home when others are in school. However, this can be advantageous if well utilised. The teachers may need to spend more of their time on evaluation and practical than on teaching what they have taught before.
- Problem with External Examinations
It would have been easier to re-organise school calendars if external exam bodies, such as WAEC, do not exist. But in a situation where countries that subscribed to WAEC re-opened their schools while Nigerian schools are still shut down, there is bound to be a problem. Many Nigerian WAEC candidates are in government-owned schools that do not engage in online teaching and learning, and so did not engage in any lessons that will help them with their studies and preparation for the exam. This will be most unfair to them because WAEC may not consider them when it fixes exam timetables. These children truly need help.
It is known that the education agencies that regulate school activities are working round the clock to ensure that schools are reopened and that it will be safe for the children to go back to school. As they plan for school reopening, they should also consider these mentioned problems and find ways to address them too.