It is common knowledge that COVID-19 is bringing in a lot of changes into the world. Some of these changes are disruptive, while others are regressive. Among the regressive changes is the re-introduction of Afternoon-School in Nigeria.
“Afternoon-School” was in existence during my primary and secondary school days. I could remember back then in Awka when St. Mary’s Primary School had both morning and afternoon schools, while daytime and night schools existed in Udoka Primary School (St. Patrick) Awka. In those days, afternoon schools were usually attended by house helps and children that have to stay back at home in order to take care of their younger ones until their siblings/mothers/other helps that went to morning schools/businesses come back. It was more like performing division of labour, where some children stay home to do morning shift, while others come back in the afternoon to continue with the duties. Night schools were, however, attended by adults that wished to continue with their education.
For reasons unknown to me, both Afternoon and Night schools were fizzled out of our education system. But the afternoon school is making a comeback into our education system in a grand style, thanks to COVID-19. However, it is not yet certain if this will happen.
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The hint that schools in Nigeria will adopt the morning and afternoon “shift” was given by the Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, on Wednesday 27th May, 2020, during a briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19. He hinted this while addressing the issue of reopening of schools in the country. He noted that the Ministry of Education is still setting up some guidelines for reopening of schools, but that it is still uncertain on when schools will resume. However, he mentioned that the ministry is considering schools operating morning and afternoon shifts so that classes will be decongested. This, he said, will help the students to observe social distancing rules.
As the ministry is setting up guidelines and considering re-introduction of afternoon schools, they should retrace their steps to find out why the afternoon schools were stopped in the first place. If they were discouraged as a result of manpower or poor performance of the students, they may have to bear these in mind when enforcing the implementation of their guidelines.
However, they may also need to put the following into consideration as they carry out their researches:
- Time and Duration of Classes
I know that the best time for learning to take place is in the morning, when the brain is still rested and unburdened by the day’s activities. This being said, there is every possibility that the children that attend schools in the afternoon shift may have difficulties concentrating on their lessons. For this, it will be better if schools consider running for 4 hours on each shift. Maybe morning shift should be 8am to 12pm, while afternoon school starts from 12pm and ends by 4pm. That way, the students in the morning shift will dismiss before they are fatigued and the afternoon session will still be captured before the heat from the sun turns classes and other learning environments uncomfortable.
- Recruitment of More Teachers
There is no way the same set of teachers can handle morning and afternoon schools. People may debate that these teachers have been handling classes for 8 hours per day before COVID-19 and can therefore manage these two sets of schools in a day. Well, those in the school system know that academic activities become less tasking after break. By this time, students and their teachers take things slowly and easily until school dismissal. So if it is insisted that the same teachers should man both morning and afternoon sessions, trust me they will not do their work well. If you ask me, I’ll say that those coming for afternoon schools will lose a lot because their teachers will be tired by then. For this, school proprietors, ministry of education and state education commissions should consider bringing in more manpower to make this a success. They can go for part-time staff if bringing in full-time ones is unattainable.
- Segmenting Classes
It may be difficult for schools to decide on which student comes for morning session and who comes for afternoon one. If parents are asked to decide, a lot of them will go for morning sessions because it is more convenient for them, unless there is an incentive attached to afternoon sessions. For this, it will be better if those setting up guidelines consider how classes should be segmented. If I were asked, I will suggest that certain classes come in the morning while the remaining ones come in the afternoon. For instance, Primary 1 to 3 can come in the morning, while Primary 4 to 6 come in the afternoon. The students can be spread out to the empty classrooms during each session.
As mentioned earlier, the Ministry of Education is still working on the guidelines that will ensure that schools are safe for the children when they resume their academic activities. We applaud their efforts towards securing the lives of teachers and students, and we enjoin them to do whatever that is within their powers to make sure that all schools comply with the guidelines. They should however remember to carry parents along in their decision making.