I came across a post, where someone blamed the government for not finding a way to ensure that children continued with their formal education despite the pandemic. The person insinuated that the government’s laissez-faire attitude towards education during this pandemic shows how education is not valued in Nigeria. He further stated that other countries have found ways of keeping children’s academic activities running smoothly and so our government should follow suit.
Of course the only way to send children back to school at this time in history is through the internet. Alternatively, we can try the “radio schools” programme that is happening right now in Enugu State. But, unfortunately, Nigeria is not ready for online teaching. As for teaching through the radio, that is the joke of the century.
It should be noted that some private school owners have considered engaging their students through online tutorials but a lot of factors are hindering their plans. Many entrepreneurs that recently kicked-off something close to an online school are actually targeting secondary school students, especially those that are about to write their WAEC. Some of them may be succeeding, anyway, but their impacts are yet to be felt.
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For the many that have considered engaging their students through online teaching and learning, the factors hindering the execution of their plans include cost of data, lack of access to computers, unstable power supply, poor economy, lack of technical know-how, lack of interest, and unsuitable methodology.
- Cost of Data
Mobile data is very expensive in Nigeria. To be able to participate in these classes, both the students and their teachers will need to subscribe to a data plan. If the classes require that video and audio files should be used, it then means that these people will spend a lot of money during a 30-minute or one hour class. When you check how much that will be spent on data alone in a week, you will be discouraged.
- Access to Computer
When many people talk about online classes I feel the urge to ask them how the children will gain access to computers for their learning. Some may tell you that the children should use their parents’ own, but they forgot that it’s not all the parents that own computers. The parents that have usually use theirs for business transactions, which they wouldn’t want their children to jeopardise. Even the option of mobile phones may not work here because most children don’t own phones until they’re through with secondary school.
- Unstable Power Supply
Of course going into this problem is unnecessary. Every Nigerian knows what NEPA (aka Disco) does to the system. So you can imagine paying for online classes for your children, providing laptops or desktops for them, connecting the computer to the internet, loading up data, and then running generators on top of everything. The thought of this alone is enough to shut down the plan.
- Poor Economy
Poverty and unstable power supply are two monsters that have found fertile soils in Nigeria. Actually, poverty seems to be more powerful and can bring about the birth of other minor monsters. Coming to online teaching and learning, children from poor and working class homes cannot afford to register and partake in these classes. It will also be hard for them to obtain the logistics needed for the classes. So if the government gives a go ahead order for online tutorials for primary and secondary schools, children from these social classes will lose out.
- Lack of Technical Know-How
Children in urban areas may be able to operate computers but I can’t say that for those in rural areas. Apart from the students, some teachers are also not computer literate. Even if these people know how to boot and shut down a computer, how many of them know how to navigate through the lesson platform to be able to access their class activities? It is true that practice makes perfect but this is something that may require some training before it kicks off. However, it is necessary that schools use this period to realise how important computer practice lessons are so that when schools reopen, they can teach these children practical computer operations.
- Lack of Interest
As the saying goes, you can take a horse to the stream but you can’t force it to drink. There are certain things about physical classrooms that virtual ones don’t have. For instance, companionship, friendship and team spirit these children have built over the years as classmates in physical classrooms cannot be found in virtual ones. Truth is that most at times, these students go to school because it provides them with the opportunity to meet and relate with their friends. This opportunity is lacking in virtual classrooms. The result here is that these students easily feel bored with lesson activities when they face their computers.
- Unsuitable Methodology
My children’s school online tutorial was designed so that parents and guardians attend online classes with the children. They expect parents and guardians to be there to monitor and explain the lesson contents to their children. It automatically made parents home lesson tutors except that this time, parents will obtain their materials from the school’s online classes. This method may be favourable for children that have private tutors (which is not advisable in this period) and/or less busy literate parents. But for those whose parents are illiterates and/or busy, this method won’t work.
Like I told one of my neighbours, we shouldn’t worry so much about our young children going back to school; they will definitely pick up from where they stopped before the COVID-19 lockdown. Maybe we need to bond with them more during this pandemic before they go back to their 7 to 5 academic routine. As for older children, especially those that will soon sit for their SSCE, parents should provide them with books and other educational materials that they will study and acquire knowledge. Those that can afford online tutorials should go ahead with that. But let it be known that Nigeria is not yet ripe for online schools.
The Educational system was never designed for the challenges facing us today.
In addition to the factors listed in the write up, most of our lecturers are not computer literate. They shy away from this relying on their old notes which has become anachronistic.
It is important, if we must make progress to train these lecturers on virtual learning. This is the new normal and we cannot run away from it. Covid19 has exposed not only our educational system but all spheres of our live.