Gabriel Dike and Gloria Ikegbule
The closure of schools due to the ravaging coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has entered its fourth week. Schools, specifically primary and secondary, have devised means of keeping their pupils and students busy when the lockdown lasts.
One such means is online teaching to prepare their students ahead for major external examinations. At the time of the compulsory closure, many schools had not concluded their internal examinations. Public examinations for SSS3 students and primary six pupils preparing for the May/June 2020 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), Senior School Certificate Examination and National Common Entrance Examination (NCEE) were not conducted.
Following the closure, the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and the National Examinations Council (NECO) postponed the school examination and common entrance examination into Federal Government Colleges.
Many private schools have, however, embraced online teaching to prepare their SSS3 students for the external examinations. Some state governments also cued in but through lessons via radio and television for public primary and secondary schools.
Dr. Grace Popoola, the proprietress of Bopton Comprehensive College, Abule-Egba, Lagos, said the school was being proactive: “Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown of schools, the students had covered their syllabus and were engaged in online coaching classes.
“The successful performance of our students cannot be affected by the shutdown of schools and non-contact with their teachers. The school is fully prepared and 100 percent ready for the May/June 2020 WASSCE with the support of our teachers and cooperation of our parents. The school opened a WhatsApp platform for the coaching of students sitting for WASSCE and junior WAEC. Online coaching is done for the preparation of examinations and it is still an ongoing programme till the external exams come to end.
“The advocacy for schools to take advantage of online coaching is a good idea. Our school has been involved in it before the emergency shutdown. We hold three classes per day and have a duration of one hour for each subject. However, the school has covered her syllabus. We are now on revision.”
For students of Padre Pio Academy, Aguda, Lagos, they completed their scheme of work prior to the shutdown. The school management introduced them to an online learning platform, ULesson, to reinforce what they were taught in the classroom.
The school proprietress, Mrs. Georgina Obi, said the school is not aware of when the shutdown will be suspended for students to write the public examinations. To prepare them during this period, the students were introduced to ULesson:
“ULesson is an educational app that has different questions from a variety of subjects the students are offering. With the current global pandemonium, online coaching is the best. The only challenge with it is that some students wouldn’t have access because they don’t have a computer at home. There is also the issue of data and power.”
Notwithstanding, she is certain the shutdown and non-contact with teachers will not affect the students’ performance. Obi maintained that the students’ exposure during the UTME and their impressive performance during the school mock exam “is an indication that they will do well in the forthcoming WASSCE and NECO.”
A parent, Mrs. Amaka Arinze told The Education Report she does not subscribe to giving students holidays without making provision for extra moral classes. She pointed that holidays have a negative impact on students’ academic performance, the reason she appreciated the use of the internet and online coaching platforms at a time like this in helping students get ahead in their academics. She, however, insisted on parental guidance in helping the students make good use of such online platforms.
Her teenage daughter, who will sit for WASSCE and NECO is taking advantage of the online coaching with her support: ‘’I appreciate the use of online coaching because it helps my daughter to go further in her studies. I advise parents to monitor their students’ online usage to avert wrong use.”
Mr. Tayo Stephen, Chief Executive Officer, Starry Gold Academy (SGA), Lagos, said: “One of our missions at SGA is to make learning easier with the use of technology. We have been running e-learning on online platforms for about 10 years now and started with professional courses and a few others as well.’’
Said he: ‘’After a lot of research and analysis, we noticed an educational gap at the secondary school level and we decided to move our technology into this area. What we did was record the lectures in video format so that students can go through them in a way that they can cover the entire WASSEC syllabus. As we did for WAEC, we did for JAMB. We have video lectures for both WAEC and JAMB.
‘’We noticed that many of the existing resources for WAEC require constant internet access and that they do not function without data. We decided not to follow the trend because not everyone has constant internet access or data connection. We decided not to run the video lectures online. By running it offline, students can have access to video lectures anytime and day. They can go through it as long as they want without being constrained by not having enough data or having a bad network.’’
He said apart from providing students with video lectures, SGA also provides a free online platform (Telegram) in which students can converse with professional tutors for free any questions or topics they do not understand. Telegram, a social media platform with special groups for about 21 different subjects including Mathematics, English, Commerce, Physics, Chemistry, and Literature. These classes are available to anyone, whether or not they have purchased the video lectures:
‘’During this lockdown, some schools have embraced online learning. However, there is a difference between online learning and digital learning. All online learning is digital whereas not all digital learning is online. Yes, some schools in Lagos have chosen to hold online streaming on Facebook, Skype, Zoom and even on the radio. However, students living in the slum areas may not have access to big bundles of data to stream these online classes. Streaming on Facebook or Zoom requires a tremendous amount of data whereas chatting on WhatsApp or Telegram doesn’t consume as much data. This is where our free Telegram classes come into place.”
He said many schools and few state governments have embraced online teaching for SSS 3 students and think it will help them. He noted that with 10 years of recorded WASSCE past questions with answers, students can go through the past questions which are solved then success is guaranteed for them.
‘’We also recorded 40 years of JAMB past questions. A student can get access to 40 years of past questions and their answers. We released this JAMB package just before the lockdown began and we gave the prototype to some parents.’’
Folake Adetunji, SSS 3 student, Godswill International School, Ogba, Lagos, said she and her colleagues have been receiving online teaching via WhatsApp and another educational platform on all the subjects to keep them ready for the May/June 2020 WASSCE and NECO:
“The school drew up a timetable for the various subjects and our parents were informed about the online teaching which requires data. We are preparing for WAEC and NECO via online teaching and it involves all the subjects. Students are given the opportunity to ask questions after every exercise. My friends in other schools are also going through the same preparation.’’
Another student, Peter Omoregie of Greater Tomorrow Academy, Isolo, Lagos, confirmed that SSS 3 students in his school have started intensive online preparation for WASSCE and NECO but stressed that the issue of power has made it difficult for some students to participate during the exercise:
“The school management called our parents and gave them the details about the online teaching for the forthcoming external examinations and within one week of closure, I and my colleagues started the revision of the various subjects because our teachers are through with the syllabus.”
President, National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Chief Yomi Otubela, said before the outbreak of the pandemic, the body had made preparations for its students nationwide to write the termly NAPPS Unified Examination to prepare them ahead of external examinations like WASSCE, GCE, NECO:
‘’With the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, we gave a directive to our members in all the states to fully embrace virtual learning platforms to engage the students meaningfully during this lockdown including SSS 3 students preparing for WASSCE and NECO. I can confirm to you through our monitoring mechanism that a significant number of our members are complying with the directive.
‘’Our members have already embraced the online learning platforms. I don’t think shutting down of schools will have a significant impact on their performance in WASSCE and NECO.’’
Executive Director of Starfield Private School, Fagba, Lagos, Mr. Chris Eigbe, said: ‘’We have finished our preparation and we have given our students reading assignments to work on.’’
Lagos State Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Folashade Adefisayo said: ‘’We are teaching on at least three radio channels every day. Please be assured that we love these children, we want them to do well and have engaged various initiatives, even e-learning to support them.
‘’We are aware that students’ most common access is via radio and that is why we are using radio. We are also on TV every day and on the WhatsApp group, thousands of children are responding every day. We are also working on an e-learning site.’’
Anambra State Commissioner for Basic Education, Prof Kate Omenugha, told The Education Report that Anambra teaching on air was launched on Wednesday, April 1, 2020, on ABS 88.5FM, Awka and ABS 90.7FM, Onitsha, in partnership with the Ministry of Basic Education. She said teaching days and subjects have been made available to SSS 3 students, which are Monday-Economics-1-2pm, Tuesday-Lit.In English-1-2pm, Wednesday-Physics-English Language-11-12 noon, Thursday-Maths-Biology-1-2pm and Friday-Chemistry-1-2pm.
Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, last week directed heads of tertiary institutions to start virtual learning to enable their students to continue with studies while at home due to the shutdown arising from the coronavirus pandemic. He gave the directive through teleconference when he spoke with vice-chancellors, rectors, provosts and heads of educational agencies.