Until the restriction placed on re-opening schools is lifted, students, teachers and parents have to keep up with learning beyond the four walls of the classroom.
With safety being the watchword amid the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, schools have not reopened in all the states of the country since they were shut in March.
During the lockdown, the Lagos State government introduced e-learning to its students to ensure they kept up with studies from the safety of their homes.
The measure was seen as proactive on the part of government. Some private school owners followed suit, using the various online media platforms to engage with students.
Many Nigerians have noted, however, that, with this method of learning, the Nigerian educational system is presented with another precarious front. The effectiveness does not garner applause. Stakeholders have argued that thrusting it on students without putting in place a hitch-free delivery method raises concerns. Unsteady power supply, limited access to digital facilities or devices, competence of teachers, among other factors, have been cited as hindrances to the effectiveness of this learning method.
Learning has since evolved for teachers, parents and pupils since this trend began. Stakeholders have pooled different experiences, which could serve as blocks to help improve on raising digitally competent and competitive learners in the near future.
Augustina Adaba, proprietress, Brain Bells Montessori School, Oluti, Lagos, said she adopted the initiative with her students but cautioned that it would take time to set in.
Said she: “It helped to occupy the children during the lockdown and keep them focused on their studies. Although not all parents have access to the Internet, those who do take full advantage of it so that learning could still be achieved. Many of our parents appreciated the classes and the children are participating actively.”
She said it was a priority at the time for parents who were interested in their wards’ academic performance.
“Parents are conscious of the setbacks their children may suffer academically if left without any academic activity for a long period. And since the pandemic does not encourage home lessons, as was the case previously, the e-learning is a very welcome development and effective because it is engaging. Parents get involved with their children’s work and there is a deliberate effort from all sides to help the child excel. Only parents without Internet access and Android phones or tablets are unavoidably left out. To carry everybody along and especially those in the rural communities, I think all other avenues should be explored, e-learning, television classes, radio classes,” she added.
Matthew Adelanwa, a parent with three pre-schoolers who resides in Ibadan, Oyo State, narrated his experience. He said taking his children through classes online weighed on his pocket: “It’s costly because it involves using data and if you are not financially buoyant, it might not be possible. It is also devoid of face-to-face interaction. Students concentrate more when they interact with their teachers. The issues of power supply and poor network are also there to contend with.”
The situation was a little different with Mrs. Confidence Wobilo, a private school teacher and mother of three in Lagos. She would prefer classroom teaching for younger schoolchildren between the ages of three and nine. She said those within the age groups would learn faster when they can come in contact with their teacher. She also agreed that online teaching was expensive.
“The home lesson teacher is what some low-income parents have opted for to keep their children busy,” she said.
Virtual learning apparently comes with a price tag, which seems to be expensive on the part of parents and teachers without government intervention. Making digital facilities available and affordable would pave the way for a sound digital educational system, which in the long run would guarantee the future of the Nigerian child, many analysts have posited.
Ese Samuel, head teacher, Blessed Nursery and Primary School, Egbeda, Lagos, expressed concerns about the competence of teachers tasked to deliver the virtual lessons.
“There must be a sort of training in order to carry out this method of teaching on the part of the teachers,” she stated. “The convenience of the learner matters too. Asking them to wear uniforms and observing the normal rules in the class while at home for those wanting to be in a real classroom setting could make the teaching lively to follow and easier to flow with.
“Online classes should be made flexible in such a way that students can learn at a suitable pace and not at a scheduled timing. We have seen that it was effective at the beginning, but now, most of the learners now want to be in the four walls of the classroom. Some are complaining that the time spent on learning is too short compared to real classroom setting. If we can get around all these, it will get better with time as we catch them young.”
In an address delivered on Children’s Day, Senate President Ahmad Lawan said the efforts of government were not upscale in securing the future peace and education of the child. He said despite the efforts of government, quality education stills eludes an alarming 16 million children between five and 14 years old. He stated that the National Assembly would continue to work towards a better future for the child and the country.
Adaba said the future of digital learning could be better, with more government intervention. She said the provision of basic learning facilities like computers, educational tablets, conducive learning environment at an affordable cost would go a long way to place the Nigerian child in a better position like children in other parts of the world where child education and development are given great priority.
As the curfews have been relaxed and more parents return to work, many have noted that assisting the children with online classes might become a hassle without proper supervision. Some parents expressed their desire for school resumption because they were also wary of what might happen if children are left to the Internet with its unlimited amount of information to discover.
“When there was total lockdown, the children were carefully supervised. But the easing of the lockdown has made parents realise that there wouldn’t be necessary supervision of the pupils in the learning process. Some curious children go to some sites that are not meant for them,” Mrs. Samuel explained.
“It is no longer a priority because some parents who return late from work don’t have the time to check on what the child has learnt. But for some parents, they still find time to check on the child’s work. Learning online for children requires close monitoring so they don’t get distracted.”
Deputy provost of Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Deborah Dele-Giwa, said safety measures should be in place in schools: “The toddlers could be kept back, but we have to move on with life. Something has to give. Parents should buy their children facemasks and sanitizers, and the schools should be ready with running water for hand washing. Students should be kept for minimum hours. Instead of spending eight hours, school hours should be reduced to four hours. To stagnate these children will be worse,” she warned.