By Simeon Mpamugoh
The administrator, St. Francis Catholic Secondary School, (SFCSS) Idimu, Lagos Rev. Fr. Maduabuchi Leo Muoneme, S.J. has said that COVID-19 pandemic has reformed pedagogy and moved it into a virtual environment.
In a virtual chat with The Education Report, Muoneme noted that the “DNA” of our 21 century children was awash with digital technology,” adding, “Online pedagogy is now an integral part of education. He said, “Our school would start running a summer online programme planned and developed as the St. Francis Jesuit Summer Online School –Head Start. The technology would be used to prepare interested Nigerian students for the next academic year—consequently giving them a head start. It is going to be a thoroughgoing and systematic preparation for WAEC and NECO examinations and students in classes JS1 first term, JS2 -3, and SS1-3. It is an improvement of last year’s summer online school. There will also be synchronous online assessments.
Confronted by the challenge of physical distancing due to COVID-19, he explained, “We had no option but to adapt to this innovative way of teaching and learning. I know it has not been perfect for us. We encountered teething problems, and we need to keep fine-tuning. Let us be cognizant that when the coast is clear, a time-honored style of education will not be the same again.”
While uncertainty looms on return to normalcy, the school administrator said,” We cannot fold our hands and keep gazing for a return to normalcy. It is evident that we need to start a forward planning for the post COVID-19 pandemic. “
Going forward, he said, “There is a need for us to synergize campus education and virtual education. There is a probability of a second wave of COVID-19. In anticipation for that, SFCSS has a vision of strengthening the backbone of her online education and also creating a robust system of doing online pedagogy during the next academic year. With the support of parents and donors, we dream of providing standard educational tablets to all the Magis.
“The plan, God willing, is to ensure that each tablet is loaded with e-books and educational software packages necessary for the Magis to study, explore research, calculate, and write computer based exams. We also plan to safeguard the tablets with features that will protect the Magis (minors) from predators and internet sites that are decadent.”
For the above vision to be realized, he appealed to all Parents of the Magis to fully support this dream—morally and financially noting, “Besides physical notebooks, our fees for next academic year will include provision for customized digital tablets with educational and technological tools to enhance the holistic formation of the Magis and to prepare them for the 21st century. Things have changed; times have changed; and the era is changing.
“We will not leave the children behind. They need to be relevant for the future. If we re-imagine the future, we will see the future alumni of SFCSS working in different types of work environments—milieus that are synergies or hybrids of physical work place and virtual work spaces. Teachers and parents are already living and working in this hybrid space. It will be much more sophisticated for our children’s generation. We cannot stop the natural evolution towards the digital world. E-learning and e-assessment will also prepare the Magis better for standardized tests like American College Tests, UTME (JAMB), e-enrichment programmes, as well as equip them with leadership tools, entrepreneurship tools, robotics, and relevant artificial intelligence (AI) for the 21st Century,” he said.
On the capacity of the school to fund the project, Muoneme revealed, “SFCSS needs funding to build capacity for e-learning. Our e-learning platforms also need to be updated. We want to procure more devices and equipment to facilitate e-learning. Part of our vision is to build two e-learning studios with large touch screens that will boost the learning of the sciences on-line.
“These will be physical studios, but they will be linked to the clouds. Our sister college Loyola Jesuit College Abuja recently created such a lab, and so we have the leverage of learning from their teething troubles. We need to be prepared for a second wave or even a third. Therefore, in the clouds, we also intend to design virtual Teachers’ Staff Rooms, virtual Administration Room, virtual Bursary Room, virtual Symphony Orchestra Room, virtual Psychological and Spiritual Support Rooms, virtual Personal Social Education (PSE), and virtual Physical Exercise Room, to mention but a view. While on campus, we want to secure internet connectivity for all teachers and students. We also want to design charging points in classrooms, laboratories, and staff rooms for students and teachers,” he stated.
He observed that education would definitely never be the same after COVID 19 pandemic. He pointed out that the measure of quality education would hinge on intelligent use of technology adding that a hybrid of campus schooling and online schooling has been reborn by COVID-19.
He disclosed that the two weeks the government gave for exiting students to prepare for this year’s West African School Certificate Examination(WASCE) from August 3 -17 was definitely too short adding however that conscientious students have not been sleeping. He said,” Many took advantage of the lockdown to deepen their knowledge and expand their thoughts. The long wait however could have created a general sense of dormancy, so with the remaining days we have, we have no option but to activate the mental lives of the students and sharpen their thoughts in preparation for their final secondary school exams.”
On the impact of COVID 19 to the school, he said, “It has drastically reduced returns for our school. There is no doubt that the Class of 2020 deserves the Patience of Job Award. It is a case of waiting indefinitely for the whistle for a race to start. And with the recent announcements of the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemka Nwajiuba, I think, I think it is now clear that the long awaited WASSCE is commencing soon. August 17, 2020 is the date billed for them to commence their WASSCE and subsequent “NECO” examination.” Even though we live in uncertainty due to COVID-19 pandemic where plans are bound to keep changing, we should not relent in ensuring that they all graduate with flying colours from this citadel of learning,” he muted.