Heavy toll of COVID-19 on education system

By Faith Igbudu

It was like the beginning of an epic movie when Nigeria recorded her first case of the dreaded Coronavirus also known as COVID-19 on 28th February 2020 in Lagos. Before then, the ailment which originated from Wuhan, China in January 2020 was rumoured by some critics that it will not affect Nigeria, that it cannot survive our hot climate, that it is a western world sickness, the narratives went on and on.

When the country did not envisage, plan or prepare, the disease surprisingly came into the shores of Nigeria through an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and returned from Milan, Italy to Lagos, Nigeria on the 25th of February 2020 and since then, it has become a hard nut to crack for the nation even as it takes a toll on several lives every day, spreading daily like a wildfire in the harmattan, consuming the alert and unalert.

Like other pandemics, one that comes to mind quickly is ‘Ebola’, the Federal Government felt it could just shake up its body like a bird which has got water touching it’s feathers and all will be fine again but that has not being the reality as daily, new cases of COVID-19 are recorded across the country.

The sorry situation forced the Federal Government to introduce some protocols with the intent to help curb the spread of the disease. All Nigerians were advised to take care of their health and maintain hand and respiratory hygiene to protect themselves and others, including their own families, following some precautions such as: Regularly and thoroughly washing of hands with soap and water, and use of alcohol-based hand sanitiser; Maintaining of at least one and half metres (five feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing and persons with persistent cough or sneezing should stay at home or keep a social distance but not mix in crowd.

Others were: Make sure you and people around you follow good respiratory hygiene, meaning cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or into your sleeve at the bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze, then dispose of the used tissue immediately; Stay at home if you feel unwell with symptoms like fever, cough and difficulty in breathing NCDC toll free number which is available day and night for guidance- 0800-970000-10 was made available to members of the public.

Do not engage in self-medication; stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19 through official channels on TV and Radio, including the Lagos State Ministry of Health, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and Federal Ministry of Health were also some of the precautions.
Citizens were also warned not to abuse social media and indulge in spreading misinformation that could cause fear and panic while the Federal Ministry of Health, through Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, will continue to provide updates and will initiate all measures required to prevent the spread of any outbreak in Nigeria.

The Federal Government with advice from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) restricted social gatherings and emphasized social distancing. A situation that Nigerians soon accepted as the new normal.

No doubt the education sector has been in the heat as a result of this pandemic and like one beaten in boxing ring, each time it struggles to rise it is given a heavy blow. Since the first directive to shut down schools on the 28 of March 2020, the sector has never been the same. Education at the primary and secondary levels which has never been a challenge became an epileptic patient.

Schools however, reopened on the 21st of July 2020 but significant portion of time had been lost. Determined to stay true to the academic calendar, the Federal Government and most state governments struck out the third term which could not hold because of COVID-19.

The academic work plan is spread into the three terms at the primary and secondary levels of education. Jumping a term will mean having learners who will not be well schooled as they may never get to know some key topics. Another thing to note is that, the third term examinations are very important as they determine the promotion of a child to the next level. Therefore, cancellation of such an important term from the academic calendar was a rape of the education sector but as a rape victim where justice is slowly served, there was none to make a case against the decision and it was implemented. In years to come the consequences of skipping a term out rightly will stare us in the face with tongue out through the performance of the students.

This pandemic has impressed very strongly on Nigeria, hence the need to review the educational system in the country. As often said, education is the bedrock upon which development must lie, like other countries, must find a way to navigate through this murky waters or get drowned by it. The choice is greatly ours to make.

The truth about COVID-19 in its hardcore screams is that activities should be done with little or no physical contact. Elsewhere in the world, the virtual world has always been a channel of execution so when the pandemic came it was easy to migrate and stay in air space.

Nigeria is losing a lot in terms of man power development and must ensure that education goes on uninterrupted by paying same level of attention it gives to the health sector to it. Reviewing the educational system will mean touching key sectors that will better the life of the ordinary Nigerian maybe, that’s why the government seems to turn a blind eye to the sector.

First, the electricity supply in the country will have to be improved upon because the gadgets to be used for a virtual interaction will have to be powered. Another thing to improve on is the strict regulation of tariffs imposed on users by telecom service providers such that citizens are not exploited because of data usage.

The crux of the matter is developing structures that will further learning activities. The government did it with National Open University (NOUN). This can also be done again for the younger ones to keep education going even in the face of this and any other pandemic.
With the fear of the second wave of COVID-19, the Federal Government has shut down schools indefinitely for the 2020/2021 academic session but if schools should go virtual, such fears will be allayed.

The new variant of the virus named B117, was discovered during an investigation into why coronavirus cases in Kent continued to rise during the November lockdown. Scientists found out that it continued to spread during the restrictions while older variants declined.

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