Before the ongoing global pandemic, education in Nigeria was already bedevilled with issues such as poor funding and consequently limited teaching aids such as computers, laboratories and libraries, questionable quality teachers and poor learning environment. Now with schools closed and the government yet to announce learning interventions for public schools, the divide between the rich and the poor is expected to widen.
In many parts of Nigeria, children lack access to TV or radio or power supply so learning at this time may not be possible.
We cannot say how long the closure of schools will last and how much learning losses we are talking about. We do not know what happens next; when there will be a cure or vaccine. But we know that learning will be lost, and in poorer countries, these losses will affect a lot more children.
In mid-April, UNESCO reported 192 countries had closed all schools and universities, affecting over 90 per cent of the world’s learners: almost 1.6 billion children and students.
What is happening to Learning?
In response to school closures, UNESCO recommended the use of distance learning programs and open educational applications and platforms that schools and teachers can use to reach learners remotely and limit the disruption of education.
Long-distance learning is what children now rely on and this method now depends mostly on the availability of parents to supervise, especially when they have small children who require monitoring.
According to a report by The Brookings Institute, The long-term learning losses from COVID-19 school closures could be big—far surpassing the short-term learning losses experienced during the school closures themselves.
Parents who can online learning, as well as educators also foresee huge learning losses; Naomi, an accountant and mum of 4 children have this to say, “when the government announced a lockdown and schools closed, I was among the teach your children what you know people, digital future, change, etc. A few months afterwards, I realized I was wrong, I can’t teach my children, home education is not for everyone’.
Hannah, another Lagos mum says, “By May we were exhausted; juggling three children all under the age of 8, homework, zoom calls, housekeeping, work. My husband and I couldn’t keep up with the online school until we suspended it for a while. We designed a program for ourselves, but this also didn’t succeed. Today my kids can barely remember their schoolwork even though we have since rejoined the school’s online program, I do not think they are learning enough”.
Another parent, Mrs Ola has this to say “I was the self-appointed head-teacher, I supervised learning and classes for my two kids, I moved things around to suit our schedules; my husband, a low commitment assistant headteacher didn’t help much.”
As parents return to working full time, it has become even more difficult to cover learning gaps even with students who have access to technology.
Mrs Ogaga, a headteacher in a private school in Lagos said, “since the schools’ closures in March some children have never logged online or joined the classes. We can’t even reach some parents, some don’t pick our calls or they refuse to provide meaningful feedback regarding their children’s learning”
How much learning Loss are we talking about?
The online classes being organized by mostly private schools hold for one to two hours daily. This is not nearly enough and is likely to reduce learning by at least 1/3 because children have fallen behind the level of instruction while out of school and will continue falling further behind as the curriculum progresses when they return.
Efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19 through non-pharmaceutical interventions and preventive measures such as social-distancing and self-isolation have prompted the widespread continued suspension of schooling globally.
In countries with unequal access to technology such as Nigeria, for instance, the government is yet to implement serious learning intervention for the students in public schools. However private schools are carrying out trial-like online classes.
Tony, a father of two says “I don’t think the schools are getting it right, the teachers are not used to these methods of teaching and it shows in the delivery, sometimes there is so much background noise or the video is dark, or they are frowning.”
John acknowledges that online learning has its drawbacks but is grateful for the alternative learning “I say half bread is better than none. My kids now know their way around a computer.”
What We Can Do?
The Ministry of education can start planning now for re-learning programs when schools reopen. As they do, they should build programs and train teachers in ways that can continue to produce benefits beyond the reopening period to come back from the crisis stronger than before.