Primary and Secondary schools in Nigeria should be allowed to reopen to mitigate the challenges of the new normal that places a heavy burden on parents across the country. It will be a huge palliative on parents on a number of factors they struggle to overcome recently in the education of their children like the digital learning. Parents lament on digital learning imposed by some schools for children to learn at home due to COVID-19 guidelines and precautionary measures.
School children in Nigeria have stayed four months at home due to COVID-19 challenges. Idleness is expensive, parents and the children are tired and wish schools should be reopened. With the gradual ease of lockdown, a number of rumours flew around on school resumption. Finally the reality was the resumption for exit classes in secondary schools to take their final exams.
In recent times, the school ones child attend is a class thing in addition to the primary motives of children’s education at that level. The private school proprietors didn’t relent on exploring such priority to extort parents and add to their blood pressures in the prevailing harsh economy. While we know every parent wants the best education for the children, it should not be forgotten that relatively, it should be where one can afford to pay and cope with the challenges of having a ward in a particular school.
The dominance of private schools for quality basic education in Nigeria is obviously caused by the Nigerian government not living up to expectations in providing the basic environment, infrastructures and skilled manpower to give a Nigerian child good education. This negligence sold the conscience of Nigerian parents to private school owners of various class with school names that are more of marketing than ordinary. Average Nigeria parents spend much to satisfy the whims and caprices of private schools owners that are beginning to compete in number with church owners at all nooks and crannies in the country. Hence they have become brand of business and you hear someone is into “school business” or “church business.”
It is part of the private school owners marketing skills embedded in empathy to introduce digital learning at home so as to drag the rich or maintain their patronage from all parents without due considerations on the challenges of exploration of the basic tools, the cost implications and some parents educational background with digital compliance. Yes it is true that this is digital era and 21st century but the economic situation in the country have not allowed millions of Nigerians own a smart phone or a set of computer system let alone basic knowledge to operate them. Many others who have the privileges of having one complain of cost of data bundle to be able to access the digital platforms. These were not considered by school proprietors. Their ideas of digital learning is good especially when one considers the fact that education is expensive. But if quality education should be a top priority of Nigerian government, it should be to everyone.
Now parents are forced to buy smart phones and set of computer system, learn how to use it, seek for data bundles or employ one with digital skills to help the children at home. As the unit load per parents adds up, they are to make sure that these children are fed three times a day to remain healthy while the other bills are rearing their ugly heads.
Some schools send the lesson notes to WhatsApp platforms of the Parent Teachers Association (PTA) to be accessed by the parents and who thereafter turn to teachers or hire one at a cost for the children to learn and do the assignments. Others took to google class and YouTube. We are all aware that to access internet is not free in Nigeria.
One of the concerns of parents is if they should pay school fees after all these additional cost on their daily lives by COVID- 19 and School proprietors in their grand style to market their schools. One is forced to think if public schools which obviously do not have the capacity to engage selves in the new normal like the private schools so to say, are to be left behind at the end of promotional year by the ministry of education.
The bottleneck imposed by COVID-19 to school system cannot be overcome by playing to the gallery as some schools have adopted by imposition of digital learning to the pupils, but by establishing a level playing ground for all schools to adopt. Ministry of Education is yet to articulate such.
When we pause here and reflect, it will remind us that the feared dangers of COVID-19 did a lot of damages to the economy earlier during the lockdown. No one imagined then that economic activities can still go on in Nigeria while observing the precautionary measures than total lockdown.
Same goes to schools. The schools should be reopened while children are dutifully guided on the precautionary measures. Experts say they are not as vulnerable to COVID-19 as the aged. The ease of lockdown should be extended to schools.
Children gather for Private lessons at various schools and houses of some teachers with little observance to the COVID-19 guidelines. Such gathering for lessons, even for church activities is not different as going to school. The hours of activities should be curtailed as in some markets, and other measures.
The children should be allowed to start school.
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