COVID-19: UNCOVERING NIGERIA’S EDUCATION SYSTEM ILL-PREPAREDNESS FOR EMERGENCIES

Compiled by Tajudeen Amodu

Stakeholders in the Nigerian Education Sector have been advised to learn from the influence of Covid-19 pandemic on education to think out of the box and make necessary amends to the education policy and curriculum content to meet up with the international best standards and the 21st century learning and teaching skills.

This came to the fore during an online interactive session between lecturers and postgraduate students of the Faculty of Education, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife on the topic, “Nigeria’s Education Policy and educational system during Emergency Period” moderated by Mr. Oyebode Oyetoro. The need for the consideration of this issue became exigent on account of the suspension of educational activities in all the nation’s educational institutions due to the global pandemic- Covid-19.

In her opinion, a doctoral candidate of Language Education, *Mrs Umar Taye * frowned at the cessation of activities in higher institutions due to the lockdown declared by the Federal Government and some States, saying it was shameful that teaching and learning activities could not be done via Skype, WhatsApp, Google Classroom etc. in spite of the many years of existence of these universities.

“There are no facilities in place for study outside the four walls of our Universities. For us (postgraduate students) now, there are pending seminars, how do we go about it? Skype, WhatsApp, just how? Even if that is possible, how many of us have up-to-date phones that can handle such services? What about the data to browse with? As it is now, the academic calendar is bound to experience some changes! I just hope that when we eventually come out of this pandemic, God willing, our leaders would have learnt their lessons, especially as regards our educational and health sectors, and make positive changes,” said Mrs. Umar

Another PhD student of Curriculum Studies in the Department of Arts and Social Science Education, who wanted to remain anonymous, in his submission said it is disheartening that education activities can be halted for weeks in public higher institutions during the period of lockdown as these institutions lack technological facilities to embark on online classroom teaching and learning, where students can interact with their peers and lecturers.

“Our problem now is how educational systems will incorporate technology into teaching. Some private schools are still in session during this crisis and it is rightly so due to the use of technology such as Google classroom, zoom meeting with their lecturers or teachers, softtalk applications among others. But it is a shame that most of our universities cannot even operate at this time of crisis because our leaders are myopic in their thinking. Everything is not on corruption but our thinking needs to change. We are in technological age and tertiary institutions cannot operate. In his words, “it is a big shame on all our professors and technological gurus in the University system”.
Also speaking, Ms Oluwaseun Onigiobi said the source of the problem of the lax in the response rate of the education system to provide alternative forms of interaction to substitute the face-to-face interaction patterns that dominate our system could be traced to poor funding and corruption by those at the corridors of power. She asserted further that “with the look of things, our present curricula cannot meet our contemporary needs in terms of “pandemic””. She opined that there is a need for an urgent “general” curricula review at all educational levels. In her words, the educational system in Nigeria is just fraud. Only few people are sincere with teaching and learning. Most of them are in for the money. How many of their (Professors) researches have influenced the society we live? They embark on research for promotions and not to make Nigeria a better place. The government might be part of the problem but the various Unions in the tertiary institutions (most especially in the University system) are real enemies of the system”, dropped Mrs Onigiobi who is also a doctoral candidate.
In their aggregate opinions, two Masters graduates of the Faculty Messrs Balogun Temitope and Ibrahim Adekunle corroborated some challenges raised above that “our problem is not primarily money issue but of good leadership and good followers. Many a time we hear of billions of being disbursed for University education but with little or nothing to show for it in our universities. Therefore, we need to “sanitize” our educational system first if we want any meaningful progress”, they stated.
In her reactions to, a Masters student of the Faculty Ms. Esther Olasupo maintained that it is high time good structures such as Learning Management System (LMS) as well as quality internet service, regular power supply, training and workshop for lecturers among others were incorporated into the education system.
“The FG asked us to go Online, (I guess online in this case means TV & Radio), how effective would this be? There is always a way to measure students success and achievements when the right technological structure is put in place. We have so much depended on the face-to-face classroom that we fail to consider the greater advantages of integrating these technologies.”
Speaking on the challenge of access to the internet, Olasupo said students do not need to buy data (to use in school during teaching). The school internet facility is there for lecturers to access. Why couldn’t each school make a system that all students can always subscribe to the school internet irrespective of where they are?.
On the issues of lecturers who are not conversant with social media, she stated that it appears that some Lecturers have not been so passionate about it as most of them see it as not their own thing and would rather refer to their use as been for future lecturers and not for teir own generation.

The moderator of the discussion, who is also a lecturer in the Faculty, Mr. Oyebode Oyetoro hinted that the Federal Government had some years ago instituted a radio programme for literacy and numeracy proficiency which featured a fictional characters “Kunkuru and the learning tree”. The educational programme was aired on Radio Nigeria network stations. Issues with whether they are effective would have been resolved if there are evidences of evaluation of such programme. This programme could have been built upon subsequently in the wake of the widespread use of the internet and various multimedia technologies and would have provided the nation for emergencies such as the one presented by COVID-19. He continued that in spite of the general low usage of technologies for teaching among University teachers efforts are made by spirited teachers to use technologies in teaching. He mentioned that he had considerably used WhatsApp as a support to face-to-face teaching and had also used Turnitin, a tool renowned for checking plagiarism. In his words, “my challenges with the use of these tools range from lack of institutional supports in terms of further training and social support from senior colleagues which goes a long way in enhancing my re-use of these technologies to students non-committal to the use of the technologies”. He gave instance where students who are digital natives complain of lack of data and lack of android phones for a WhatsApp supported teaching. Even for the activation of classes via Turnitin, some students complained that ethey have no emails to connect. “But you say we can’t blame them? They must adopt the technology if the gains are to be achieved,” concluded Mr. Oyetoro.

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