COVID-19; Government and The Educational System
We are now on a second wave of COVID-19 Pandemic. So says the Government. With this comes the possibility of another round of lockdown. Unfortunately, we are yet to recover from the devastating effect of the first lockdown which took about 7 months. Schools were locked throughout this period. The effect of this on the cognitive development of the child can better be imagined. Only teachers may understand this. But one thing was clear, learners had forgotten virtually that was taught before the lockdown. Seven months at home doing virtually nothing was definitely a period of stagnation. At the economic realm, businesses were at a standstill. Only God knows the cost of this to the overall wellbeing of our nation.
With the coming of the second wave, the usual scapegoat, schools, is again in focus. Schools are the sacrificial lamp at all times. But for goodness sake, why?
A school is an organized environment. Private schools specifically have always provided for all the safety requirements to mitigate against the effect of COVID-19. Infrared thermometer, Washing of Hand, Rearrangement of sitting arrangement in classes to meet social distancing regulations, Face Masks/Shields, etc were all put in place at great cost. This situation has continued up to today. Students are also under strict supervision of their teachers. With all these in place, we expect the schools to be the least places for a COVID-19 breakout.
Consider the public places: Markets, Nightclubs, Motor Parks, etc. Or attendance at wedding, Naming, Birthday, burial and other ceremonies or parties. Free-for-all environment with little or no safety precautions. You begin to wonder why government will enforce lockdown on schools but allow the same learners to move freely in public areas or at all the elaborate ceremonies and parties Nigerians are found of? What about their attendance at the crowded ‘’lesson’’ with lesson teachers all done with little safety measures? This is where the irony lies. Schools with all the safety precautions in place must lockdown. Public areas without any safety measures in place must be allowed to operate. We need to reset and regig our priorities. Schools must be the last set of establishments for lockdowns.
We understand that E-learning is being encouraged. But this attempt can only be for the rich. About 70% of Nigerians live in rural areas with poor infrastructural development. Children in rural areas don’t have access to laptops, smartphones, Tablets or the internet. Thus they are automatically ruled out of E-learning initiatives. These students can only survive under conventional classrooms.
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Let the schools be. Let the safety precautions be put in place. Without this, we must be ready for the negative effect of lockdowns on school girls and boys. These include among others:
- Cognitive Decline of Learners considering the fact that E-learning can only serve a small percentage of the population.
- Risk to the teenage boy and girl. This can come in the form of unwanted pregnancies, negative peer group influence, etc. This will be due to lack of parental supervision as the children move about freely.
Another issue worth mentioning here is the suspicion between the government and the people. Does COVID-19 even exist in Nigeria? People who have not seen any person that has it is suspicious of government. They believe that government is only raising alarm in order to get huge allocation. That is, for the purpose of enhancing corruption. They take their misgiving from the statement credited to the Kogi State Governor who said that over 3 Trillion Naira have been spent in Nigeria to mitigate against COVID – 19. The question is; how can government spend such a huge amount within 8-9 months on COVID when our university lecturers (ASUU) are perpetually on strike for poor funding of universities? Can’t even 10 percent of this amount 300 billion Naira suffice to uplift the poor infrastructural deficit in our education system? Government on the other hand feels that COVID-19 is real. And that citizens can only joke with it at great risk to their lives.
We at Jofegan International Schools believe that it is real. We also believe that it has come to stay. Therefore, everyone must take responsibility by taking all the safety precautions necessary. In doing this, we also believe that schools do not have to be used as scapegoats. Let us allow the schools to be.