The unforeseen COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly ushered in an era of uncontrollable panic and has dolefully thrown the world into a war-like state. Sadly, missiles and weapons are worse than useless, but we are at the mercy of health practitioners taking the lead in the battle-like situation we have found ourselves. While the search for effective vaccines keeps intensifying, we cannot ignore the fact that one of the most affected areas is the education sector which has been left crippled as the virus keeps spreading like a diffused gas.
As expected by everyone in a bid to curb the quick spread of the virus that erupted from Wuhan, leading to an unbelievable number of fatalities in Nigeria, the government ordered the closure of all schools in March 2020. The closure forced students across all levels to kiss the school environment a temporal goodbye, and mandatorily stay home. This shutting down of schools has raised alarm for alternative forms of learning to be adopted, of which the digital approach will be the best. Unfortunately, all inhabitants of Nigeria will agree with me that the nation has a lot to do before she can swim out of the ocean of digital retardation.
As my sister checked the calendar on her phone yesterday, she could not control the tears rolling down her cheeks as she is now at home for more than 5 months barely doing something tangible. With students now at home, and private institutions struggling to cope with digital teaching, it is disheartening that academic activities in most government-owned schools have been on total standstill. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that a visible technological transition needs to be seen in education. There is no more room for education to be reliant on physical interactions, pencils and pens for assessment, or even staying in an enclosed wall or brick-structure for learning! We need to engineer the minds of the leaders and every citizen of Nigeria towards ensuring that anything which entails education can be found within the elements that make up technology.
As the effect of the pandemic continued to aggravate with no end in view, I could only be happy that my steps have been divinely orchestrated. After arriving at New Light College in 2018, I could see a unique dimension of teaching that was absent in my former school – Greater Height College, where I was out of sight, erroneously thinking I was making progress during my Junior Secondary School days. On getting to New Light College, the school management gave me a personal computer to foster my learning beyond the four walls of the classroom. No wonder students from the school usually dominate top positions in major national and international examinations and competitions. The government of Nigeria needs to imitate this approach, and provide personal computers for students with a syllabus app installed on the computers. This is the first step in the journey to digital liberation in the education sector.
Also, since my arrival at New Light College, there is not a single day that we do not use our personal computers. We would either use it to take mathematics assessment, engage in writing essays, check out physics formulas, or input the results of experimental procedures into Microsoft Excel to run the analysis, amongst many other purposes. Every teacher contributes their quota to make us have detailed and comprehensive learning experiences. If this can be implemented in all schools in Nigeria, then whenever the need for unforeseen lockdown arises, students would have already been familiar with the digitalized style of learning.
Furthermore, when the pandemic rendered the government with no other option than to close all institutions of learning, my school was unaffected as classes were ongoing via the use of video conferencing. We were able to interact with our teachers and other students with ease. However, I was shocked to see my sister studying Medicine and Surgery at the University of Ibadan, doing nothing at home. Lectures in the first university in Nigeria came to an abrupt end with no alternative in view. This implies that students are not been exposed to the electronic ways of learning. Sadly, this is the situation of things in most schools in the nation. This is so sardonic and an indication that the government needs to address education with utmost urgency and passion. If students like my sister in a federal institution of learning last had a lecture in March, then the leaders must not fold their arms, and watch the education sector crumple.
Similarly, my school since inception has an app christened “New Light College digital app”. On this app, prerecorded videos are being made available for students to watch to augment classroom teachings. The topics in the videos are strictly structured according to the curriculum. Likewise, students are made to be conversant with the nature of questions set by national and international examination bodies through the app. As a result, when the pandemic called for the closure of schools, this app helped us in my school to be confident of a consistent learning mode. Before and after the pandemic hit every nook and cranny of the nation, our teachers have been persistently uploading prerecorded videos to supplement our learning. In this view, I would advise the governments across all levels to bring up centralised learning apps for students across all phases. The apps should contain prerecorded videos, systematically dissecting topics in compliance with the Nigeria Education Curriculum. With this in place, students can learn from their comfort zones that are not location dependent.
Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” The time to start inscribing the priceless value of education in our hearts is now. Education is the pillar of democracy. Consequently, our leaders must allocate an appreciable percentage of the national budget to cater for the loopholes in the education sector. Well-structured plans without adequate funds to activate them will never come to limelight. At this point, the vital steps to take for the future of education in the country to be promising have been highlighted in this thought-provoking essay.
In conclusion, considering the words of Steve Jobs which says “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do,” the government must do her best possible to ensure that the eruption of another pandemic does not lead to a cessation in teaching and learning in the country. During any future pandemic, a digitalized way of learning must be used to pass across knowledge with no worry or limitation. It will be great news after this contest if the Federal Government quintessentially considers this pleasant experience of mine to prepare the economy to combat any future crisis, and make progress despite any unforeseen lockdown, just like I quintessentially explained about my imaginary school in this write-up.
Folarin Oluwatimilehin wrote in from Abeokuta via email@example.com