Coronavirus, better known as COVID-19 as we have all realized, knows no bound or limit. It does not differentiate between borders, ethnicities, disability, status, age or gender and according to medical experts, Covi-d19 could get to anybody at any time, but the aged, children and people with ill health are fragile to this attack due to their low immune system.
Therefore the protection of children and educational facilities is particularly important.
Today, children and young people are global citizens as well as powerful agents of change or continuity and the next generation of nurses, scientists, and doctors. Crisis such as this could either ruin them or help them learn, cultivate compassion and increase resilience while building a safer and more caring community.
Which means adequate precautions and steps to curb the menace of this pandemic are necessary, to safeguard our students and the school system. However, care must also be taken to avoid stigmatizing students and staff who may have been exposed to the virus. It is important to remember that.
Education settings should continue to be welcoming, respectful, inclusive, and supportive environments to all. To this end, The Government not only in Nigeria but all over the world took measures by enforcing a lock down, closure of schools and suspension of all forms of school activities to prevent the entry and spread of COVID-19 by students and staff who may have been exposed to the virus.
Speaking to Lagos Post Online on the effect of the lock down measures on the school system, Mr Ojo the administrative officer of Krystabal Nursery and Primary school said.
“The hit on the educational sector by covid-19 was larger than any other sector. It is evident that we derive our funds from the payment of school fees and from this school fees we maintain and keep the school running. We also pay teachers salaries as well, that too has been put to a halt.
Teachers themselves and the school management are tired of complaining and there is absolutely nothing the school authority can do. No reopening of schools, no money, and if there is no money, salaries cannot be paid so we all live on a thin line”. He noted.
But on the flip side, can we estimate how much the COVID-19 pandemic has affected education in Nigeria? Are the estimated 46 million students forced to stay at home still learning? With the uncertainty surrounding the reopening of schools looming in the air, What are the steps taken by the government and school authorities taking to ensure that the students are still learning?
Mr Ojo, speaking on issues surrounding the schools conscious efforts on how to help their students sitting at home pointed out, saying.
“Although the school management has made a conscious effort to resume coaching activities online, just to keep the students updated and occupied, that is if parents will subscribe to it by paying little token”.
Following the global trends, top private schools in Nigeria like Krystabal schools have adopted a virtual learning model. After a lull, private schools suddenly woke and are urging parents to enroll their kids in online learning. But the question Is; what happens to the significant number of students in the Nigerian educational system in public schools?
But parents who didn’t benefit started raising an alarm. Lagos State Commissioner for education, Mrs. Folashade Adefisayo, in her bid to control the looming crisis, issued a statement.
She said, “There are between 18,000 and 24,000 private schools in Lagos. The schools that are able to do online learning are less than 150. There was a day I had a thousand messages on my WhatsApp. My phone nearly crashed. Parents from small and low-cost schools were bitterly complaining.
“It is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Talk to your parents. If you think in your school you are comfortable with it, negotiate with them. Let everybody negotiate and get to a win-win situation that suits them all.” she noted.
The negotiation has to do with how much a pupil should pay to benefit from online learning. Schools set various fees but the parents are kicking. Some could afford it, others can’t. Which means there is a need to hasten up the reopening of schools before the imbalance amongst children will set in. To this effect Mr Ojo said.
“We hope the government reopens schools again for the sake of these kids. Currently as we speak, the association of private schools are having a series of meetings with the government on how to reopen schools so we can return to academic activities again. Though we have up to 4 different wings of this association, all are working in sync and having meetings with the government for the reopening of school activities.” He noted.
The commissioner on the issues concerning reopening of schools said, for education in Lagos State revealed that the state government was meeting with the Federal Ministry of Education and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on guidelines that could be adopted when schools reopen.
“We are watching the behaviour of the pandemic to see what happens next. We are working with the Federal Government on the possibility of reopening schools in the country as soon as possible since this is not a decision any state can unilaterally take. If we are certain that the children are safe, we will re-open the schools.
“When the protocol is completed and health officials assure us that the coast is clear, we will give schools some days to adjust their premises in accordance with the guidelines on commencement of academic activities,” the commissioner said.
She noted that the protocol would be enforced by the Office of Education Quality Assurance in the state to ensure strict compliance by both public and private schools across the state.
Good news! But as much as I don’t want to sound like a prophet of doom or a negative commentator, I wouldn’t want to erase the fact that some schools are struggling financially and have gone bankrupt. How will they recuperate again from their collapsed state. So, school resumes, then what??? Most of the teachers must have left, how will they lure them back with higher pay from whatever it was they found doing when schools couldn’t pay salaries? Further dialogue with Mr Ojo, He confirmed this when he said.
“Now the teachers themselves, due to lack of salaries being paid, have moved on to other trades or businesses to engage in and that will help them pay bills or find their daily bread. So our biggest fear for now is that, even when we eventually resume, all our teachers may likely not return, which means we will be short staffed. How are we supposed to cope without our teachers?
Even the pupils themselves have been at home and have lost track of what they have been taught. A lot of them don’t remember academics any more. So if schools don’t reopen soon, more damage will be done.” He concluded.
The president of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Chief Yomi Otubela, called for provision of educational grants by the Federal Government to cushion the effect of COVID-19 and bail out private schools from imminent collapse.
The population of private schools in the country, according to the NAPPS, stands at 83,524 with 34,614,169 learners and over 1 million teaching and non-teaching staff. To remain in business, Otubela requested non-interest loans to schools.
On the other end, everyone seems to have forgotten the effect of this lock down dubbed on the private school teachers. No one knows how beyond difficult and the untold hardship that crept into the doors of these teachers ever since the lockdown was declared.
The pending expectations of salary at the end of every month crashed. How to get daily bread becomes difficult and complicated for the teachers. A family that depends on a widow who earns little from teaching in a private school is left with next to nothing than to beg from friends for food. No doubt, this period is affecting the teachers more
In the bid for solutions in the reopening of schools, following basic principles can help keep students, teachers, and staff safe at school and help stop the
spread of this disease. My candid recommendations for healthy schools are:
• Sick students, teachers and other staff should not come to school
• Schools should enforce regular hand washing with safe water and soap, use hand sanitizer or chlorine solution and, at a minimum, daily disinfection and cleaning of school surfaces
• Schools should provide water, sanitation and waste management facilities and follow environmental cleaning and decontamination procedures
• Schools should promote social distancing (a term applied to certain actions that are taken to slow down the spread of a highly contagious disease, including limiting large groups of people coming together)
Additional steps are as follows:
Establish procedures if students or staff become unwell.
Plan ahead with local health authorities, school health staff and update emergency contact lists.
Ensure a procedure for separating sick students and staff from those who are well without creating stigma and a process for informing parents and consulting with health care providers or health authorities wherever possible.
Students or staff may need to be referred directly to a health facility, depending on the situation or sent home.
Share procedures with staff, parents and students ahead of time.
Staggering school activities from the beginning and end of the school day.
Cancelling assemblies, sports games and other events that create crowded conditions.
When possible, create space for children’s desks to be at least one metre apart
Teach and model creating space and avoiding unnecessary touching.
This of course is my humble suggestion. But let’s not forget, Children are our future, the government, communities, parents and individuals must do all we can to protect them from this deadly Virus.