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Parents, guardians scramble as schools resume online

Louise (not real name) got to work as early as 8:00 am Monday morning growling.

She dipped her delicately manicured fingernails into her handbag, brought out her phone and called home to ensure her children, supervised by her house help has logged in for the online classes. Louise’s children are resuming a week later than initially planned but the school has started online classes.

Louise has three children- 8, 6, and 4-year-olds, the oldest is in grade five, the other grade three and the last grade two with different attention spans but all required to follow classes online and sometimes at the same time.

The pandemic has leapfrogged the integration of information technology in education, encouraging innovations in Educational Technology (EduTech) to propagate digital learning. However, implementation has been a challenge. The switch to digital learning has happened so quickly, while most educators and students have had limited training and exposure to this new mode of learning.

To keep the curriculum running and enhance learning, schools are resorting to various online learning platforms such as the Google Classroom, Zoom, Edmodo and similar variants.

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In Nigeria, unlike 2020 when parents, guardians and the students were at home due to the lockdown, the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic presents a situation where parents go to work. This leaves supervision of the learning process in the hands of either one of the parents, the house help or a teacher employed for the purpose. Some parents and guardians also do not understand how to go about logging onto the learning platform, the most popular being Google Classroom.

“I sincerely don’t have any problems with online learning because my data package is unlimited and every device in house from the television, to the refrigerator and other mobile devices, even those of my children are connected to the internet,” Ngozi Onoh-Okwuagwu, a bank worker and parent said. “My biggest challenge though the time to supervise my younger children.”

For families that earn below $1 per day who have faced the harsh economic realities due to the four months of lockdown across Nigeria, the purchase of digital devices might be a trade-off that they cannot afford. Some have suggested a solution to this problem that entails the provision of portable solar radios by the government to help bridge the digital divide for public schools at least.

In an earlier interview with BusinessDay, Otto Orandam, founder, Slum2school, a non-governmental organisation said over 30 percent of learners from low-income families will not resume when the schools reopen because their economic lot may have worsened as a result of the Covid-19 lockdowns. In the context of online learning, they may also not be able to afford the mobile devices required.

Some parents who spoke with BusinessDay said the cost of purchasing data and the frequency of these purchases are putting pressure their wallets. Oscar Chukwu, a businessman and parent wants normal brick and mortar classrooms to reopen. “The children cannot concentrate to follow online lessons. My daughter is in the early primary and my son in nursery school,” he said.

Nevertheless, for parents and guardians with internet access, some struggle to understand and navigate Google Classroom productively.

Google Classroom is a free web service developed by Google for schools that aims to simplify creating, distributing, and grading assignments. The primary purpose of Google Classroom is to streamline the process of sharing files between teachers and students.

Google Classroom integrates Docs, Sheets, Slides, Gmail, and Calendar into a cohesive platform to manage student and teacher communication. Students can be invited to join a class through a private code, or automatically imported from a school domain. Teachers can create, distribute and mark assignments all within the Google ecosystem.

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