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Parents, students’ online tuition experiences point to growing learning losses 

.... COVID-19 could result in loss of 0.6 years of schooling – World Bank 

Three months after the Federal Government of Nigeria shut down schools and some schools took to online tuition some parents and students are saying the experience has been fraught with hitches leading to learning losses.

On 19 March 2020, the Federal Ministry of Education approved school closures as a response to the pandemic. States in the federation contextualised this. Lagos, Ogun and Edo States Ministry of Education released a schedule of radio and TV lessons for students in public schools.

For families that earn below $1 per day and faced harsh economic realities due to the four-week lockdown in the Lagos State, for example, the purchase of radios or TV might be a trade-off that they cannot afford. A suggestion to this problem was the provision of portable solar radios to help bridge the digital divide.

Otto Orandam, founder, Slum2school, a non-governmental organisation said over 30 percent of learners from low-income families will not resume when the schools resume after COVID-19 lockdown is lifted. “Young girls are getting pregnant as a result.”

Middle-class families who can afford the devices needed for online classes have a different set of challenges. At the University of Lagos, the school has developed technical capacity for online classes but the lecturers were not ready as they were on strike before the lockdown.

“We decided to start with foundation students some weeks ago but had to suspend it because students did not log in for classes,” said Ola Gbeleyi, an administrator in the Department of Zoology, Faculty of Sciences, University of Lagos.

Gbeleyi illustrated his point with the attendance of foundation students of biology at the University. There are about 1000 biology students but only 40 were attending classes online. “And when they were given assignments online, only 40 submitted out of the total number.”

However, Felicia Bakare, a foundation student at the Faculty of Science, University of Lagos said that the website crashed many times when they were given quizzes because many people logged in at the same time and the website could not process them.

“Nothing is really good on the foundation online portal. They just send slides, but it seems like they have stopped them,” she said.

Some parents who spoke to 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.

A student of the Redeemers University, whose name has been withheld said, “for me, it is stressful and not self-explanatory enough. We have our classes on WhatsApp, learn app and Zoom. They send us only 1 gigabyte for one month and it is not enough for all the voice notes of 58 minutes and large files.”

The pandemic has unmasked substantial inequities in the education sector. Private and non-governmental sectors are tirelessly working to salvage this situation. Projects such as Digiterate and Teach for Nigeria hope to ensure proper tools for education are available to all in Lagos.

A recent World Bank Education study shows troubling figures. João Pedro Azevedo, Amer Hasan, Diana Goldemberg et al in ‘Simulating the Potential Impacts of Covid-19 School Closures on Schooling and Learning Outcomes: A Set Of Global Estimates’ the World Bank Group Education have said that where schools are closed for five months, mitigation effectiveness is moderate and returns to schooling are 8 percent per year in all countries.

This suggests that COVID-19 could result in a loss of 0.6 years of schooling adjusted for quality, bringing down the effective years of basic schooling that children achieve during their schooling life from 7.9 years to 7.3 years.

With Nigeria already behind in preparing its young people for the workplace of the future, the effects of the pandemic further exacerbate this issue.

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