Nigeria education sector indeed the rest of the world have seen firsthand the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on learning especially at the primary level, as basic competencies are the building blocks for all education and are strong predictors of life opportunities.
Analysts opine that if learning losses are inevitable, they can be reduced if the right decisions are made through well-designed system-wide interventions that include teachers, as well as families and caregivers.
They argue that the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on learning are particularly worrisome at the primary level because these skills are the easiest to lose when schooling is interrupted, as studies on reading ability losses during vacations show, and the hardest to regain once schooling restarts. Yet, they present a fertile area for improvement as the techniques to acquire foundational skills are better known than those used to augment skills at the secondary education level or in more specialised subjects.
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According to analysts, learning losses measured soon after the disruption, as a study from South Africa shows, are greater than what actual days of schooling lost suggest. It is unclear whether these losses worsen, stay the same or shrink over time.
However, it is likely that the impacts worsen over time if learning losses are not addressed, as learning is cumulative and children who are left behind will lag even further.
Thus, a prudent and reasonable assumption is that such losses will worsen without adequate interventions, such as remedial classes and additional time allotted to complete classes.
Projected figures illustrate the learning gaps and simulate a worst-case scenario for education systems that do not adopt catch-up strategies relative to those that do.
They project that learners will sustain education losses during the pandemic due to school days lost. However, education systems that implement remedial strategies will help at least some learners catch-up to the pre-COVID trajectory. Those that do not will have to wait until the cohort of students affected by the pandemic has moved on to the secondary education level.
This scenario assumes that there will be no new pandemic or health crisis that generates further education interruptions. Epidemiologists, however, have long predicted a COVID-like pandemic and warn that there may be more pandemics on the horizon.
Thus, mounting an adequate education response now with the current pandemic will serve at least three purposes. It will help deal with the current impact, improve systems overall, and help prepare us for the next crisis.