Learning in Nigeria: Recovery strategies post pandemic era
Tope Imasekha is Chief Executive Officer of Edugrant; an online platform providing a range of sponsorship opportunities for students in tertiary institutions who are incapable of funding their education. Edugrant is committed to addressing 4 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, with the provision of access to quality education being our core goal. Beyond providing access to quality education, we also seek through our various programs to eradicate poverty, strive for gender equality while reducing inequality and also creating opportunities that lead to the provision of decent work and economic growth.
Over the past few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has developed into what could be described as the greatest test the global community has faced in decades. Nevertheless, recent news suggests a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Several countries hit hardest have now overcome the peak of the virus, with others showing signs of success in flattening the curve. With these positive developments in mind, communities are naturally looking forward to the reopening and returning to normalcy.
The Nigerian education sector – which experienced different forms of disruption as a result of the pandemic – has been offered some respite, as the Lagos state government recently announced the gradual opening of the sector. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu stated on the 29th of August 2020 that tertiary institutions will resume on the 14th of September, while primary and secondary schools are set to resume on the 21st of September.
Precise timing toward the new normal is uncertain, but it is possible and important to plan how this transition and recovery will take place. Recouping will take time and should be considered in a holistic manner given the scope of processes, people, and places affected by COVID-19.
It is incumbent on all stakeholders to do our part in ensuring the recovery pace is quickened. We at Edugrant believe that intervention plans for post-covid recovery should be a collective effort of the government, NGOs and well meaning individuals who have a passion to see the growth of education in Nigeria. This is one of the reasons why we have set up different learning programs in partnership with learning centres and other NGOs within our sector. With additional collaborations and partnerships from organizations and Nigerians at home and in the diaspora, we will be able to work with more centres and many more students will be impacted.
While education intervention plans during the pandemic were not sufficiently collaborative, post-pandemic recovery must be coordinated and strategic. Below are some learning recovery strategies that worth considering.
Physical recovery plans – making school environment safe
To plan for the near to medium term, it is important to understand how long the effects of the coronavirus will continue to pose a threat. Until a vaccine is developed, we need to put social distancing strategies in place. Government and schools should ensure that there are set detailed protocols on hygiene measures, including handwashing, respiratory etiquette, use of protective equipment, cleaning procedures for facilities and safe food preparation practices in schools. Administrative staff and teachers should be trained on implementing physical distancing and school hygiene practices. Cleaning staff should also be trained on disinfection and be equipped with personal protection equipment to the extent possible. There is a need for clear and concise protocols on physical distancing measures, including prohibiting activities that require large gatherings, regulating the start and close of the school day, regulating feeding times, moving classes to temporary spaces or outdoors, and having school in shifts to reduce class size.
Academic recovery – Recovering learning loss
When students return to school, there needs to be a recovery curriculum in place. We also need to look at alternative ways to increase learning pace, and the need to adjust the academic calendar to make up for lost time.
Additionally, the government needs to allocate resources where need is greatest. The closure of schools has had an outsized negative impact on students from low income households. Opportunities for distance learning have been scarce for this demographic and the time out of school has presented economic challenges to their parents who may face challenges finding prolonged childcare, or even adequate food in the absence of school meals. Special focus should be placed on schools in low-income and rural areas across Nigeria.
Other strategies to be considered include
Waiving less important examinations, such as those used for promotion decisions, in order to focus resources on ensuring that critically important examinations (such as those used for secondary school graduation or university entrance) and giving universal promotion wherever possible.
Continuing with distance learning in parallel to normal school learning.
Psychological and Emotional recovery
Psychological and emotional recovery should focus on identifying students who need crisis counseling or are otherwise exhibiting signs that they are struggling with the adjustments after a major trauma. Student’s mental health check should be monitored after a pandemic and this should be addressed as part of recovery process
Effective communication from the government
Communication is integral to recovery. There needs to be adequate communication between government and schools. This is to ensure that schools are well informed of opportunities available for them. For example to determine what school emergency relief funding is available for them, and what is available at the state and federal level. This kind of information must be shared with schools.
Government also need to Provide clear national guidance on parameters for decision making on school openings and communicate with school and public.
In preparing for unforeseen similar future occurrences, there is a need to develop alternative academic calendars based on different public health scenarios and taking into consideration modalities to be used for remote learning. It is important to increase investments in remote learning options to supplement the regular learning methods. During the peak of the pandemic Edugrant (edugrantng.org.) created a range of remote learning interventions programs for students to utilize, and we aim to make this a continued process, even after the pandemic phases out.
Finally, it is recommended that government should be flexible enough to retain the use of new ways of learning that have been discovered alongside the conventional ways of doing things in the post-pandemic era.