The ravaging COVID-19 pandemic did not exclude the educational system from its running list of activities and institutions which has been adversely affected. Perhaps, the effect of COVID-19 on the education system was through the temporary closure of institutions around the world, in a bid to contain the spread of the virus through non-pharmaceutical interventions and preventions such as social-distancing and self-isolation.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), these nation-wide closures of institutions has interrupted the learning of about 1.2 billion learners (equivalent to 68.5% of total enrolled learners) globally. Moreover, teachers and parents are also affected, the same as internal and public assessments have been interrupted and canceled.
In order to reduce the adverse effects of the closures on the education system, UNESCO has thus recommended the usage of remote learning — E-learning/online learning programmes, and open educational applications and platforms — by institutions and teachers, in order to reach learners remotely, and limit the disruption of education. Unfortunately, while this process of virtual learning provides both an opportunity for students to learn while at home, and also avoid the community spread of the virus, however, it has also laid bare the wide digital gap across continents, countries, regions, and areas.
Current Realities of Remote Learning (E-learning) in Nigeria
For Nigeria, a country with over 200 million people, the call for the adoption of remote learning during the nation-wide closure of schools and other educational institutions is bound to be unsuccessful for obvious reasons.
This is not unconnected to the fact that Nigeria’s E-learning infrastructure across the board is everything but efficient, reliable, and stable. There is also an obviously wide margin or inequality in both the access and usage of internet facilities; spread across the urban and rural areas; rich and poor; and even between the educated and uneducated.
Across educational institutions in Nigeria, this issue is also vocal. Due to meagre funding of publicly-owned educational institution, their private counterparts are better positioned for the transition to the adoption of remote learning (E-learning) during the closures.
In fact, save for the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) — the first and only open/distance learning institution in Nigeria — which is still operational, albeit partly, during the closures, quite a lot of privately-owned educational institutions in urban areas, right from primary to tertiary institutions, are already using or adjusting to the use of E-learning platforms in teaching and assessment of students while at home, while their public counterparts, who are mostly bereft of functional websites, are totally closed.
Notwithstanding the flaws of E-learning platforms, it’s functionalities of videotelephony (for video calls) and forum chats (for questions and answers, and tracking of performance) for real-time communication and interaction between students and their teachers, and even students to students, have the potentials of both sustaining learning and teaching, same as the gauge of the individual performance of students.
Though most state governments have either designed or executed an alternative to learning for students, including the airing of educational programming on radios and television, in a bid to keep the students engaged while at home. However, it is not clear if this platforms would be effective in enhancing learning, in contrast to E-learning, since there is neither personal performance assessment of students, nor is there any interaction between students and their teachers.
Therefore, while the attention of governments and Policymakers are currently in the health sector, and the economy, on the other hand, the educational sector must also not be given significant attention. Nigeria’s educational system/institutions —especially publicly funded institutions— must be given Significant attention so that the little gain amassed over the years would not be eroded within a very short period of time.
During the nation-wide closure of schools, though it would take a considerable amount of time to strengthen and reposition the E-learning infrastructures in the country within the short-run, however, the social media can be of immense help for the time being, while increasing the public allocation/spending to publicly funded educational institutions.
In addition, regardless of the lifting/suspension of the nation-wide lockdown/closures, educational institutions across the board — from primary to post-secondary (universities, polytechnics, colleges of education, specialized educational institutions, etc.) — in the country should be encouraged to adopt the usage of E-learning platforms, regardless.
Please let’s know your thought about our suggestions on the adoption of E-learning platforms in Nigeria — inherent problems, potentials, and solutions.