COVID-19: Examining the good, bad and ugly of Nigeria’s e-learning initiative

 COVID-19: Examining the good, bad and ugly of Nigeria’s e-learning initiative

By Victor Akuma

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria led to the closure of schools nationwide, forcing students to abruptly leave school activities for their various homes which are not equipped to play similar role with that of schools.

This situation has infested the Nigerian educational system, causing a clog in the already mapped out activities of schools across the country. It has also posed a challenge to the educational sector to devise a coordinated response through adequate planning and preparedness, ensuring strengthened resilience in the system at community level.

In the event of this, the Federal Ministry of Education (FME) and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) in collaboration with national and state governments have employed an e-learning process to serve students at home, irrespective of the levels, whether Primary, Secondary or Tertiary institutions by deciding to upload contents for continuous learning that allow these students, teachers, and schools to utilize flexible and remote/home-based learning, which may include homework assignments, reading material, Radio, TV, and internet-based learning.

The webpage according to FME, will constantly be updated as long as the wave of coronavirus crisis exists and even beyond, as an improved strategic means of learning for Nigeria students.

The three scenarios for creating the system by the Federal Government according to are:

Scenario 1: Where schools are closed for one month – For this scenario, the one month will be regarded as the normal duration of holidays requiring, however, that children are kept busy with homework and other support learning materials. Awareness about the virus and safe hygiene and sanitation practices are encouraged.

Scenario 2: Schools are closed for one to three months. In this case, more sustainable strategies will be launched to support ongoing learning through online, audiovisual methods;

Scenario 3: Where schools are closed for an extended period of more than three months: At this point Initiate a structured approach to encourage digitization of curricula, development of radio, TV or self-learning instructional materials based on the national curriculum; FME, UBEC, and others through communities and parents will be re-oriented to available resources to support more long-term solutions; Engage with government and National Exams Councils to decide on adjustments and communication on exams schedules; Support clear communication with teachers, parents on continuity of learning and on exam schedules.

In order to ensure ease of access to the e-learning platforms by students, the Ministry of Education through Mr Emeka Nwajiuba, Minister of State for Education on Friday April 24, said the Federal Government has granted Nigerian students free subscription to the e-learning through some selected sites in partnership with some major networks in the country.

According to a statement by the Minister, some selected websites could now be accessed by students for free lectures. Nwajiuba said students using Airtel can browse the site for free while MTN and Glo networks are still adjusting their technical systems for their subscribers to access the free site. He also added that both Radio and Television stations could be accessed for the lectures.

However, several Nigerian students who spoke with have reacted to the e-learning initiative introduced by the Ministry of Education.

Esther Egwumba, a 400 level student of Pure and Industrial Chemistry, UNIUYO disapproves of the move by the Ministry of Education as she says not all have what it takes to follow virtual classes, whether on TV, radio or the internet.

“From my perspective, I disagree with this policy (e-learning). Let’s consider the less privileged, so many of them amidst this pandemic have no money to eat let alone getting the technology (radio, TV, laptop) for the online learning and because of this, they are left out,” she said.

Esther further argues that there are little or no interactions with students in this process.

“There’s no interaction between the teacher and the students, students may find it difficult to keep up. Also, those with accessibility issues may find it more challenging as they may not be good with following ‘written’ instructions that are found in the online learning environment,” she added.

Amarachi Iregbu, a 400 level student of Mass Communication, UNN agrees with Esther Egwumba as she said not all Nigerian students have access to smartphones coupled with intermittent power supply.

“For me, I think it’s a big joke. the universities in the country can’t even take on the new development. UNN couldn’t even succeed with their moodle platform.”

“Secondly, e- learning requires steady power supply for the students which the country doesn’t even have or are we going to talk about students who are in the villages where there is no network signal. How would they cope? Let’s not also forget students who doesn’t even have smartphones or systems to access the internet. What will be their fate?” she concluded.

In the same vein, Amarachi Okorie, a 300 level student of Pure and Industrial Chemistry, UNN opposed the initiative, noting that interactivity is key in classroom teaching, whether for primary, secondary or tertiary institutions.

“I don’t think it will work because Nigeria is not a digital country. The Nigeria society and her facilities in place cannot serve e-learning especially for primary schools, moreover, the educational system especially psychology knows that interaction between teachers and students have a lot to do in the fast learning of the said students.

“The possibility is rare okay, come to think of note taking, how will students get notes?” she said

However, Ernest Lawrence, a corps member holds a contrary view.

According to Ernest, the move by FME is a welcome development if Nigeria’s educational system must strive. He further said Nigeria is not the first country to start e-learning as most advanced nations have adopted the system even long before the coronavirus outbreak.

Ernest, however, expresses a little worry as he said that the country lacks preparedness in whatever she sets out to achieve. He believes that things like stable power and smartphones for all students are part of the luxuries that will make the system not work effectively in the country.

Do well to share your own opinion with us in the said development in the comment box.

Related post