Growth is one of the essential qualities of human attributes. It is a necessary sign of progress. Growth comes in different ways. Whilst one can grow physically, one could also grow experientially. Physical growth tends to occur naturally, especially as one advances in age. But growth by experience seems to take a lot more effort: It takes adjusting to a new set of ideas and ideals, while not totally disposing old ones; it takes having a balanced perspective of everything so as to make a valid judgement; and above all it takes living with the present situation and condition of things in order to avert impending danger therefrom.
The Nigerian education sector needs to start ‘growing up.’ The sector needs to start embracing the social realities the pandemic has created. There’s a lesson to learn from every crisis. Crises usually come at unexpected times. And when they come, it’s our duty to unravel the possible lessons therewith. A learning country is a growing country. A growing country is a progressive country. And we need to start learning and start growing to be progressive in our experience.
Actually, primary and secondary schools across the country should have resumed on January 4. But due to the pandemic’s surge in infection rates, it had to be postponed to January 18. Parents have typically frowned upon school resuming some way or other, partly because of the potential risk of their children contracting the virus because the country is not only grappling with a second-wave outbreak, but also because the government has not gotten grip of the virus. These parents prefer their pupils or students stay at home with their home tutors pending when the pandemic would largely be contained. Other parents are not happy with their wards staying at home not because they want them to really learn but because they are potential liabilities to them. So, it’s better their children go to school than eating four to five meals a day which are burned out in their harum-scarum roaming about helter-skelter, hither and thither. And those parents whose offspring seem to be between the ages of 14 and 20 are really afraid that these able-bodied boys and girls could become threats to them and their society. They believe keeping them back at home potentially would breed miscreants and hoodlums and fraudsters out of them.
At the bleak of last year’s resumption, it used to be “one day on, one day off.” Most pupils in crèche and nursery levels were largely detained from coming to school. Secondary schoolboys and schoolgirls who seem to be of age and are responsible to adhere with COVID-19 protocols like mask-wearing and hand washing were going to school every other day. That was sort of a sign of relief for the long stay-at-home gregarious youngsters and wunderkinds.
What now obtains is that they are to come once in week. Those who are told to come twice in a week – for example, on Monday and Wednesday, or Tuesday and Thursday, and so on – are pretty luckier. Some are even told to come to school only on the shortest day of the week – Friday! So what are we doing? What are we teaching? What are we learning? These are questions parents and guardians are asking educationists and government officials.
To answer them, I think they should cast their minds back to when the lockdown was severe and these same pupils and students yet had to learn every which way. Doing this would bring to their limelight how they were learning on radios and TV sets and other social services. Our imaginative prowess was actually boundlessly unleashed that, even though we didn’t go online fully, we did launch deeply into the telecommunication network services. Hardly did we think of school resuming or sending our wards to assembly grounds because they’re already becoming user-friendly and addicted to the new mode of learning.
I actually believe, in my own opinion, that it’s only until we absolutely embrace what’s practicable we are still going to backslide and backpedal to the traditional methodology of knowledge impartation and acquisition. We ought to have learnt that physical gathering is not comprehensively workable for now. Strictly speaking, we need to go online. That’s a sign that the sector is growing and not stunted by the “you have to come to class” modus operandi.
Recent studies have shown that 20 million girls of secondary school age are not likely to return to school again because of the pandemic. That should be compelling enough reason why school and social agencies saddled with the responsibility of ensuring our vulnerable teenage girls are not on the verge of sexual harassment, human trafficking, rape, “trade-by-barter commodities” of early marriages and all sorts of vicious and heinous acts that would make them lose their essence of existence should immediately intervene in the educational space. The U.S. is presently supporting two new projects in Rwanda and Ghana through its Girls Opportunity Alliance Fund; Women’s Global Education Project is doing everything it can to keep the girl child in school by supporting and supplying foods and other essentials crucial for learning to countries such as Kenya; and the Harpswell Foundation is equally significantly providing tech support needed to keep the girl child continuously learning online in Cambodia.
But I think we should begin to see the importance of both genders in Nigeria. We should begin to see that the one cannot simply do without the other. We should begin to see how inherently, intrinsically, inevitably, invariably and inseparably they determine the success and sustenance of nation-building and national development. Having that in mind would better inform our educational policies and partnerships, and initiate our global participations in continuous learning.
By Segun Ige
08141688084; [email protected]
A graduate of English, University of Lagos