THE buzz words since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic have been the two words: ‘new normal’, depicting clearly extraordinary times the world has found itself. Things don’t seem normal again as human beings grapple to adjust themselves accordingly.
Nigerians, especially the education sector are also trying to adjust to the times. The new normal has pervaded virtually all facets of life; ranging from economic through technological, educational, political, social, sporting to spiritual areas. There is no doubt that the new normal has asserted its full impact on the education sector of the country and all over the world.
Of all sustainable missions, surely, the most pressing is to improve lives, and there is no better way to do so than ensuring proper and sound education for all. The pandemic has unmasked substantial inequities in the education sector, which has resulted to the fact that many children are currently not able to keep up with their peers, and who will definitely continue to feel the effect of this gap long after the pandemic is over.
This may result in a severely diminishing pool of young adults who have not garnered the necessary skills to stay ahead in the future. With Nigeria already behind in preparing its young people for the workplace of the future, the effects of the pandemic further exacerbate this issue. However, the government and other education stakeholders are tirelessly working to salvage this situation, even though the pace at which the result is unfolding is not yet encouraging.
Nevertheless, there are measures that should be explored by the government and all education stakeholders to help bridge the divide during and after the urgent need of the pandemic might have subsided.
In her own opinion, Mrs Magdalene Okwuego, a teacher in one of the private secondary schools in Awka metropolis, said: “We used to think of teachers as masters of their domain and rulers of their classrooms. They took the standards and the curriculum frameworks that their schools or the education commission gave them and provided students with instructions and assessments to help their students master the contents.
But then, accountability has come knocking on the doorsteps of schools and classrooms everywhere. Teachers are no longer expected to be the masters of their own domains, but rather an integral part in an educational system designed to provide students with a more rigorous, integrated and personalised learning experience with support structures and interventions designed to help them succeed on their learning journey.
“This recent school disruption has compelled all education stakeholders to accept the fact that what matters is not the completion of the written curriculum coverage but the recognition of students’ diverse needs and the discovery of possibilities to meet those needs through resources other than the teachers themselves.
The teachers’ primary task is now to guide students to seek those possibilities. This new normal will hopefully drive education authorities to design a sustainable framework for a needs-based curriculum and provide a repertoire of learning modules. Multiple types of literacy and modalities that are required to survive and contribute to the 21st century should be included in this curriculum, having a renewed understanding of the why, who and what of education; the how now becomes a matter of technicality.
“But then, we shall not fail to understand that one caveat in this new normal is that teachers may begin to use technology to perpetuate existing teacher-centered pedagogy rather than using technology to shift themselves and their teaching to student-centered pedagogy. Therefore, professional development is a continuing need for teachers not only to learn the skills but also to integrate the newly acquired skills into the system.”
Again, Mr Kelvin Nduka, a father of three school aged children who resides within Awka metropolis, is of the opinion that for the future of this country to be secured, there is an urgent need for government to channel most of its concrete investments into education, ensuring a total revamp of the educational sector.
“Due to the global health crisis, academic processes have changed, disrupting the old normal and throwing in a new normal. There is indeed a need to reshuffle the national academic curriculum to match the post-pandemic needs of education, making our education more inclusive this time.
Priorities should include the introduction of courses such as Coding and Robotics, which has the ability to usher students into the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and prepare them for jobs of the future. Therefore, aids provided in this direction can be viewed as an investment in human capital; because, the more educated a country is, the more productive they become”.
“I learnt that the government had been doing much about training the teachers on ICT, mandating the teachers to buy either a laptop or a smartphone or both of them as the case may be. All these things are efforts in the right direction, but without proper monitoring and enforcement, this might be an effort in futility. The government must have a way of making sure that even teachers in all the schools in the rural areas are carried along, making sure that every one of them is ICT compliant, so that at least, in no distant time, the digital divide in our education sector will be minimised if not completely solved”.