NIGERIAN pupils in public schools were out of school for many months last year, so were their counterparts in many countries. The cause was the coronavirus pandemic which has continued to ravage the global community.
RECENTLY, the Nigerian government succumbed to the pressure mounted by some parents, guardians, proprietors of schools, public as well as pupils and the schools reopened despite reported resurgence of the dreaded pandemic in the country.
CAUGHT between such tough extremes as the idea of further keeping the pupils at home and stifling human development which is backbone of any national growth and damming the consequences of COVID-19 spread after 11 months of hard and tortuous precaution, government has much to chew.
EVEN if the federal government had reasons left to keep back school children at home, pressure not only from within but outside kept mounting. One of them is United Nations International Children Education Fund (UNICEF)’s call for pupils to be taken back to school despite the growing surge of COVID-19 around the wolrd.
HESITANTLY, the federal government announced January 18, as resumption date for the second term of the 2020/2021 academic session.
UNDERSTANDABLY, continued closure of schools and stay of pupils at home cannot in any way mean well for national development.
UNICEF as children’s advocate and other proponents of schools resumption view the situation from this prism.
HOWEVER, health experts hold a different view and have remained stoic on their stand against occasions that bring people close enough to each other at this level of the pandemic. This is exactly what makes consideration for reopening of schools now that coronavirus pandemic is resurging weigh less in the scale to dire health concerns.
ARGUABLY, scientists have arisen to the challenge by developing vaccine for the virus but distributions are yet to hit optimum level to make the drugs easy reach by all.
BEFORE, children were said to be almost immune to contracting the virus but with the current epoch of the disease, there is a growing number of COVID-19 infections amongst children across the globe, the new variant of the virus has nullified the initial assumptions and all efforts should be made to protect them from either being infected or becoming vectors of the disease.
THESE prop up the question, “now that children are getting infected, would vaccines be distributed in schools?” Tough as it may sound, with the recent rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country as reported by Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), is another lockdown worth being given a push? If we do not want another lockdown, why should we throw out our children to schools where there are possible chances of spreading the virus?
WHILE the clamour for schools reopening rise, the inadequacies of online learning evolved by the education authorities so far to mitigate the effects of drawback arising from keeping pupils out of classes come to the fore.
NO MATTER how deficient or inadequate online learning has proven to be so far in Nigeria and some others developing nations, the truth is that we must solve the problem. The situation signposts the inevitability of ICT. We are in an ICT driven age history. The world is simply going towards that direction and Nigeria even the most rural cannot be an exception.
THEREFORE, online learning should be encouraged and easily made accessible platforms created by schools to engage their pupils online. Parents and guardians should complement the efforts of schools by providing logistics supporting online learning for their wards.
BY THE time this culture is well adopted, the bottlenecks experienced with the learning system currently, would drastically be reduced. This will equally save schools from facility overstretch.
UNICEF challenged the efficiency of online learning based on its inaccessibility to the rural people. This challenges the authorities to step up education facilities development and ensure they are in compliance with modern requirements.
NATIONAL LIGHT believes that a changing time like this demands change in approach and putting pupils and societies in harm’s way may be counterproductive in the long run.
THEREFORE, if simple facilities required for stemming the spread of coronavirus such as running water, sanitisers, face masks and medical units are not readily available in schools, it makes no sense to blow up the small gains we have made over the past one year with one quick ill- timed decision.
HEALTH remains a priority and should constitute the nucleus of all development projections.