Nigerian education and the compromised battle of COVID-19 pandemic, by Musa Gambo

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FG releases guidelines to reopen schools, to unveil new WAEC date

The Honourable Minister of Education was reported in a video last week during the Federal Executive Council meeting saying there would be no opening of schools anytime soon and he personally doesn’t mind losing the academic year for the safety of students.

While admitting that Corona is a deadly disease that must be prevented through all means necessary and acknowledging that young age was never an immunity for mortality.

We must also accept in accordance with the reality that social distancing has always been a beautiful theory from inception. We have seen hundreds of people being invited for the launching of COVID-19 Isolation Centres in many states like Imo.

We have witnessed a number of occasions where many people mix for photo sessions after observing social distancing during programs. The prediction that by next year Coronavirus pandemic would likely allow us to go back to schools is clearly a delusional fallacy.

We currently have an ongoing political campaign and possible elections in September in Edo and November in Ondo states which would be gathering people more than many institutions and schools, we have opened all market and worship places, interstate travel and domestic flights have resumed operations and nothing like social distancing is considered in most of the aforementioned palaces.

Why is it that only our educational institutions would comprise the battle of COVID-19 by violating social distancing. The bitter truth is that the battle against COVID-19 pandemic has already been compromised by many elements and has continuously lost the confidence of Nigerians.

The embarrassing battleline between Kogi State and NCDC, the recurring public apology by NCDC of errors on miscalculations of figures and constant disparities in the number of cases between NCDC national tally and other states governments, coupled with lack of concrete information on the whereabouts and distribution of contributed funds, along with the inability to clearly clarify how the national COVID-19 palliatives beneficiaries were selected and the database used for selections, the issue of school feeding program that continued through the lockdown period and other allied issues have undermined the confidence of citizens and questions the integrity of the whole battle while compromising the effort of agencies.

It’s clear we are not kept at home because we can’t observe the beautiful theory of social distancing, rather due to the unavailability of required resources and the necessary equipment to protect students from the virus, and that would make the dangerous discovery of the decadence and sorry, the states of facilities and limited lecture and examination halls in our institutions possible, which would have been provided before now.

We might lose only one academic year for now but certainly would take us more than a year to recover what we lose. We usually lose close to one year at the space of every 3 years due to ASUU strike that is now like an annual festival which our successive governments have refused to address for more than a decade now.

Nigerian educational system has been in the backstage of development for a long time, due to many reasons including poor national budget funding that have never received more than 10% allocations for the past 10 years.

If it’s not safe to open schools, why is it safe to mobilise same youth to come out and participate in elections and political gatherings, why is it safe to attend weddings, markets and worship centres?

Keeping millions of Nigerian youths at home since 23rd March 2020 with an increasing unemployment rate of over 55%, without any engagement is definitely a negative indicator of a red flag that can only manifest calamity.

The introduced ‘learning from home’ system in April by the Ministry of Education is obviously not feasible as it only reached a very limited number of students, leaving the majority to their fate.

We can’t even dream of online classes due to poor provision of internet networks, high cost of data, lack of electricity and limited resources in computer centres of our higher institutions.

The COVID-19 pandemic death cases are 95% of aged or people with other health complications.

The majority of the people in question here are below 30 years of age.

We are not implying that young age is immunity for morality but the current situation requires another solution.

With this development, it’s obvious that there are not any indications of ongoing serious preparations to reopen schools and such statement without any explanations on the plans and strategies in place for implementations to enable resumption of schools is a very bad declaration, especially for the schools that have started preparations for WAEC and the majority of students who are tired of sitting at home.

We need another approach for our education, the earlier we develop strategies to adapt with the new ‘norm’ the better for all of us, no one knows when Coronavirus would be over and it means we can’t tell when exactly our schools would be safe.

JCI Nigeria Ambassador, Musa Gambo, President, JCI EL-KANEMI Mgambo78@gmail.com +2347036478990 Maiduguri, Nigeria.

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