Covid-19: Evaluating the Pros and Cons of Online Learning for Students in Nigeria

Sequel to the outbreak of Covid-19, also known as Coronavirus in Nigeria, the Federal Government directed the shutdown of all Unity Schools and Tertiary Institutions in the country.

The Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu gave the directive through the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Sonny Echono, in a statement issued by the Director of Press and Public Relations of the ministry, Ben Bem Goong on Thursday, 19th March, 2020, in Abuja.

The Permanent Secretary noted that the decision to close down the schools was to protect and safeguard the lives of students from the deadly coronavirus.

“We have directed all higher institutions to close this weekend. Unity Schools that have completed their exams are to close immediately” he said.

Unsure when lockdown will end for schools to resume, the Minister in an open talk with 237 Vice Chancellors, Rectors and Provosts on Thursday, 2nd April, urged them to activate a virtual learning environment to enable students to continue their studies through digital devices online.

In his words, “COVID-19 has changed everybody. I am pleading with you to devise alternative ways to make sure the education of our children will not stop. We have to create a virtual learning environment.

“This is the second meeting I am having. All I want is that we should fully engage our students. We are already speaking with the World Bank and UNICEF on how to create platforms for virtual learning classrooms.

“We need to take advantage of technology like the case in other parts of the world. We cannot shut down all schools when we have other means to teach our students.”

In support of the directive, some Tertiary institutions quickly commenced online classes for their Students while some State Governments also adopted the use of electronic media (TV and Radio) for teaching of primary and secondary schools students.

Meanwhile, a diverse reaction has trailed the directive of the online teaching from the end receivers (the students). For some, the subscription of data to sustain participation in the classes is the problem as the online teaching will involve downloading of materials such as videos and document files as well as extended discussions. While others are concerned about the different courses that each student offers and how to cover the whole department.

Speaking to CAMPUS FOCUS, A student of Lagos State University (LASU), Bashiru Akanni said “How is this possible? We cannot compare the normal lecture to online. This means we will have to be watching our lecturers video teaching us. Where are we to get such data from.”

A Student of Federal University, Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE), simply identified as Damilola said “To me it does not make sense at all. think of how many students will be serious about it. Not everybody will benefit from this. Even networks sometimes can be shit. So to me, it’s nonsense.”

Similarly, Ogunbodede Olayinka Esther of University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) “Data and network is a problem. If the government can give free data, then I think it will be effective. Secondly, our scheme of work is different, so something should be done to also solve that angle”

Adeyinka Oluwatobi Daniel of FUOYE said “To me it is a good idea, it will bring education closer to the student, even when we are at home, easily, we stay in our room and study online which will even make us safe from this pandemic. But the problem data. Another is the aspect of distraction that will affect total concentration. For example, we will use our data to receive lectures online and at the same time WhatsApp, Facebook messages will be coming in, with that, there will be distraction. And it will also result in high consumption of data.

Addressing some of this concern on the part of Lagos State University (LASU), The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun, SAN, took to the institution facebook handle confirming that Students have been calling and sending messages that they will not be able to actively participate in the online lectures because of the hard time occasioned by the lockdown. He urged them to comply.

As good as the lockdown may seem, especially to avoid the spread of the pandemic, the hardship that comes with it in such a time is quite enormous. For many, hunger has become the order of the day as most parents who work with private sectors either get half of their salary or no salary at all. While those who depend on daily income to cater for their family needs can no longer do so as a result of the ‘Stay at Home’ directive from the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Although, efforts by the Muhammadu Buhari led government had been geared towards minimizing the impact of the lockdown on the vulnerable in the country, through supposed distribution of palliatives such as food items, “money” and preventive materials in which a high percentage of the Nigerian populace is yet to benefit from.

With all the financial challenges posed by the lockdown, the chances of an average student to participate fully in Online lectures is significantly slim except a provision is made to that effect.

Be that as it may, we commend the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu for considering an alternative to learning at this crucial period that most students will be sitting at home idle. Like they always say: “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.” However, the directive will not yield the desired result, if a vast majority of Students are unable to participate due to financial constraints. We recommend that just as the Federal Government is distributing palliatives, free data to students should equally be considered.

Although, it is argued that some students may utilise the data on other irrelevant activities, we believe the institutions should spearhead this initiative by determining the quantity of data required per day for each student or on the other hand, data restriction to specific learning platforms can be adopted.

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