The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has attributed government’s reluctance in re-opening schools to poor public perception and compliance to health protocol on prevention of COVID-19 spread.
The Head of the NCDC’s Risk Communication, Dr Yahya Disu, disclosed this during a webinar hosted by Plan International Nigeria’s Country Director, Dr. Hussaini Abdu with support from the European Union.
“The risk perception by the public is still very low and it’s because our population structure consists mostly of youth, who may have the disease and not have symptoms.
“Re-opening schools will further spread the disease. If there is good level of compliance, then we could consider school re-opening.”
Dr. Disu further explained that the Nigerian health system was weak. As such opening up schools coupled with the onset of the wet season, which comes along with increase in flu-like diseases, would expose the children to the risk of contracting and spreading the COVID-19 disease.
“School children are likely not going to comply and it could spread the disease among themselves as majority of our pupils go to school in vehicles, and the transport sector is known to have poor record of compliance,” Dr. Disu added.
On the use of alternative learning platforms for students, the eight panelists emphasized the need for government to invest in online and digital channels for learning to take place for the country’s teeming young population.
Another panelist, Prof. Mabel Evwierhoma of the University of Abuja urged government to take a cue from some private higher institutions of learning by investing in blended or mixed learning to surmount the COVID-19 pandemic.
She also called for the deployment of campus radios to support remote learning in higher institutions.
“The online channels of instructions need to be deployed, keeping in mind the safety of students and teachers.
“And for those parents willing to allow their wards resume, it should be allowed; and for those who are not, an alternative should be developed for them,” she noted.
In his submission, Dr Murtala Adogi Mohammed called on State governments to carry out a study of how they have fared in the last three months in remote learning with a view to establishing if the system was working or not, just as he lamented the exclusion of learners in remote communities.
“We need to know if we need to expand radio reach or internet. Scenarios should be plotted.
“There should be a response plan from each State for the federal government to coordinate.
“Some teachers are not technologically savvy. The government needs to re-budget for education as it is being done for health,” he advised.
On his part, the Deputy Chief of Party on a USAID/FHI 360 Project, Dr. Anna Madziga, pointed out that distant learning is not really inclusive:
“There are many unreached that we need to reach. Education cannot wait and we need to ensure that every child accesses education.”
Also, Head of Business Development, ActionAid Nigeria, Mr. Andrew Mamedu, listed the cost implications of remote learning to include increased financial burden on the care givers in providing electricity, phone or computers and data.
He also raised concerns about the rise in poverty amongst teachers, who are adversely affected by the changing context:
“Private schools have stopped paying teachers; it increases poverty in the long run.
“Sources of livelihood for the teacher is therefore cut off.
“Budget submitted to the National Assembly shows a cut in education.
“We should rather look for ways to get more money into education.”
He further urged the government to invest in alternative learning methods for people living with disability as well as come up with policies that are inclusive.
The theme of the Webinar was “Rethinking Education: Perspective and Challenges of Remote and Alternative Learning in COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Amaka E. Nliam