By Agbonkhese Oboh
The online classroom is not yet an alternative to physical schooling, as the challenges of fully taking to the virtual space are daunting, with poor electricity supply and cost of data topping the list.
This was the position of Mr. Orji Emmanuel, National President, Association of Formidable Education Development, AFED, at a webinar on “School Resumption in the Face of Increasing COVID-19 Infections in Nigeria,” convened by Lagos Civil Society Coalition Against COVD-19.
Orji noted that “online classroom is not yet the alternative, as electricity and data are big challenges.”
He added that to assist members of the association in coping with the new normal in the education, “we are talking with a Korea company to help us mass-produce small tablets, which will be given to members at a cheaper rate.
“They will pay back over a period of time and one of the technology companies has agreed to give us data for learning. We are doing all we can to ensure every household gets a tablet and over one million children will be engaged.”
Orji commended the efforts of Lagos State government in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which he said had been impactful.
He said that “the association with its over 7,000 private schools owners in Lagos is making plans towards the safe reopening of their schools and all the health protocols are being worked upon in the interest of the students.”
He noted that as soon as the state government announces the reopening of the schools for final year students’ external exams, “we have contracted people to help us in fulfilling all the instruction of the state government.”
He added that because of the large number of schools run by members of the association, “we have agreed to make our schooling six days in a week.
“Some students will come Mondays to Wednesday and others come on Thursday to Saturday, so we can use all the available classes.”
On the effect of the lockdown, he noted that “I have not paid salary of my teachers since April and others school owners are facing the same challenge. l appealed for some form of palliative or grant for schools teachers and owners to survive at this time.
“If avenues for bank loans are available, we will gladly accept, as our members are dying due to the hunger and neglect occasioned by this pandemic.”
On her part, the Director, Health Education Service of Primary Health Care Board, Mrs. Owojuyigbe Modupe, called for effective collaboration of all stakeholders in adhering to the World Health Organisation, WHO, health protocols for the safe reopening of the schools.
According to Mrs Modupe, the state government is doing its best in training and building the capacity of its health officials across the state, so that they can be more prompt in the response and control of COVID-19 pandemic in the state.
She said: “Our health officials are working in the communities and l can assure you that they will be monitoring and sensitising all, and giving schools information, communication and educational materials for learners and teachers to know what is expected of them, as we work together to curtail the pandemic in the state.”
Other speakers at the webinar, which had over 50 participants drawn from government officials, civil society groups, school owners and community members, and moderated by Yussuf Kelani, member of the Coalition, were Chairman of Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All Lagos, Ronke Kimemenihia, and Mr. Odeyemi Richard, Chairman, Schools Management Committee, Kosofe LGA.