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Student’s challenges amid COVID-19



FOR several weeks since the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Nigerian educational system has been partially put on hold. While the tertiary institutions have been held by an indefinite suspension of the academic calendar due to an indefinite strike embarked upon by Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) before the emergence of coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria, federal and state governments and private proprietors closed down primary and secondary schools in the country. Presently, some state goverrnment have taken academic activities of both the primary and post-primary schools to social media and virtual platforms.

  Nevertheless, a lot of Nigerian student have been staying idle at home with parents, school managers and teachers striving to work out feasible learning methodology, with little or no success. For some, the idea of taking classes to virtual and other media platforms is not just realisable considering the socio-economic effect of the shutdown, while for others, it is a necessity in the interest of the students. In the interim, students have been asked to stay glued to their radio and television for educational programmes but this has not been left out without its own challenges especially towards the students.

Edwin Ejike, a class two student of Kenneth Dike Memorial Secondary School, Awka, explained that at first during the introduction of the online classes, he found it hard to adjust as that was his first experience to such classes. He went on to say that the teachers do find it difficulty to express and explain their lectures effectively and efficiently due to constraints such as lack of power supply, poor internet access and to a large extent, the ICT ignorance of the teachers as most are not accustomed to the new medium. He also added that while some could not explain concepts clearly with voice notes, others did not paste topics for each subjects and as such, information are not disseminated in an organised manner.

He also explained that he sometimes found it frustrating as he uses his father’s Android phone to participate in the online class. “I use my father’s Android phone to engage in the online classes because I don’t have one. Sometimes, I get frustrated with the whole class activities because on various occasions during the scheduled time for the classes, my father is either away for work or engaged in some equally important activities which keeps him away from home” he said. He also noted that the exercise is a welcomed development as it will boost the knowledge of both teachers and students towards the ICT alike.

Chidera Okeke, a Primary four student of St. Lucy Nursery and Primary School, Ifite-Awka, argued that the online classes have been interesting and on the other hand, boring; adding that she misses the interactive sessions between the students and teachers which include questions and answers. She also said that she easily get bored with the online classes as she doesn’t get into physical interaction with her classmates. To her, at some points, she doesn’t get enough of the classes because her elder brother, whom she makes use of his phone for class complains of the heavy usage of data which doesn’t come cheap. She added that, she sometimes miss the class as she also shares the usage of the phone with her younger brother whose online class do clash with hers.

Njideka Nwolisa, a WASSCE and post-utme candidate, on the other hand, expressed her anger and frustration about the pandemic effects. She said, ” by now, I should have been through with my Senior Secondary Certificate Examination and probably my post-UTME, rather the reverse is the case, as WASSCE have been since postponed indefinitely and the post-UTME is not even feasible”. She went on to say that she is getting tired of reading for an examination that appears to have no end, stressing that as a student who will take practicals in the said examination, she has handed that to God to take care of.

Meanwhile, Uche Amaechi, a History and International Relations student of University of Nigeria (UNN), put forward the challenges of the Nigerian students during this period. He stated that at first, most of Nigerian undergraduates like himself taught the lockdown to be for a few weeks but are disappointed as they don’t know when academic activities might resume. He explained that the turn of events have left most students to take to idleness, which might result to students taking to gambling, crimes like the surge of one million boys in Lagos State few weeks back. Further, he adjudged that while some students who are privileged are paying and learning some skills through online programmes, the underprivileged are counting the stars with no hope as to when schools will reopen.

“To a large extent, students who are self-sponsored are the worst hit by effects of this pandemic”, he said. Most of the self-sponsored students have been temporarily relieved from their source of income as economic activities have winded up. This has led to hunger and psychological trauma. Also, he stressed that most students who stay off- campus in various tertiary institutions are worried over the issue of rent with landlords, as some of the rents paid have expired as one cannot perform excellently in academics without shelter above one’s head.

Regrettably, the much-touted online learning seems to be gathering momentum only in the media, as various reports gathered from pupils and secondly school students (largely from the public schools), has opined that not much have been achieved in that regard and the existing platforms are not appropriate. It also revealed that the systems or platforms adopted by the government and individual schools have not only succeeded in further widening inequality gap, but has also unjustly separated the wheat from the chaff.

While schools for the privileged are partnering parents through various learning apps, email and recorded videos to keep their children on track, the socially diavantaged class are at the mercy of electricity service providers to at least listen or view the government’s radio and television programmes, while students whose parents do not possess the purchasing power are oblivious of the pandemic homeschooling for obvious reasons.

In developed societies, teachers are using Zoom and Google classrooms to teach various subjects and these tools cannot work effectively where there is poor connectivity. It is infamous to mention that in this part of the world, not only is Internet connectivity still a major issue but the cost of internet services is very high that most parents and schools cannot afford it. The Nigerian government through the Ministry of Education should liaise with the schools management and parents to improvise on the already existing platform to ensure that all students are engaged. Also, the Ministry of Communication should cooperate with the network service providers to ensure cheap prices for network services and improvement in the quality of the services provided.

Maintaining the engagement of students is essential to the survival of our nation as they make up a larger part of our nation’s demography. Already, the number of school dropouts is very high in our nation. Long period of disengagement can lead to further disaster. As the saying goes, “an idle mind is a devil workshop”, as bad elements can capitalise on this opportunity to bring more harm to our society. The government, through her agencies like the National Orientation Agency (NOA) should initiate viable programmes for students and youths which are bereft of nepotism and corruption. Going to school is not only about learning maths and science, but also about social relationships and peer-to-peer interactions. It is about learning to be a citizen and developing social skills. That is why it is important to stay connected with the school by any means necessary. For all students, this is also a time to develop socio-emotional skills and learn more about how to contribute to society as a citizen. The role of parents and family, which has always been extremely important, is critical in that task ( Saavedra J. 2020).

Most importantly, it is pertinent to note that the real challenge on students will be post-COVID. As the government is entangled with the war against coronavirus, it should not deter her from making plans for students who make up a major bulk of her population. All hands must be on deck to ensure the psychological and mental well-being of the younger population. Schools should make plans with relevant authorities (mental health specialists) with help from government, civil societies and parents alike to ascertain the safety of the students as most of them have been sapped of their mental strength. This is the aspect that should never be neglected.

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