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Teachers’ perspectives in the ‘new normal’

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THE issue of teachers’ welfare have always posed serious challenges to Nigeria’s education system. Even before the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria,  university students have not been going to school due to an indefinite strike embarked upon by lecturers,  among other issues bordering on welfare which has affected the performance of teachers physically, psychologically and otherwise.

  Since the beginning of the pandemic, all the schools in Nigeria, both private and secondary have not been in session as directed by the government thereby bridging gap between teachers and their students, and giving more responsibility to the parents at home.  The situation has affected teachers both positive and negatively as some are forced to embark on other ventures to avoid being idle while some, particularly those in private schools have not been paid their salaries since the lockdown,even as they are forced to embark on online teaching and teaching on air programs to educate their students as schools are yet to open.

  The Vice Principal, Admin. St. John of God Secondary School, Awka, Mrs Ngozi Onwujekwe addressed our reporter on how the school have been trying tirelessly to help their students at the moment. She said that the school teachers often interact with their students despite not being in school using online teaching and learning process, stressing that the government had earlier instructed the teachers to resume school, prepare their lesson notes and keep the school surroundings clean, adding that the students are already eager to resume school but due to the directives from the federal and state governments, the teachers are waiting to hear when they will be given the go ahead to resume.

  “Presently, we are interacting with the students at home as we teach them using audio method of teaching to pass information across to them which they listen to at the comfort of their homes and do the following assignments. We do it via WhatsApp because we have their parents’ phone numbers. Teachers always come to school on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to prepare the students’ lessons and teach. Every teacher in the school is expected to teach starting from JS1 to SS3 and records are being kept about it so that even if we are going to take exams immediately we resume, our students will be prepared to take their exams provided they are doing their own bit”

  “If you look inside the classrooms, you will see that the students lockers have been arranged, the classrooms are kept clean and the surroundings too. It was done by the teachers as directed by the state government to keep the social distancing in the classrooms. So, we have done everything and we are ready for resumption. But our fear remains that if the students come back, can they be able to maintain the directives of the social distancing among themselves. When they go on break, we cannot hold them including whenever the school dismisses. They will always cluster and you know children used to move together. So, that is the fear of everybody but I know that God will always protect the little children and we their teachers”, she said.

  Mrs Onwujekwe also noted that the students were advised to use 80 leaves exercise book for the assignments given to them in the lesson and were asked to keep it with them so that they submit it immediately the school resumes which will be marked and used as their continues assessment. She said that the school management made the decision as some of the students lives far away from the school including cities like Abuja, Lagos, Enugu and other states of the country, describing it as equal treatment to all of students, adding that the state government is constantly paying their salaries regardless of the present school system while the school management boosted their moral to appreciate their effort amid the pandemic and promised to compensate them for the recharge cards they subscribe to teach the students and also provided teaching material to motivate them.

She expressed her gratitude over the promises and pointed out that the school is unable to raise funds as they are not in session, adding that as a mission school, the dioceses is equally giving a helping hand to support the school management to pay the PTA staff who are about 40 or 45 in number.

According to her, the information has been passed across to the parents provide white face masks for their children in order to be in uniform.

  “We also have provision for sanitiser, running water and soap both at the class entrance and other strategic points in the school for both the visitors and students that are coming to wash their hands. It has been available and we have been taking the measures since the lockdown before the vacation of the schools. The management is also preparing to provide thermometer that will enable us to check our temperature at all time. Since our school is a mission school, the dioceses takes care of it and approved Regina Celli as where we can go to for serious cases among the students”.

  A Physics teacher in SS2 and SS3 of the school, Mmoukwe Chijioke also described how prepared he is to teach his students wearing the face mask regardless of the double period he may be in the class to teach when the school resumes and said that safety should be considered as more important than anything. He described face mask as one of the safety measures.

  “The students will have to be on their face masks as well as the teachers. But if I want to explain for the students to hear me well, I can bring it down for some time and put it on properly again while writing. So I don’t think that wearing face mask is going to hinder teaching and learning in any way”

“COVID 19 made me to know about face mask. On the side of the students, it is about adapting to the reality on ground. Therefore, we all have to try and adapt to the novelty”, he said.

  He also said that the face mask will not be ideal for an asthmatic patient and advised schools to identify such students and keep them in one extreme where they will sit without face masks, hence, it could worsen their conditions due to inability to breathe well and also for the benefit of others in the class to avoid spreading the disease.

An SS 3D student, Nweke Chiomam said that it had been the most boring period she had experienced in life due to the long time they have stayed at home without proper arrangement of learning while in their various homes and have not heard from the teachers regarding when they will go back to school. She also said that since they were instructed to vacate the school, she barely goes to school, adding that the teachers asked them to go home with all their reading materials and noted that she will manage to wear her face mask even when the school resumes.

  In her words, “If that is the only option we can use to prevent the coronavirus and proceed with our learning in school, I will try my best to manage the situation”.

  A private class teacher at Blossom Farm School in Ngozika Housing Estate, Awka, Victor Ibeh said that the teachers have been paid their salaries even as the management are lacking funds to fix in some of the school problems, pointing that the school fees cover a lot of things which the online method of learning is not providing for both the school and the pupils, noting that they shared  palliative as a little welfare package to the teachers for the period and expressed how the pupils receive their lessons via a mobile application.

  “Parents were asked to download an App for the learning ability of their children. The application has a provision of account for the learners and also for the teachers. When we log in as teachers, the pupils will log in with their account to read from the App. Children will find it difficult to wear the face mask because it is not comfortable for anybody likewise the kids”, he concluded.

  A Chemistry teacher at Kenneth Dike Secondary School, Awka, Mmuoke Chidimma, who teaches the SSI students of the school said that the teachers were earlier instructed to resume work to prepare themselves before the school resumes in order not to see teaching and learning as a challenge or be in a haste to teach, arrange the students lockers, keep the surroundings clean, stressing that there has not been free time for them as well as no gain for the teachers, rather than preparing their lesson notes in school on daily bases.

  Mmuoke also said that since the school is not in section, they teach their students through the ABS television or radio station.

  She said, “We learn how we can guide the student while teaching in the classrooms whenever we resume school, keep our minds ready for teaching and avoid excuses to proceed to proper teaching and learning in our school.   We also present our lessons via television stations and encourage the students to tune in to the station for their various lessons. Regarding the face mask, it is necessary to be used while teaching because when we talk sometimes, droplets come out of our mouth and with the use of the face mask; it will prevent us from spreading the disease”.

  She advised everyone to manage and adapt to the situation. “I used to teach 40 minutes each period but it may be reduced to 30 minutes because of this difficulty among the students and even the teachers because while teaching, you are breathing out air and you are still taking in air. Therefore, nobody is going to feel comfortable about it for up to 40 minutes period of a lesson until the school dismisses for the day”, she said.

She urged parents to provide learning devices for their children and even monitor them as they learn, noting that every student is expected to be up and doing.

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