By Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata Jnr.
Recently, the world has to brace up because the dreaded COVID-19 virus would likely stay with us for a few more months, until a definitive cure or vaccine is discovered. Thankfully, scientists across the world are working tirelessly conducting multiple clinical trials all in a bid to find a solution. It is hoped that science will once again save humanity from the COVID-19 plague as it did during the 1918 Spanish flu and others that followed.
However, as no drug or vaccine has been found, the best that humanity can do is to prevent contracting the virus, by keeping social distancing, washing the hands often, with soap and water and using a face mask as directed by health officials. One of the extreme measures taken by many governments to prevent the spread of the virus was to lockdown towns and cities, within their countries, in which people were compelled to stay at home and businesses, schools, sporting, recreational and other activities had to cease. Schools, at all levels, (primary, secondary and tertiary), in Nigeria were also shut before the end of the term and the pupils and students were compelled to stay at home as well.
Students have, thus, been at home for the past seven weeks or thereabout, due to the lock-down. This has completely brought to a temporal halt, the hide of brick and mortar environment form of learning. Education has always been an integral part of human existence, especially, coming from the informal form of education, where parents have from time immemorial, taught their children values and ethics beyond the four walls of a classroom.
As societies advanced, there was the need to migrate the learning from the informal to the formal system of education. Curriculum and systems, had to be put in place, to drive this new structure but because society keeps on evolving, the need to learn outside the four walls of the classrooms, either, by necessity or otherwise has now become inevitable.
Technology has found its waynin enabling learning to be accessed, without visiting a class, while keeping up with the curriculum. It has made education easily and readily available to millions of people, simultaneously, through e-learning. Through e-learning, you go through a seamless, formal education, once you have an electronic device, (desktop computer, laptop, iPad, or even, your smartphone), Internet connectivity, and electricity or other forms of current to power your device.
The importance of e-learning, especially, in this pandemic era, cannot be overemphasised. With all institutions of learning shut down, in many countries of the world, including Nigeria, e-learning medium, has now taken over the education space and as far as, COVID-19 persists, schools in Nigeria may not be opening, anytime soon. Edtech companies have developed platforms to bring much-desired learning, to students at all levels.
“With countries adopting e-learning, as a means of minimizing the disruption in education, during the COVID-19 pandemic, our children must not be left behind. While these are not substitute, for the rich and textured physical exchange, between a teacher and student, they will give our children a sense of continuity and hope and keep them, meaningfully engaged, during the lockdown. More than anything else, we need hope, at this moment”, stated Femisola Awosika, CEO, Robert & John, the company that founded Roducate, a leading learning app.
The fact that schools will not be resuming in Nigeria anytime soon, should not stop the pupils and students from learning anyway. E-learning, thus, appears to be a veritable solution to this, as students, can seamlessly learn in the comfort of their homes, while leveraging the necessary curriculum, at their disposal. A number of schools, particularly private schools have wasted no time in taking advantage of various e-learning opportunities, and these have kept their students a lot more busy compared to their counterparts in the public schools, who have to rely on Radio, that is not as interactive.
In retrospect, one thing that COVID-19 has done for us as a country is the massive awareness that in today’s world, technology is now an extremely important aspect of our existence. My hope is that post the pandemic, our country would enter a season of impactful policies that will help deepen the adoption of technology, particularly home-grown solutions in education and other sectors. Many more Nigerians are now more receptive to embracing technology during this pandemic and it is no surprise that, some are already calling for the incorporation of e-learning in our educational system.
In many developed countries of the world, online courses are already a thing that many have been taking advantage of. A growing number of their citizens did not have to pass through the four walls of educational institutions, to enable them have access to learning. We should adopt such policies here, that will see our citizens attending school virtually, while still holding on to employment and attending school online.
Take the platform Roducate as an example. It offers all the basic subjects such as Mathematics and English and the not so basic subjects such as Agricultural Science and Visual Arts and its content is approved by Nigerian Education and Research Development Council, Nigerian Universities Commission, Lagos State Ministry of Education, JAMB, and the African Union. This is precisely the types of platforms more students across the country need to gain access to.
The future of our country lies in our hands. We can either decide to leverage our young population and make Nigeria a more developed country or fulfill the prophecies of naysayers who believe that our huge population will likely be a future burden to the world. The world post COVID-19 will certainly be more competitive and disruptive. We therefore need to make education a priority.
Agbata is the founder of CFAmedia.ng, a business and innovation platform