There is no arguing the fact that education is one of the major casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After schools were closed for months, in Nigeria and across the world, keeping millions of learners at home without physical learning and halting other academic activities, Nigeria had to reopen schools later to ensure that students completed the 2020 academic calendar.
The resumption of schools in the country, however, saw some of the states running different terms: some resumed to do the third term and others first term. However, all the terms were run within a short period, thus leaving much to be desired in syllabus coverage.
With the second wave of COVID-19, uncertainty has hit the educational system with states giving different dates for resumption of basic education. This is in addition to the fact that the school calendar may again be shortened.
Students are said to have resumed in states which include Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Sokoto on Monday, while Abia, Oyo and Delta are to resume on January 11.
For Kano, Kogi, Rivers, Sokoto, Lagos, Plateau, and Niger states, resumption has been announced for January 18, while states like Kaduna and others are yet to announce resumption date.
However, observers in the education sector and other stakeholders say the dates may not be feasible if there is another lockdown nationwide as is currently happening in Europe.
Meanwhile, experts have said the disparity in schools calendar across the states will further affect negatively the already worrisome education standard in the country.
An educationist, Mr Michael Ojonugwa Sule, said already the standard of education, especially at the basic level, is in a sorry state and with the impact of COVID-19, it will further decline in quality thereby badly impacting knowledge.
He said: “Federal and state governments need to meet to address the differences in the academic calendar. They cannot be allowed to do what they like while the students suffer. Already, the children have been denied ample learning time and shortening the time they should be in school will further affect the learning outcomes.”
He noted that there is, therefore, the need to create more time for the students, even if it means staying extra time after the close of school and engaging private teachers to help them meet up with what they cannot get from the short period at school.
For Olasunkanmi Opeifa, the implication of disparity in schools’ resumption for students and education is that while some students would have enough time in school to prepare for external examinations, others may not owing to late resumption, and “of course exams scheduled by the external examining body normally at the conclusion of classes and other preparations.”
He said: “To tackle this disparity and the implication it portends for students on one hand and our educational system on the other, schools should try to work on students’ psychology so they don’t get panicky.”
The educationist further said schools should go digital and encourage their students to visit sites on the different social media platforms to stay stimulated on their academic work.
“Subject teachers should also embrace technology in making sure they are able to effectively cover sufficient grounds that would place students at an advantage. Where students have no access to technology, teachers should be prepared to sacrifice more time for productive extra classes,” he said.
According to him, the scheme and lesson plans should also be comprehensive enough to cover every aspect of assessment and evaluation that students could work with on their own.
“The government should also be visibly supportive of teachers both in the public and private sectors in the area of extra motivation, considering the peculiar circumstances.
‘After all is said and done, I believe strongly that this state of affairs is poised to bring out the best innovative practices in our teachers, and consequently our students,” he added.
The CEO of Voyage International School, Abuja, Yussuff Oriyomi, on his part, said the disparity in calendars will definitely lower the quality of education from incomplete coverage of subjects.
He, however, suggested that to address the issue, government should reduce the number of holidays going forward and cancel an academic session/term as may be required
Oriyomi advised that Saturdays should be added to school days for the next one session to cover more lessons and also integrate online learning to make up for missed periods.
In his reaction, the Director of Press at the Federal Ministry of Education, Ben Bem Goong, said the minister, Malam Adamu Adamu, will make a definite pronouncement on the disparity in school calendar at the ministerial briefing next week. He said the address will resolve all issues relating to the disparity.