30 Jul What Does The Future Hold For Nigeria’s Education Sector? The Parents and Students Speak
School closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic has affected over a billion students globally. The extended lockdown of educational institutions has significantly interrupted learning, putting additional stress on the overall education system, particularly in developing countries. With schools around the world being forced to adopt virtual learning methods conducted through online platforms, websites, and mobile applications as a result of the pandemic, the inadequacies in the educational sector have been brought to the fore. To recover from the loss experienced, educational institutions will require strategies, policies, and resources that will contribute to the transformation and growth of the sector.
In Africa, approximately 297 million students were affected by school closures as a result of the pandemic. Also, approximately 89 percent of learners do not have access to household computers, and 82 percent lack internet access to continue their learning.
In Nigeria specifically, the closure of schools for over 3 months has affected approximately 46 million students. It is worthy of note, that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nigerian education system had been grossly underfinanced and struggled to provide quality education for all. This prompted a set of questions:
- Do educational institutions in Nigeria have the resources to cater for the students affected?
- Do families have the facilities to engage their children in various remote learning methods?
With over 40% of Nigerian citizens living below the poverty threshold, adopting the use of alternative learning/teaching methods during the lockdown has proven difficult, especially with the high cost and limited access to technological devices, internet data, and basic amenities such as electricity. Despite these challenges, students in private schools well equipped with ICT infrastructure experienced minor disruptions to their learning, while students from public schools and in disadvantaged communities struggled.
The pre-existing inequalities in Nigeria’s education system have been further exposed as students from under-served communities with no access to educational resources and technology are left out and unable to participate in any form of school activities. While the Nigerian government may have embarked on promoting remote learning for some states through online repositories with educational resources, and traditional mass communications tools such as radio and television, some of these children do not have access to these resources.
On 29th June 2020, the Federal Government announced that students in primary 6, JSS3, and SS3 could resume school to prepare for their examinations, while all other classes in public and private schools were expected to remain closed. A few days after that announcement, the Minister of Education announced that schools under the control of the Federal Government would not be resuming until it was considered safe to do so.
While the closure of educational institutions is a necessary measure to mitigate the spread of the virus and avoid an acceleration of cases, which would put a further strain on health services, consideration must be given to the immediate impact of continued school closures on students, parents, teachers, and educational heads.
To examine the impact of the pandemic on the Nigerian education sector; gain an appreciation of the current reality; identify the gaps, and recommend measures to promote continuity of quality education, Ciuci Consulting conducted a study in randomly selected locations in Nigeria. Randomly selected respondents comprising parents, teachers, students, and educational heads from public and private schools were interviewed. The data collected was analyzed based on the following parameters:
- Perception and effectiveness of the use of alternative learning methods
- Challenges experienced with the closure of educational institutions
- General views about the closure of educational institutions
- Recommendations for the development of the sector
The survey results showed clear
disparities between the activities of public and private primary and secondary
schools and detailed the experience of students and parents concerning the
closure of schools. Here are some insights gained from respondents.
Parents from different parts of Nigeria including Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, and Kaduna were interviewed to address the impact of school closures on their children and daily activities. Respondents were asked to disclose the academic level, type, and location of the institutions their children attended.
Reportedly, the closure of schools had a negative impact on parents as 83% of parents indicated that they were affected by the closures. Some key issues identified included:
- Reduced knowledge and learning capacity of some children
- Reduced work productivity due to the necessary supervision required by the children, especially those in primary schools.
- Insufficient resources to cater to the needs of the children i.e. time, finance, food, etc.
- Negative effects on the wellbeing of the children, especially for those who have certain disabilities and require social interactions for adequate development.
- Excessive screen time was also a source of concern for some parents considering the potential health and wellbeing risks.
It was also clear that most parents were concerned about managing work duties with home/virtual schooling.
To close learning gaps, alternative methods to the classroom model were adopted. According to parents, online classes, self-study, and parental teaching were considered the top 3 methods adopted by children during the lockdown.
The study revealed that children with access to online learning platforms were tasked with learning how to effectively use these methods. 37% of parents indicated that their children faced difficulties at first with the online platforms but had gotten used to it. These alternative methods of learning were considered to be useful for the following reasons:
- Increased discipline and exposure to new methods of learning using the computer and other technology devices.
- Increased trust in their capabilities to complete their schoolwork – this helps the children become more independent.
- Contributed to the children’s learning process and facilitated knowledge retention of subjects taught in the past.
- Parents can monitor the teacher’s tutelage and the children’s ability to comprehend.
- Increased confidence among parents concerning their children being more equipped for the likely future of education.
Generally, the alternative methods of learning led to some positive results, however, some parents still experienced challenges such as inconsistent power supply, cost of data/ internet usage, absence of social interactions, and the ineffectiveness of the teaching process in comparison to on-site classes. According to some parents, the alternative methods used were inadequate, seeing as the majority of the online platforms ranked average, indicating uncertainties about the quality of learning during the lockdown.
Furthermore, the results from the study validated the suspected vast inequality of opportunities in the education system, revealing that online learning is a distant prospect for some people. While the private educational institutions endeavoured to secure the continuity of education through online learning platforms such as Zoom, Google Classroom, and customized platforms to upload videos, notes, and assignments, etc., the public institutions had very limited means to establish this continuity. All parents with children in public schools noted that no online platform was used or provided for them. This resulted in the absence of alternative learning options for some, while others had to rely on self-study, private lessons, and educational programs aired on television.
So, what did the students have to say?
Being at the centre of the current situation in the education sector, the views of the students were the focal point of the study. Primary and secondary students from different parts of Nigeria including Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Delta, Kaduna, and Kastina were interviewed. Respondents were asked to disclose their gender, age, academic level, type, and location of the institution they attended.
A significant number of students indicated that they missed going to a physical school, engaging in school activities, and socializing with their friends. This led to their mixed responses about learning from home. As seen in the chart below, there was a consistent spread amongst students who found it distracting, fun, and useful. Yet, 45% of the students did not like it.
To reduce the impact of school closures on learners, students had to adopt alternative learning methods. While this was a possibility explored by majority of respondents in private schools, unfortunately most students in public schools did not have access to alternative methods of learning.
Online platforms such as Zoom, Google Classroom, Education City and other customized school platforms, were used by most students who adopted remote learning strategies provided by their schools, while those who lacked these resources resorted to self-study, parental teaching, educational television programs, and home lessons/private tutors.
Regarding the effectiveness of the online platforms used, the majority of students considered them to be of average/below average standard due to challenges experienced, particularly poor internet connection which disrupted seamless learning. Other challenges experienced with the alternative learning methods included:
- Some classes and assignments were given with minimum explanation and guidance which resulted in a lack of complete understanding of what was being taught. Some parents were also unable to help due to their busy schedules.
- Multiple distractions at home such as domestic chores.
- No access to practical activities and educational resources for subjects such as arts, garment making, physical exercise, sciences, etc.
- Increased boredom and a reduced interest in learning
- Increased level of uncertainty regarding the continuity of their education, especially for students in primary 6, JSS3, and SS3.
Despite the challenges experienced, students expressed some benefits of learning from home. Some key areas captured included:
- Less pressure to succeed – students were able to learn at their own pace. This increases the likelihood of a better understanding of school lessons.
- More flexibility and convenience, as students were not required to wake up as early as they typically would, or wear school uniforms before commencing their school lessons.
- The development of other relevant skills such as research and ICT.
- Increased awareness of other learning platforms to support their education.
- Increased level of independence
Having considered the present realities of the Nigerian education sector from the perspective of parents and students’, it is evident that immediate, and more effective strategies are required to facilitate the growth and sustainability of the sector. Below are our recommendations, which incorporate the views of both parents and students.
- Additional resources to close gaps in the educational sector: The government and other relevant stakeholders should consider providing additional resources to support the educational needs of students, especially those in public schools. With the development of e-learning resources by the Federal Ministry of Education, it is important to ensure that the relevant enablers – internet connectivity and technology devices, are available. The government could consider partnering with: reputable telecommunications providers to provide data bundles at an affordable price for underserved communities; and courier companies to deliver worksheets to students in disadvantaged communities. An example can be borrowed from the University of Ghana which partnered with telecoms companies to provide 5G free internet data for their students and trained its lecturers on the use of online classes. Also, the education support fund of $15million allocated to Nigeria by UNICEF should be appropriately utilized on acquiring technology devices and other resources necessary to optimize online and mixed media learning for learners at various stages, and students with disabilities.
- Provision of financial support: Given the previous challenges experienced by the sector prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, both private and public schools should seek other support channels apart from the Federal Government. For example, educational institutions should consider building relationships with financial institutions to provide support in the area of financial literacy, cashflow management, and finance/credit provision.
- Resolve issues regarding promotional examinations: The students particularly those in JSS 3 have shown great concern about the uncertainties of their upcoming examinations. To avoid not completing the Junior Secondary School Certificate Examination, the Federal Government should consider replacing the exam with mock examinations or other relevant assessments. This would help mitigate any further concerns and anxieties on the students, considering the various preparations already carried out.
- Address perceived silence: Students and parents expressed anxieties over the nation’s silence to put measures in place to ensure continuity and equity for all learners during the pandemic. The Federal Government can consider setting up initiatives to consistently communicate specific policy measures on how to mitigate learning disruptions for students. The initiatives could also educate parents on how to better support their children.
- Contingency planning: To provide a comprehensive response for tackling other potential threats, planning for a pandemic or any other major crisis must be incorporated into Nigeria’s resilience/risk management activities for the education sector. Lessons learnt from previous pandemics should also be incorporated in the contingency plans.
school closures may have caused high social and economic costs to Nigerians,
the process of reopening schools anytime soon, remains uncertain, as the
government would want to reduce the possibility of a second wave of the
pandemic. The Nigerian government must work together with parents to ensure
that children can continue their education, particularly for children in public
schools. Implementing the
recommendations above would be a step in the right direction.
This report is centered on views of parents and
students. Watch out for our next series to hear what the teachers, head
teachers, and experts think.
 (Africa Renewal, 2020)
 (UNESCO, 2020)
 (Global Partnership for Education, 2020)
 (Africa Renewal, 2020)
 (CGTN Africa, 2020)
 (Education in Emergency Working Group (EiEWG) , 2020)
 (Aljazeera, 2020)