Dr. Dons Eze
Since March this year, the doors of all the educational institutions in Nigeria have been closed, and their students told to return to their respective homes and remain there till further notice. This was due to the current coronavirus pandemic, which is seriously ravaging the entire world.
From that time till now, students of these educational institutions have been at home, wasting, and there is no hope that they would go back to school anytime so soon, since the number of people contracting coronavirus have continued to increase by the day.
Complaints and pressures mounted by several groups and individuals have forced the government to temporarily relax the lockdown earlier imposed on the country in the wake of the outbreak of coronavirus. This has led to partial reopening of government offices, banks, markets and places of religious worships.
Unfortunately, in relaxing the lockdown, both the federal and state governments did not take into consideration the educational institutions which have been under lock and key since March, and their students, who have been on indefinite or extended holiday. Nothing was said about them.
We now ask, how long will these schools remain closed? How long will their students remain at home? Are these students going to finally bid farewell to the school system and forget everything about their educational career? This is because it seems to us that we will still be living with coronavirus, at least, for some time to come.
The information we get is that in many other countries of the world, while they equally live with coronavirus, life did not come to an end, everything was not at a standstill.
In other words, life has continued in these countries in spite of coronavirus. Their governments have continued to provide basic services to their people, and they have not completely closed the education system, but allowed it to function, though in attenuated form.
We therefore think that it is time for our own government to advert their minds on how to reopen schools in Nigeria, provided they keep to the rules set out by the NCDC, that is to say, get the students to wear face masks, maintain social distancing, sanitize and regularly wash their hands.
But this will greatly expose the inadequacy or bankruptcy of the education system in the country, where the government pays less than little attention to the needs and development of education.
In most of our public schools, from the primary, to the university level, the condition there is inhuman and appalling, where there are no basic facilities, like adequate classrooms, clean environment, functional water system and electricity supply. Students pack themselves like sardines to receive lectures in usually overcrowded lecture rooms, some squat on bare floor, while others hang outside, on the windows.
Out there in the hostels, these are worse than pigsty, the home for pigs: dirty, filthy and stinking, no functional water, no good place to answer the call of nature, etc. You begin to shudder and wonder why the future leaders of the country were being raised in such an ugly and reprehensible environment.
The implication is that under the present condition, were these institutions to flung their doors open for the resumption of classes, it would be extremely difficult for virtually all of them to meet the standard outlined by the NCDC for the prevention of the spread of coronavirus.
Were the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, who is the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force Committee on COVID-19, to visit any of our schools, he would have exclaimed, as he did when he visited some health institutions in the course of their assignment, that he did not know that the education system in the country is so rottened and as bad as it is today.
Before the students went on the forced long holiday due to coronavirus, lecturers in Nigerian universities under the aegis of Academic Staff of Union of Universities (ASUU) were already on strike over sundry issues, including poor conditions in our universities, and nobody listened to them.
Because our leaders always send their children and wards to universities abroad, they hardly have interest in addressing the problems of the education system in the country. But with the advent of coronavirus, everybody is now staying put in the country. No more mad rush to travel overseas. Perhaps, this may force our leaders to begin to look inwards and see how they could put our house in order.
Meanwhile, the administrators of our schools system should begin to think about how to keep the school environment safe from coronavirus, so as to enable the students come back to school. This should be in form of spreading out lecture classes so as to prevent students from clustering together in one lecture hall, provision of sanitizers, face masks, and ensuring that there is water with which to wash the hands.
Alternatively, our schools system should consider embarking on e-learning, which has become the trend all over the world. One does not need to be physically present in a particular place to receive lectures, or to sit for examination. Everything is now online.
Our children have stayed long enough at home. Their brains are decaying, rottening, or being deployed to wrong things, to negative things. We need to retune or re-channel them to things that are positive, to the right path.