COVID 19 AND EDUCATIONAL SECTOR: A Blessing or otherwise!
Dr Adeyemi Oginni is a lecturer at the Department of Architecture at the University of Lagos and member of the ARUA Research cluster.
The emergence of the global pandemic, COVID 19 has transformed all societies, both stable and fragile. It is the numero uno crisis, succeeding climate change, ravaging the entire world presently. How is the world reshaping its economies, environment, and societies in the coming years?
For developing countries in Africa, such as Nigeria, this transformation is evident in various sectors, especially in the Educational sector. The much advocated clamoring for a paperless economy and the smart city agenda has been swiftly adopted by the online training system of pupils and students in the ongoing isolation period. The educational sector is rapidly evolving to ensure continuity in the training of the populace, and to keep abreast with the pace of other countries in this regard. This apparent blessing also comes with its shortfalls.
Can all stakeholders bridge the apparent gap in the training of pupils during this season of the pandemic? How is a largely traditionally based society going to transform abruptly into a paperless, smart educational system without inequalities being set in? Should it be a worthy alternative to the norm?
Private schools have picked up immediately because of their capacity, funding, structure which enhances a swift transfer to online schooling whereas, public schools with poor facilities, semi-skilled teachers and poor funding, will be redundant with this emerging trend. The government has encouraged T.V and radio educational programmes, however, the inability of such to adopt the requisite home teaching skills and techniques during this period of isolation will greatly impede on the training of a larger populace in Nigeria. Furthermore, will this trend pose a greater challenge in terms of the health and psychological aftereffects on pupils?
Previous studies have shown that pupils prefer outdoor and non -classroom related indoor spaces depending on their variety and sizes. According to Kasalt K. and Dogart F.(2010), when there is a variety of indoor non-classroom and outdoor spaces, children are likely to be more physically active and this prevents obesity and social problems. Recess is key in a child’s developmental process. Could technology create avenues for physical workout or virtual reality sporting and local games on the online school platforms to engage pupils in physical exercise?
We are left to embrace the advantages and smoothen out the ills of this process, as a change is imminent. Nothing will ever be the same again, as people grapple with the realities of the after effects of the COVID 19 pandemic as sustaining this trend will increase the gap between the learned and unlearned if appropriate measures are not put into consideration. The government must arise to empower the educational sector, where public school infrastructure will be upgraded and pupils given access to equipment and software needed to meet up with the current challenges. This can be achieved through PPP (Public and Private Partnership) projects.
According to WHO reports on COVID 19, modes of operation in schools now should include staggering of beginning and ending of school days; cancellation of all assembling, sports or communal activities; adequate spacing of not less than 1m work spaces for pupils where possible; adoption of personal or remote learning systems; flexible tutelage for staff and absenteeism should not be an offense so as to ensure people stay home when sick. This alongside personal hygiene will be the new post-COVID reality in schools worldwide.
For developing countries such as Nigeria, implications on learning environments will be a total overhaul of the traditional systems of learning and an adoption of a blended curriculum. The curriculum will now largely include virtually classes, in and outside the four walls of classrooms. This will ensue where online syllabuses are handed over to students and where physical meet up will no longer be a compulsion. Traditionally, classrooms in Nigeria are usually overpopulated, based on UNESCO standards and with the limitations of 1m for safety measures, schools will need to decongest for this to be feasible; they can now run on shifts to accommodate this or give options for virtual schooling for those who prefer it. For teachers and pupils, this will require greater skills in the use of communications tools and software. Teachers will now have online reviews and tests after every class making evaluation of pupils more thorough than before. Its impact on pupils will be advantageous, as it is a consummation of the much needed dominance of a pupil in the teaching process, rather than recessive where the pupil can play an active role in the learning process rather than passive.
This transition will also impact on the structure and design of school infrastructure in the nearest future. Classrooms will become more flexible, rather than fixed. They will have less segregation and more general rooms which could be used for just about anything as the need arises. There will be less storage spaces, as traditional lockers and bookshelves will become outdated, and more digital equipment installed, multi media rooms, projectors etc, even at primary school levels. These improvements and many more are the new realities to embrace.
· Kasalt K. and Dogart F.(2010). Fifth , sixth, seventh, grade students’ use of non-classroom spaces during recess: The case of three private schools in Izmir, Turkey, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 30, 518- 532
WHO Report March 2020. Key messages and actions for COVID 19 prevention and control in schools. Accessed on 5TH April 2020 at https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/key-messages-and-actions-for-covid-19-prevention-and-control-in-schools-march-2020.pdf?sfvrsn=baf81d52_4
The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development or the University of Lagos, Nigeria.