Since March this year, schools in Nigeria have remained shut owing to the coronavirus pandemic. The closure of schools was followed by the closure of markets, churches and public gatherings. However, since then, while the other aforementioned institutions have been reopened, schools have remained shut.
Within the week came the announcement that senior secondary classes would resume briefly for the Senior West African Examinations Council, WAEC, and the National Examinations Council, NECO. Ostensibly, the students are to take their exams and then go home again.
According to a statement signed by Ben Bem Goong for the Federal Ministry of Education, secondary school students in exit classes are to report on 4th of August and spend two weeks preparing for the exam which will finally start on the 17th of August.
This decision was taken after a virtual consultative meeting between the Federal Ministry of Education, education commissioners of the 36 states, the Nigeria Union of Teachers, proprietors of private schools, and chief executives of examination bodies.
While the above resolution must come as welcome news to many who value education, the students and their parents, there is no gainsaying the fact that the education system in the country will suffer if schools are not reopened fully.
There is indeed, no rationale in opening markets, churches and other places and institutions where maintenance of compliance to COVID-19 directives is much more difficult to enforce, while schools remain shut.
It is far easier to ensure and monitor compliance in schools than, say, in markets. Students can be told to enter their classrooms wearing their facemasks. Water and sanitizers can be kept in front of every classroom and students made to wash their hands appropriately before entering the classes. This way, it will all too easy to ensure that COVID-19 health protocols are kept.
While it is true that online teaching has been going on, the prevailing situation in the country means that many students will not be part of such online classes, the chief problem being the irregular power supply in Nigeria. So what happens to such students who cannot key in because of the said problem? What about those whose parents cannot afford to have radio sets? Often times too, tests have been conducted through phones. How many parents have such phones?
Education is key to the development of any country and that is why many countries try to make it affordable. The situation we have now is not affordable for many.