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Nigerians face multiple hurdles to online learning

Rita Nwankwo instructs her own children while in lockdown in Nigeria. (Blessing Udeobasi/YJI)

Nsugbe, Anambra, NIGERIA – Trying to continue academic lessons during the coronavirus pandemic is proving especially difficult here, students and teachers said.

While Nigerians are suffering some of the same hardships as people in other parts of the world, with food and transportation costs hiked and the economy battered.

The government partially lifted a lockdown, however, allowing interstate movement, religious gatherings and major markets to open as long as public health guidelines, such as social distancing, were observed.

Many schools, though, stayed closed, frustrating parents and youth who have been idle and are worried about falling far behind in their lessons.

While many nations transferred to online learning – some with more trouble than others – it seems out of reach for many Nigerian youth.

Poor internet connection or access to the internet, a low standard of living, an unreliable supply of electricity and computer illiteracy are some of the issues between Nigerian students and online learning.

For Rita Nwankwo, a schoolteacher and mother of four, this unexpected hold on academic activities will cause a setback in student progress and confusion whenever schools eventually resume.

“Students have not even written their second term exams and we’re supposed to be in third term now,” Nwankwo said. “We don’t even know whether to start from second or third term if schools should resume any moment from now. The system is confused and everything has been disorganized.”

The Nigerian government suggested that schools create a platform for online learning during the lockdown. State officials in Anambra state organized a radio program where students were taught over the air at specific times.

Nwankwo is among those who said that style of learning is not feasible here.

“Some students are slow learners and some will only do things when they are cajoled to do so,” Nwankwo said. “This means that the on-air method is not effective. I’m not even sure if it is still in existence.  Also, most parents are illiterate and cannot guide the children on what to do to effectively follow up on the on-air classes.”

If that weren’t enough, most parents don’t know how to help their children with their homework, because they don’t know the material.

Some parents have found alternatives to educating their children – teaching them at home, as Nwankwo did, or even hiring a teacher.

Nwankwo said that despite rising cases of coronavirus, keeping children at home is not the best solution since online lessons aren’t feasible.

There is no point in keeping the economy on a standstill just because of a virus, Nwankwo said.

The pandemic is already here, and keeping schools and everything else shut won’t solve any problem but worsen it, according to Nwankwo. She said it is best to go back to living our normal lives while using social distancing and other preventative measures to cope with the deadly virus.

But re-opening schools now is difficult, Nwankwo said, considering the need for proper hygiene and social distancing.

Like many children, nine-year-old Ngozi Udegbunam, a class six pupil has been out of school since the lockdown without any means to continue learning. She wants school to open so she can be promoted past primary school, but said she’s forgotten almost everything she learned in school.

She does remember the lessons her mother, who is a teacher in a different school, taught her during lockdown, Udegbunam said.

The situation is the same for university students.

Obi Nisa Obioma, a student at the University of Calabar in Nigeria. (Blessing Udeobasi/YJI)

Many of them were already set for first semester exams and others were just getting started when the nationwide lockdown ensued.  Everything was suddenly put on hold, while the clock kept ticking.

Students in their final year are no longer sure of graduating on time and those who just got admitted haven’t even completed their registration. The zeal and motivation they started the semester with has withered away and some of those who were done reading for their exams have forgotten the material.

“I find it hard to go back to my books or read right now owing to the fact that the whole educational system has been halted due to the pandemic, with no idea when it is to be reopened,” said Obi Nisa Obioma, who is in her third year at the University of Calabar in Nigeria.

Obioma said her university tried to adopt an e-learning method, but it didn’t work out.

“I have forgotten almost everything I read, prepared for and was taught while school was in session,” Obioma said. “It has really affected me greatly.”

Blessing Udeobasi is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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