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Online Learning

Positioning the Education Sector for a Resilient Future: A Systemic Deep Dive

Authors: Benjamin Udokwu, Henry Ukoha, Godwin Ukoha

As a popular rule of conduct disperses every household from door to door, I think it is appropriate to bring it into the context that goes as such – “Never in the history of the human race has such an epidemic affected the general welfare of every single country across the globe and its citizens as the Corona Virus (COVID-19) has done in the past 5 months”.

The simultaneous effects have rippled into every economy (both micro and macro) and every sector imaginable. But one sector that hasn’t gained as much publicity as the likes of the Commercial sector and the Health sector is the Educational sector. It is understood that the first two pose an immediate threat to the populace but the crippling and lasting effect of the latter far outlives them both.

On a continent like Africa, where education has steadily declined, there is little hope of revitalization, certainly not a governance system that gives little credence to personal and communal growth and development and to congenial learning environments and infrastructures. But we shall put the spotlight on the affected stakeholders like the schools/teachers, the pupils, and their parents/caregivers of majorly public primary and secondary schools as they make up a larger chunk of the educational sector.

Our analysis attempts to explain the forces at play in the Nigerian education sector, the effect of these forces on the education ecosystem, and the path forward for a sustainable future.

Causes and Effects

FINANCIAL CONSTRAINTS:

The Government– With the lack of proper placement of priorities pre-COVID and in-COVID, the governments haven’t been proactive enough to provide new economic opportunities and diversification to cushion the ever-raging effect of the Corona pandemic, thus leaving the budget at a steady deficit, leading to the incapability to support the educational sector.

The Schools/Teachers– Without a doubt, it has been such an uphill struggle for these institutions to create optimal efficiencies in remote/online learning, as they lack rainy day funds or, as some would have preferred to say, even faced with a backlash in pre-COVID income, to technically update their teachers and provide them with the requisite resources to deliver a better education for their pupils, including incentives.

It is barely an option to liquidate physical assets to aid remote learning as that could prove fatal for the business, in the long run, should the capital invested in remote learning fail to meet the benchmark and schools unexpectedly resumes. Also, seeking loans from financial institutions without the necessary collateral is a façade. Thus, leaving the schools in an abrupt state of hopelessness.

The Parents/Pupils– As a result of the pandemic, parents are steadily caught between crossroads of foregoing one home need for the other, and at a time where businesses are closed and unemployment is surging by the day, the inability for these families to have a healthy meal is becoming a growing fear. The low prioritization of education for their kids thus becomes a hard but imminent choice. These parents are also torn between home-tutoring/monitoring and apportioning adequate time in seeking out their daily bread. With less and less attention given to the child, the harsh realities soon weigh in on him/her, and in a bid to be rebellious, they could be found engaging in social vices to the detriment of the society.

(And it cascades….)

INFRASTRUCTURAL CONSTRAINTS:

The Schools/Teachers– With the obvious inability of these bottoms of the pyramid schools to provide their teachers with the necessary tools and incentives to carry on learning remotely, there is a strong tendency for these teachers to become frustrated with the situation and opt-out that leads to discontinuity of teaching. With institutions having to deal with their teachers in such an impasse, they are bound to suffer a downturn. Perhaps the only viable hope of resurrection is that parents must have a crowdfund to supply these gadgets and their peripheries, bearing in mind that it is certainly not a guaranteed approach, since these parents are also struggling to make a living, but it is worth a shot.

The Parents/Pupils– Piggybacking on the teaching discontinuity and coupled with the parents’ struggle to keep up with self-tutoring their kids which is most likely less effective in comparison with their previous model of physical learning and their peers alike in the middle to top class private schools that are currently engaged in remote/online learning, this may lead to learning discontinuity and if not promptly solved, will constitute in juvenile vices.

(It doesn’t end here….)

HUMAN CONSTRAINTS:

Educators/Teachers– As teachers put up with a defiant approach to embracing remote/online learning, their case is very much just as they expect the schools’ management to make adequate provisions. But then, if this remains the status quo, these teachers will be left unemployed thus ramping up the numbers in the unemployment index…this doesn’t go without the effect it will have on the economy at large.

Parents/Pupils– Limited resources often result in one making a rather uncomfortable but necessary choice, and parents aren’t left out in such a scenario where they have to decide which of their kids gets to engage in remote/online learning and who doesn’t.

Looking at the norms and belief systems Africans subconsciously hold dear to, some parents believe that the male child should naturally be favored over the female child. In a nutshell, gender inequality could play a pivotal role in the household.

Deprived children are inherently vulnerable to school dropouts, other events such as juvenile delinquency and illiteracy are turning to these children at the bottom of the pyramid… Looking into two to four decades down the line, these pupils/students will make up for the less qualified workforce to cater for themselves, their families, and the ones that come after them.

POLITICAL CONSTRAINTS:

The Government– In the wake of Covid-19, these public schools, which are accountable to state governments, are left unaware of the directions to be taken as a result of the inability of a reactive rather than a proactive government to provide adequate learning materials and guidance.

(And the vicious circle goes on to repeat itself)

As the popular African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child,” it means that an entire community of people must interact with children so that they can experience and grow up in a safe and healthy environment, such as a worthy case of what is applicable in the light of the realities that we face today. As no man is an island, so it is that not one of the stakeholders can stand alone in the way of this problem. All stakeholders involved need to hold a round table meeting to address this insidious situation that threatens their very essence and existence.

A draft outlining a consensual quota for each stakeholder to participate according to their specific capabilities is maybe a step in the right direction. Many external bodies also play a crucial role here, some of them being Telcos, Microfinance Banks, Dev. Ops, Product Manufacturers, PHCN, Government authorities, and a public space network such as Schools, Open Spaces, Event Centers, etc.

With the growing understanding that this initiative is not simply for profit-making but to create a social effect that will drive long-term economic growth to the point that it is a win-win situation for everyone. Physical learning alongside remote learning is educational models that can coexist Post-COVID and these children should not be left in the lurch at the bottom of the pyramid. Education is not a commodity; it is a necessity to live.

“Children are not things to be molded, but are people to be unfolded” – Jess Lair

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken adults”- F. Douglas.

Download the report here.

Positioning the Education Sector for a Resilient Future: A Systemic Deep Dive

 

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