By Stanley Nwanosike
Enugu -. Stakeholders in the education sector have urged the Federal and states government to declare a state-of-emergency in the sector in order to tackle the emerging challenges of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
They made the call at the virtual Big Ideas Podium conference, which was organised by the African Heritage Institution (Afri-Heritage) on Saturday in Enugu.
The theme of the virtual conference was “COVID-19: Opportunities for Education and Development in Nigeria.’’
They advocated for an expanded infrastructure in internet availability and connectivity to drive the various online platforms of learning (e-learning) to overcome the challenges of large numbers of students in a class, which negates the COVID-19 protocols.
Prof. Gregory Ibe, Chancellor, Gregory University, Uturu, Abia State, noted that it was imperative to intensify the use of e-learning platforms by getting educational stakeholders to work towards its ideals and expansion in the country.
Ibe, who was the lead speaker, said “There is an urgent need to train and retrain teachers/lecturers on the use of various e-learning platforms to deliver to pupils/students in most impactful manner and elicit effective two-way feedback.’’
He said that there was a need to give data allowances to teachers/lecturers after the training as well as provision of easy-connect online/internet technological devices for the lecturers to reach their pupils/students on time.
“The COVID-19 era presents a glaring picture of educational reform in terms of curriculum contents and teaching method, while technology and innovation will play key roles.
“We look forward to the resurgence of e-learning in schools as well as content and pedagogical preparedness must be in line with the reality of the time.
“They must be attained with all amounts of smart thinking. For instance, designing online learning (part of pedagogy) teachers must be conscious of time in the online class as data is not free, etc.
“The attitude of monitoring and evaluation will also have to change. These include capacities to monitor access to distance learning, to track learning process and interruptions and to evaluate learning achievement.
“This includes mitigation strategies such as measures put in place to provide support to learners, teachers, parents or caregivers,’’ he said.
Another speaker, Prof. Sunday Agwu, Dean, Faculty of Education, Ebonyi State University, said that COVID-19 provides an opportunity to re-setting the educational system in Nigeria, which is mainly theoretical, to practicability/applicability to daily living.
Agwu also stated that the budget for education in Nigeria, which is 7.24 per cent of national budget, was insufficient to boost e-learning prospects.
“One of the practical challenges facing e-learning is the financial constraints to purchase internet-enabled phones/laptops by both pupils/students and teachers/lecturers.
“There is need for governments at all levels to set aside interest-free loans for pupils/students and teachers/lecturers to purchase internet-enabled phones/laptops and get attuned to the modern e-learning education,’’ he said.
Earlier, Executive Director of Afri-Heritage, Prof. Ufo Okeke-Uzodike, said that COVID-19 provides a useful window of opportunity to reset the educational system to complement and feed the economy in a lockstep towards transformative socio-economic development.
“As such, COVID-19 provides a great opportunity to revisit and overhaul key aspects of the educational system: such as the often outdated curricular at all levels to align with real world expectations and resource needs of industries, governments and others.
“In so doing, the Nigerian education gatekeepers must be mindful of the need to keep up with global trends such as, changes in technology and communication systems, big data, data visualizations, digital economy and sustainability approaches.
“This is to ensure that lessons from the current COVID-19 pandemic do not strand Nigerians (Africans) in the next pandemic,’’ Okeke-Uzodike said.
He noted that Afri-Heritage remained committed to the transformation of Nigeria and Africa’s social and political economy through evidence-based policies, and transparent and accountable governance systems.
The virtual conference was attended by over 120 participants drawn from the academia, ministry of education both at Federal and state levels, states government officials, educational agencies and students in and outside the country.