David Iornem Leadership Lectureadmin@cub
COVID-19 and the Future of Higher Education in Nigeria: We Swim Together or Drown Together
Ukertor Gabriel Moti (Ph.D)
(Professor of Public Sector Management and Governance)
Department of Public Administration, University of Abuja
Presented at the 2nd Annual Lecture of the David Iornem Leadership Foundation
Saturday, 15th August, 2020.
COVID-19 pandemic which within months has led to unprecedented health and socio-economic crisis which we live in and which will mark our lives for long, has severely impacted the entire higher education sector around the world. Indeed, COVID-19 is a viral pandemic that affects all of the world. It has impacts on the individual and on society at large. The health crisis has quickly evolved into an economic, cultural and financial crisis. Immediate responses have been developed primarily to control and curb the spread of the infection, and led to the initial closure of entire countries in some continents, the reestablishment of borders for both people and goods. The number of infections and reported deaths are decreasing in some countries, while in others, they have just started rising. Yet, responses now also have to address all other related impacts and not the least those affecting higher education sector across the globe. The measures taken have had an immediate effect on higher education. They have impacted dramatically, the conditions under which higher education all of a sudden had to perform research and what is now often referred to as ‘emergency online education’; students need assistance; staff face unprecedented challenges, including job insecurity; university leaders have to reinvent how to run their campus operations. The consequences for students and the whole system will be felt way into the near future.
COVID-19, pandemic, although dangerous, and a public health concern, is equally an independent international standard world-wide country governance assessor. It has exposed the strength or lack of it of institutions of countries world: some have been found weak, non-resilient and some completely dysfunctional (Moti & Goon, 2020). This is applicable in the Higher education sector too. According to UNESCO, on 1 April 2020, schools and higher education institutions (HEIs) were closed in 185 countries, affecting 154, 2412,000 learners, which constitutes 89.4 % of total enrolled learners. At the beginning of May, some countries, experiencing decreasing numbers of cases and deaths, started lifting confinement measures. However, on 7 May, schools and higher education institutions (HEIs) were still closed in 177 countries, affecting 126, 8164,088 learners, which constitute 72.4 % of total enrolled learners (IAU, 2020).
In order to better understand the disruption caused by COVID-19 on higher education and to investigate the first measures undertaken by higher institutions around the world to respond to the crisis, the International Association of Universities (IAU) decided to launch the IAU Global Survey on the impact of COVID-19 higher education around the world. It was available online and open from 25 March until April 2020. The report indicated that most of the institutions have been confronted with sudden and unprepared shift to online teaching to respond to the need to continue teaching and learning activities and to engage and motivate students when social distancing measures are in place. The transition can be decomposed into several interconnected dimensions that impact the feasibility and quality of the distance learning provided, namely, the technical infrastructure and accessibility, distance learning competencies and pedagogies and the field of study.
It was noted that infrastructure and online access are a prerequisite for shifting to distance teaching and learning. In Africa and other low and middle-income countries, higher education institutions were unable to move smoothly to online provision because their students simply did not have access to the internet from home. Some institutions decided to fully interrupt their activities because they were not able to reach majority of their students through distance learning as a result of inadequate infrastructure.
Pedagogy required for distance teaching and learning was also a challenge for faculty to seamlessly make this sudden and unprepared shift from face-to-face to distance teaching and learning. The level of readiness or preparedness of teachers to lift this challenge is very diverse. Many higher institutions did not have the necessary management structure in place to develop the teaching capacities of staff in order for them to shift towards online learning easily. In the area of field of study, reliance on specific technical equipment varies from one field of study to another. This was another important challenge limiting distance learning. For example Clinical medicine, Veterinary studies, Engineering and several disciplines depending on access to laboratories were some of the few examples of studies where practice cannot be replaced by distance teaching and learning.
The Association of African Universities (AAU) observed with growing concern developments related to the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the life-threatening nature and rapid transmission of the disease which has been felt globally – its significant impact on the global education systems especially in African countries. It noted that numerous African higher education institutions (HEIs) and other educational institutions have been ordered to close in order to contain the spread of COVID-19. The AAU, eLearnAfrica and WILEY Education Services partnered to support African Universities, and expedite their migration to online education for teaching and learning (AAU, 2020).
From the preparedness survey to ascertain how prepared member Universities were responding to the COVID-19 disruption, it was learnt that the majority of academic staff were expected to partially keep teaching and supervising research activities during the period, 21 out of 78 Universities said they were expected to fully teach during the lockdowns; 41 Universities said they were expected to partially teach and 16 Universities are not expected to teach during the lockdown. Some of the top challenges that have been reported included “limited preparedness” for online courses, the “digital divide” affecting students living in unconnected areas, broad “infrastructure’ challenges, “lack of e-learning” platforms and “handling large numbers of students online” (AAU, 2020).
The AAU further stated that based on ongoing assessments of technology adoption by African universities it was aware that a significant number of the African universities have implemented some kinds of e-Learning management systems. However, it also aware that most African universities had not yet enforced technology-supported teaching and learning – this includes those that do have e-Learning management systems installed on their campuses. This is the appropriate moment for HEIs to move decisively to institutionalize technology-based teaching and learning.
The association lamented that in comparison, most of the educational institutions in the Americas, Asia and Europe have quickly transferred all their business of teaching, learning and research to their existing online platforms. Meanwhile, African educational institutions are grappling with how to move forward and keep their teaching and learning activities going on. Even though African governments have done some tremendous work towards improving connectivity in African countries-in most of cases, the infrastructure is still concentrated in towns and other urban areas. It therefore appealed that African governments prioritise the “last-mile” internet investments and facilitate connectivity for all citizens. Students and staff need continuous training for the e-learning environment. The E-learning tools are continuously changing and African governments need to provide budgets and ongoing training programmes, build effective ecosystems to support and continuously improve the African educational institutions requires that African governments create enabling conditions, promote industry partnerships and facilitate ongoing collaborations. The advisory ended with recommendations.
Recommended short-term measures that African Universities are being advised to consider:
- Use Zoom, Google Classroom, etc. for meetings and online classes.
- Devise options for students that cannot connect – e.g. recording the sessions and sending them to those students via WhatsApp or email.
- Review learning activities in line with online / distance delivery: e.g. assess what activities are most feasible for remote learners.
- There is a plethora of courses online. Incorporate existing online content that matches the universities’ requirements – e.g. Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs), COUSERA courses.
- Incorporate Cloud Hosting Services to eliminate the challenges associated with campus-hosted services that are affected by power outages or internet outages. Examples are IBM Cloud, Microsoft Cloud, VMWARE Cloud, etc.
- Communicate as much as possible to the university stakeholders – students, staff, partners and communities. The universities’ websites & social media must be alive and vibrant with updates concerning teaching/learning amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The AAU and Regional Research & Education Networks to facilitate negotiations with Telcos for the zero-rating of educational websites.
- Coordination with National Research and Education Networks is also key as African universities move to implement medium and long-term interventions.
- Coordination teams must be established to handle crisis communication, students’ queries and implementation of the short, medium and long-term interventions.
The Nigerian Experience (Background).
To understand and appreciate the magnitude of the Nigerian experience, it is necessary to give a brief background of the Higher Education sector in the country. Nigeria has 43 Federal Universities, 52 State Universities and 79 Private Universities (NUC/03/10/2019) a total of 174 Universities and about 104 Polytechnics as well as 152 Colleges of Education (21 Federal, 48 State and 82 Private). Generally the quality of infrastructure in the Higher education sector is poor with minor differences in individual institutions, whether they are Federal, State or Private. Indeed without the intervention of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) an initiative of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the situation would have been worse in most Federal and State Higher Education Institutions.
Universities world-wide are centers of excellence; intellectualism, research and teaching aimed at solving societal problems and extending the frontiers of knowledge. A situation where no University in Nigeria or Africa qualifies to be among the first 200 universities in the world gives concern and generates a need to look inward and identify the problems associated with this occurrence. Over the years, Nigerian universities have had dwindling budgets when compared to student enrolment. Budgetary allocations fall short of reference standard as stipulated by UNESCO, that 26% of a nation’s budget be for the educational sub sector. Serious gaps exist in the developmental programmes of most government and private institutions. Hodgson (2002), expressing his views concerning the vital role that infrastructures plays in development, states that the delivery of appropriate and affordable infrastructure underpins the competitive performance of almost every facet of a country’s industrial, technological and commercial base, as well as the welfare of households and people. Inadequate facilities management and maintenance is an area that has constituted problem in the university system. Most benefiting edifies in the universities are now eyesores, and shadows of themselves due to the fact that they are not adequately maintained neither are the facilities contained therein.
Global Ranking of Nigerian Universities
The table below indicates in graphic form the ranking of the top 10 Universities in Nigeria and their position on the international scale.
Table 1: Top 10 Universities in Nigeria 2020
|1||1233||University of Ibadan|
|2||1677||University of Nigeria|
|3||1704||Covenant University Ota|
|4||2077||Obafemi Awolowo University|
|5||2094||University of Lagos|
|6||2216||Ahmadu Bello University|
|8||2935||University of Ilorin|
|9||3057||Adekunle Ajasin University|
|10||3082||University of Port Harcourt|
Source: Top 100 Best Universities in Nigeria. 2020
Nigeria University Ranking, June 2020.
The poor ranking of Nigerian Universities globally is another evidence of the poor and inadequate staffing, funding, management and infrastructural state of Nigerian Universities. World University Rankings (WUR) have become very popular in recent years. They follow different methodologies to assess the relative impact of each university on science and teaching (Rauhvargers 2011). At the same time, these rankings are sometimes overestimated in public debate as a mirror reflection of the efficiency of research and the higher education system. Nevertheless, rankings are used in public debate to discuss the quality of university management and the necessity for reform in research and higher education (Hazelkorn 2007; AUBR 2010; Saisana et al. 2011).World University Ranking is based on six performance indicators designed to assess universities from four perspectives: research, teaching, employability and internationalization by collecting information from both public databases and global surveys of academics and graduate employers. Performance indicators comprise: academic reputation, employer reputation, student-to-faculty ratio, citations per faculty, international faculty ratio, and international student ratio. Academic reputation is measured using a global survey, in which academics are asked to identify the institutions where they believe the best work is currently taking place within their own field of expertise. Nigerian Universities are low on these performance indicators.
Budget and Funding
According to the National Policy on education (2004) tertiary education, which is also called higher education “is the education given after secondary education in universities, colleges of education, polytechnics, monotechnics including those institutions offering corresponding courses”.
The goals of tertiary education include to: contribute to national development through high level relevant manpower training, develop and inculcate proper values for the survival and the society, develop the intellectual capability of individual to understand and appreciate their local and external environment, acquire both physical and intellectual skills which will enable individuals to be self-reliant and useful members of the society, protect and encourage scholarship and community service, forge and cement national unity, and promote national and international understanding and interaction (NPE, 2004).
The above goals leave everyone without any doubt that tertiary institutions are established to give professional training for the production of highly motivated, conscientious and efficient manpower, which is necessary for nation-building. This can only be achieved if the institutions are financially well position, to cope with the ever-rising cost of higher education delivery. Over the years, higher education system has complained of poor funding. Universities in Nigeria have historically faced underfunding and at an operational level, compete for attracting the best students and faculty, achieving the highest grades. Adequately funded Universities not only ensure a higher standard of university curriculum, but also have the potential to result in competitive advantage over other universities.
Table 2: Nigeria Budget Allocation to Education (2010-2020)
|Year||Budget (N Trillion)||Education Allocation
|Percentage of Budget (%)|
Source: Ndujiehe (2018) Vanguard Newspaper; *Ameh & Aluko (2019) Punch Newspaper; **Abdulssalam Amoo (2020) Educeleb.
Table 2 shows that for past 10 years the education sector had an average of 7.24% as against the 15-20% recommended by UNESCO. This definitely cannot provide the needed infrastructure and meet other running costs.
National Strike Action
Prior to the lockdown in parts of the country, after a two-week warning strike early March, 2020, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) declared a national strike on 23 March, 2020. The strike action is to compel Federal Government to implement the agreements and resolutions of Memorandum of Action discussed in the 2009 ASUU-FGN agreement, the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and the 2017 Memorandum of Action (MoA), all of which have not been implemented. The strike also followed the decision of the Federal Government to foist the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) on the Nigerian University system, which ASUU has roundly rejected. Behind the strikes by academic staff is intense frustration over the Nigerian government’s failure over several years to meet the terms of its own agreements with respect to adequately funding the sector’s growing public universities – most of which are in a state of perilous infrastructural decline. Therefore, even before COVID-19 forced institutions of higher learning to close down in other parts of the world, Federal and State Universities were already shut down in Nigeria. It is the Private Universities and other institutions of higher learning that shut down in compliance with COVID-19 protocols.
Indeed the lack of state investment in higher education has been a source of tension between ASUU and the government for over a decade now, COVID-19 has additionally unravelled what government and the general public has refused to acknowledge all this while. In 2009, in the wake of industrial action, an agreement was signed between the government and ASUU to revitalise university infrastructure to the tune of NGN1.3 trillion (US$3.6 billion). In 2012, a new government agreed to conduct a Needs Assessment of all universities which confirmed that an amount of NGN1.3 trillion was required to correct infrastructural decay. This led to the signing of another agreement in 2013 in terms of which the government agreed to release NGN1.3 trillion over a period of six years starting with NGN220 billion every year. The first tranche was paid in 2016, after three years of the 2013 agreement, leaving an outstanding NGN1.1 trillion. In 2017 there was a warning strike calling on the government to fulfil the 2013 agreement. Another memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed reiterating the 2013 agreement, with another timetable to release by tranche the remaining NGN1.1 trillion.
COVID-19 in Nigeria and Higher Education
The nationwide school closures have disrupted learning and access to vital school-provided services for a record number of students in Nigeria. According to UNESCO, almost 40 million learners have been affected by the nationwide school closures in Nigeria (Obiakor & Adeniran, 2020). For an already fragile education system, the COVID-19 pandemic poses unprecedented challenges on the government, students, and parents that will highlight and could amplify some of the cracks in the system. As the nation begins to grapple with these challenges, a key question arises: Is the Nigerian education system designed to adapt rapidly to the changing world? Given the state of affairs in the world today, the nation’s ability to ensure continuation of learning will depend largely on their ability to swiftly harness available technology, provide adequate infrastructure, and mobilize stakeholders to prepare alternative learning programmes (Obiakor & Adeniran, 2020). For Nigeria, the reality is simple – while the school closures are necessary to curtail the spread of the COVID- 19 virus, until the ban on movement is lifted and schools are reopened, majority of students will not be learning.
Generally, Nigeria’s education sector is not adapting, and is expected to struggle on that front for the foreseeable future. However, the consequential socio-economic burden will be borne disproportionately by students in public schools, as compared to those in private schools. While several private schools have begun to initiate distance learning programmes, and taking advantage of the myriad of ICT-learning opportunities provided by the international community, the government leaning on limited funds and persistent deficiencies in planning, is yet to announce any official plans for providing distance learning opportunities, especially for public institutions.
Accoring to Olabisi Deji-Folutile in an Opinion in Premium Times (2020), “we have reached the point where the National Universities Commission (NUC), may have to mandate all lecturers to prepare their lecture notes in modules for online delivery. Of course, lecturers should be trained in the use of ICT for the delivery of online teaching. In the same vein, university ICT departments should be manned by real professionals. There should be a new focus on ICT development in all learning institutions” This was in response to the order the Education Minister, Adamu Adamu, gave that all public higher institutions in the country should go online during this pandemic and the debate it generated.
By now, it should be obvious to everyone that the performance of the Nigerian government and its publicly-owned higher institutions, amid this COVID-19 crisis, has been woefully inadequate. Some government officials even went to the extent of assuring Nigerians that some universities had already migrated online. Anyway, the Minister’s order is not even relevant now. After all, the directive was never obeyed and the Minister was smart enough to let sleeping dogs lie. The advanced countries of the world are today celebrating the “Class of 2020 graduates”, the special set of graduating students, who for the first time, in many universities’ histories, are having their convocation virtually. What this simply shows is that academic activities never stopped in these countries, despite the outbreak of coronavirus, unlike in Nigeria where everything had to take a pause even if the strike was not on (Olabisi, 2020).
The best the nation can do now is to use the ongoing crisis to advance its higher institutions and the education sector in general, for it will amount to double jeopardy if we simply allow this great opportunity to slip away without converting it to our benefit. Higher institutions that had hitherto boasted of hosting multi-million Naira ICT centres, have all ended up eating their words. Nigeria’s educational sector is poorly funded, although our leaders may have a different view. A total of N3.9 trillion was budgeted for the whole sector in ten years (2009-2018). Compare this to Harvard’s total funding value of $40.9 billion for the 2019 fiscal year alone and you have an idea of what it takes to run a world class university.
In 2020 for instance, a total of N691.07 billion, representing 6.7 per cent of the year’s budget, was allocated to the education sector. But, in the same year, a whopping N27 billion was allocated for the renovation of the National Assembly complex alone. With this kind of fiscal planning, it is no wonder that Nigeria’s problem goes beyond being a poor nation. In fact, members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), who are currently on strike, will tell anyone that cares to listen that but for their incessant strike actions, the Nigerian public university system would have been long dead.
Challenges of e-learning in Nigeria
Some private Universities during this period have embraced e-learning as a means to ensure their academic calendar is not totally distorted. These universities have devised the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools to facilitate learning during this pandemic. According to Adeoye et al (2020), private universities seem to be at the forefront of e-learning capacity in Nigerian universities as a result of their innovative and flexible operations. Regrettably, it appears that most public universities and other higher institutions have not been able to embrace the e-learning platform to the detriment of their students and the society at large. Various factors are responsible for this in the public higher institutions such as large student population, training of students and teachers, unstable internet facilities and other essential information communication infrastructures such as epileptic electricity power supply and lack of personal computers. These are major setbacks for technological advancement of the higher institutions of learning in addition to inadequate funding. E-learning requires infrastructural development which in turn requires huge financial investment and inputs.
In the ongoing debate to address e-learning in higher education sector and its usefulness, we must distinguish between asynchronous versus synchronous e-learning (Hrastinski, 2007). Asynchronous e-learning, commonly facilitated by media such as e-mail and discussion boards, supports work relations among learners and with teachers, even when participants cannot be online at the same time. It is thus a key component of flexible e-learning. In fact, many people take online courses because of their asynchronous nature, combining education with work, family, and other commitments. Asynchronous e-learning makes it possible for learners to log on to an e-learning environment at any time and download documents or send messages to teachers or peers. Students may spend more time refining their contributions, which are generally considered more thoughtful compared to synchronous communication. This has been going on in higher institutions of learning already at various degrees of proficiency.
Synchronous e-learning (Kinshuk and Nian-Shing Chen, 2006), commonly supported by media such as videoconferencing and chat, and other high-tech ICT tools has the potential to support e-learners in the development of learning communities. Learners and teachers experience synchronous e-learning as more social interactive event and avoid frustration by asking and answering questions in real time. Synchronous sessions help e-learners feel like participants rather than isolates. This is the aspect of e-learning that needs to be developed in higher education institutions in Nigeria.
E-Learning, the utilization of electronic technologies to access educational curriculum outside of a traditional classroom, in most cases, a course or programme or degree delivered completely online will occupy the attention of higher education during and after COVID-19 and must be taken seriously. However, online learning is a big challenge. To better understand how the pandemic is affecting Africa’s knowledge production centres, Mawazo Institute based in Nairobi, Kenya surveyed 501 individuals affiliated with higher education and research institutions across the continent (Kari, 2020).
The results of the survey alerted us to a fractured system, exacerbated by a global pandemic. While 83% of respondents reported experiencing disruption to their ongoing learning, alarmingly, only 39% said they were enrolled in institutions offering e-learning options. With little known about how long the pandemic is expected to affect the region, this presents a critical gap for continued learning for students in the region. It should be noted, however, that while there are not enough institutions providing e-learning, the trend across the continent is not homogeneous. Only 17% of West African respondents reported being at institutions with e-learning options, compared to 43% of East African respondents and 41% of respondents in Southern Africa, which suggests that while there are many similar issues plaguing the continent, the regional specific nuances are key in considering how to resolve these issues. Going forward, the large number of respondents experiencing course interruptions highlights the serious need for greater investment in online learning in Africa. Academic institutions should follow suit in ensuring that the majority of their coursework can be completed online. That is where Nigeria should focus.
According to the Digital 2020 Global Overview Report published in January 2020, about 60 percent of Nigerians are not connected to the internet. The statistics for mobile phones, which could also be used as a learning medium, are more hopeful. According to the report, around 169.2 million people – 83 percent of Nigerians have access to mobile phone connections; however, of these, 50 percent – around 84.5 million people, reside in urban areas. For the population with access, the proportion would be skewed towards high socio-economic households and urban households; an overwhelming majority of whom are private school students who already have a learning advantage over their public school peers (Obiakor & Adeniran, 2020).
Mitigating Strategies to stem the rising learning Crisis
The fiscal space to fund education has further shrunk with the shock in government revenue and economic downturn arising from the pandemic. Many items in the 2020 Education Sector Appropriation Bill, will not be implemented due to the drastic financial shortfall. Yet, more funding is required to keep learning going or scaled-up education support programmes as part of the government obligatory and palliative measures. The urgent and important needs of the moment will be improving lecturers’ motivation, learners’ preparedness and galvanizing domestic digital and media enterprises. Unfortunately, this is the moment government has decided to put more stress on the university component of public higher education system through the IPPIS that has truncated and mutilated the salaries of lecturers, left some staff unpaid for 5 months and threatening to ultimately withhold the salaries of lecturers altogether.
Coming to terms with ASUU and other University System Unions
The National Universities Commission in a circular dated 29th July, 2020 has asked Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities to generate data on the state of preparedness of Universities for a possible resumption of Academic activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a welcome development. However, the success of this and all other activities for resumption of academic activities especially in public universities in Nigeria will be dependent on the Government and ASUU resolving the on-going national strike action. The ease of the COVID-19 lockdown provides a great window of opportunity for this to happen. If this opportunity is missed, I for see the public Universities missing out on the 1999/2020 academic session and creating a cloud of uncertainty over the 2020/2021 session.
David Iornem and Distance Learning/E-Learning
Professor David Iornem in whose honour we give this lecture under the auspices of the David Iornem Leadership Foundation (DILF) has been an advocate and promoter of Distance Learning as well as E-Learning in Nigeria and globally as he champions executive education of managers and leaders through short courses and executive training of the London Graduate School and full academic courses of the Commonwealth University. These distance learning institutions he has established (London Graduate School and Commonwealth University) – are working in collaboration with UNESCO Listed Universities to make quality education accessible to matured learners worldwide via distance learning and blended learning. Iornem had a vision which most public universities and the government did not for see. The University College he has established in Benin Republic – Ecole Superieur Universitaire, Cotonou (also known as St Clement and Commonwealth University, Cotonou) is accredited and approved by the Government of Benin Republic. https://www.esucotonou.com/.
David has taken his Management and Leadership prowess global. The famous Dubai Leadership Summit and London Top Executive Management Seminar that holds quarterly has trained over 18,000 top executives from over 70 countries (and still counting). The Summit and Seminars are aimed at closing the industry and political gaps. These Summits and Seminars have been held in Dubai, Singapore, United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Ghana, Cameroun, and the United States. An innovative aspect of the Dubai Leadership Summit has been the introduction of the E-Learning for Academics and Industry Training Professionals, a course taught in collaboration with UNESCO E-Learning Series and a certification by UNESCO. His visionary perspective on Distance/E-Leaning has ensured that during this COVID-19 pandemic, the Virtual/Distance Learning option of the Dubai Leadership Summit has held three times in March, April and July/August.
As Director-General of the Institute of Management Consultants, he has trained over 16,000 managers and mentored several young aspiring professionals. His publications – books and articles and educational qualifications (most of them via distance learning) which you can find on his website www.davidiornem.com. This is the shining light of Distance Learning, E-Learning and Leadership that deserves to be emulated and commended for his foresight and doggedness.
The spread of the coronavirus through the globe from China initially spared Nigeria, like many other Africa countries, with zero recorded case as at January 2020. By 28 February, however, Nigeria reported the first case. Consequently, on 19 March, the Federal Ministry of Education announced the temporary shut-down of all schools in Nigeria, effective 23 March, in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Before then ASUU had declared an indefinite, total and comprehensive strike action. Nearly six months later there are about 50,000 confirmed cases, with over 1000 deaths with no teaching and learning in sight in the near future.
The school-closure measure means learners previously in school are no longer going to school. The drastic escalation of coronavirus will not only affect learning, it will compound the pre-existing education inequalities in Nigeria, with vulnerable and disadvantaged learners at the receiving end. Unlike her western and other African counterparts, the Federal Ministry of Education’s school-closure directive did not produce clear-cut policy measures on how to mitigate learning disruptions for learners and how to address the digital divide. It should be realised that all higher education institutions must swim together or drown together on this. To curb the widening gap of the existing education inequalities, there is an onus on the Nigerian government to put in place measures such as physical infrastructure, ICT infrastructure etc to ensure continuity, inclusion and equity for all learners during this pandemic. E-Learning, although cannot replace person-to person learning, it is the modern way to go.
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