It is no more news that since the outbreak and spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) across countries of the world, all major activities have been on an abrupt halt without certainty of recovering soon. Economies of many countries are deteriorating into recession even when majority are already in, education systems, political systems even the social systems have been paused.
Olympic games, Tokyo 2020, Euro 2020, Nigeria National Sport Festival, Edo 2020 were key sporting events that got suspended and some postponed till the coming year while few domestic leagues are just crawling back to their feet with strict measures in place.
With this ever increasing spread and effect on various sectors of countries, many are giving their nods to the reopening of their economies so as to save them from total crumble and collapse far beyond sudden and immediate repair.
With the resumption of economic activities, questions flipping through the minds of many is; When will our schools reopen?
Since the first recorded case in February, the education sector in Nigeria was some of the sectors forced to an immediate shutdown probably as a result of its inability to carefully observe some of the precautionary measures or their proneness to contribute to the spread of the virus.
Unlike countries that have had their schools reopened such as China, Korea, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Japan et al where the spread of the virus has been curtailed to a reasonable extent, the virus is still very much active in Nigeria and even many other Africa countries with daily increase in hundreds, depending on the testing capacity.
Since the virus is still very much active with us and among us, reopening the schools at this time is tantamount to risking the lives of the future of our dear nation.
On the average, the student-teacher ratio depending on the country is expected to be 16:1, 17:1 and at most 45:1, but a journey to African schools, the atmosphere produced as a result of the extreme overpopulation in the classes would throw you off your feet. You see classes with average of over 50 depending on the level.
For secondary schools, what you see is students in their hundreds and sadly you see just a teacher in charge of such settings. The higher institutions of learning are a no go area. You can ask why do schools have 500 capacity lecture theatres and even more when the standard ratio is around 45:1.
If our schools should reopen, how would we be able to exercise the social distancing precaution amongst such large number of students?. How well will the students be able to cope amongst themselves in the face of this pandemic?.
Countries that decided to reopen took their time to put so many things in place before the order was given. Germany for example, gave its students proper drilling and orientation before its declaration with continuous disinfection of hands and surfaces within the schools.
In China’s Beijing, survey was carried out using a phone App to calculate risk of infection and some students were given personal thermometers to check their temperature twice a day.
Reasonably, a developing country like Nigeria cannot do all of this even when it is still battling with the process of testing its citizens. Testing capacity is still very low compared to the over 170 million population spread across the nooks and crannies of the country with the probability of many asymptomatic persons still roaming the streets.
Opening the schools at this time might pave way for a second wave of the virus even when we are till completely locked up in the first wave. South Korea who gave the go ahead was forced to shut them few days after reopening its schools after a spike in its cases. Our future should be secured for “He who runs from a fight lives to fight another day”.
Though the online learning might not be our way as we are inclined to the 20th century teachers using the 19th century curriculum in an 18th century class setting but it can still be used to salvage the situation we are in. The Use of mainstream and social media should be adequately and continuously harnessed for learning without limiting it to the younger folks but an inclusion across all levels of learning.
Abdul Waheed Shotonwa writes for Muslim News Nigeria
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