COVID-19 Lockdown: Why Video Conferencing May Not Work in the Nigerian Education Sector
The 27th day in February 2020 marked the beginning of the CoronaVirus Pandemic in Nigeria, caused by the SARS-CoV-2.
It started with an Italian, but as of writing this article, we have well over 200 confirmed cases already in the country.
This is adding to the ‘suspected’ unconfirmed cases that lurk around the streets of the country. Just like Bill Gates predicted at his TEDx speech in 2015, the world was not ready.
This is true; several countries are struggling with facilities needed to combat the virus, with death tolls in some countries numbering over tens of thousands.
Major cities in the world are on lockdown, and while research persists, there are no clear indications at any breakthrough in vaccine production.
About a month back, the World Health Organization stated that there is no evidence that the COVID-19 virus can infect animals. However, in the past couple of days, we have heard reports of the virus being exhibited in some animals, including a tiger.
These international trends of the COVID-19 Pandemic are terrifying, especially taking a lot at the fragile institutions set up in Nigeria (and other African countries) Down to Nigeria, the confirmed figures of the CoronaVirus pandemic is not as explosive as feared (hopefully, it stays so).
While this is good news, the lack of integrity of the Nigerian Government makes it hard to believe the figures that are published daily, 9 pm. The lockdown of major cities - that have been hit by the infection - is a step that should have been taken earlier, but this is Nigeria.
After a couple of weeks of online protests and requests and the Government's so-called due diligence, a lockdown was put in motion. Businesses are on lockdown, schools are on lockdown, Churches are locked, and many of these institutions have started looking towards continuing online.
Several businesses were not prepared for the Pandemic (business without notable online presence). However, this is a talk for another article. The Educational Sector in Nigeria, as we know it, has always been traditional.
A sector that suffers so much lack of proper inclusion in the annual budget, and also suffers gross misappropriation of eventually-allocated resources, is undoubtedly not ready for the effect of a Pandemic. In a report, the global economy is predicted to lose over $2trillion during lockdowns, with several industries leading this loss chart, including the educational sector. Some companies that can function remotely have pulled resources and innovations to do so.
While some others are grossly affected. However, with an educational system that runs on the go-to-campus model, how do students get to continue with their learning? How can the time spent in the home converted and productively used in learning? The only answer is E-learning (Video Conferencing) E-learning – personal - has always been a thing in Nigeria, used by those that can afford it.
However, there has been next to no need for it to replace – on a grand scale - the classroom style of lecture Nigeria is used to. According to a Medium article by Steve Glavenski, about 300million students are out of school worldwide. A couple of millions of that number is based in Nigeria.
The truth is, our educational sector was not ready. There are several tools online that can facilitate learning, as well as video conferencing platforms that can imitate the typical classroom setting learning. The Government of some states, as well as management of some learning institutions, have directed that these e-learning platforms should be leveraged on, to continue the academic sessions.
However, these may not work in Nigeria, and there are several reasons for this. Poverty Poverty is not a new phenomenon in Nigeria. It is an intrinsic menace the country suffers from, despite having enough resources to prevent that.
The only digital means possible to replicate the classroom system of learning is video conferencing. But, taking a look at the poverty level in Nigeria, there are not many families that can afford to set up the infrastructure needed for this.
For effective video conferencing, you need stable internet, smart devices, and recording devices. However, all these are luxury for some families. If academic sessions are going to continue online, it simply means it is not for the poor.
Let's not forget that the poverty rate in Nigeria is at 38.8%. Even some families above the poverty rate line cannot afford the cost required to fund this setup. The cost of data needed to run a video call for just an hour is incredibly high.
How then do these families continue this for an indefinite period (with many families losing their day jobs already)? Bad Internet I have always fantasized about settling in South Korea because they have the fastest internet in the world. I work extensively online and know just how frustrating it can be when you are trying to make a video call, and you keep getting "Poor Connection."
Everyone is locked-down in their homes, which include students that traveled down to remote areas. Assuming they have the smartphones, but an awful internet, because they are not in Cities like Abuja where I am currently writing from. How will the connection to the Zoom Meeting for a class be fostered? There is no way the student wouldn't end up being frustrated. While others are surfing through the course, a student in a remote area is trying to climb a mountain in search of an internet connection. Infrastructures and Know-how File sharing, interactions, submissions, etc., are all characteristics of the modern-day educational system. With remote e-learning, there is a need for these interactions.
From my interactions, I found out that several persons (students) are not abreast of information, tools, and platforms in the tech industry – which is the sole facilitator of remote learning (and working). While educational activities ended abruptly, asking the students to work with what they don’t know how to use and maximize is not the right approach.
Even though familiarity comes with use, but the extent of technical illiteracy in Nigeria can not be over-emphasized. Many students don't know what Slack is. Many have never heard of the Microsoft teams app. Many don't know their way around Zoom. Many don't even know what to do with the Office Suite. We were not ready.
Final Take While this is not an article meant to point fingers at what went wrong and who is in the wrong, we can’t deny the obvious. Government and other educational institutions ruling that learning should continue online are simply hypocrites.
A lot goes into facilitating education online, and no measures have been put in place to make this happen. What the Government should focus on is getting the country out of this pandemic phase as soon as possible. Hopefully, the way the country and its several sectors have been run in times past will be revisited.
Till then, Video conferencing has a very low probability of being effective in the Nigeria Education sector.
About the Author
Oni Oludamola is a Professional writer with interests in Consumer Technology and Digital Entertainment. He founded and currently works as the Managing Editor of www.blackpenng.com. An avid reader, passionate about the availability of 21st-century information to readers.