Learning from home — Primary and secondary schools would have closed for the second term of the 2019/2020 academic session about now if the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) had not struck.
Yet, the stay-at-home does not feel like the normal holiday for many – especially those whose schools did not conclude the term before the forced closure. While a few schools had finished their examinations, most were yet to start days before the closure order came.
It is no surprise therefore that the stay-at-home does not feel like a holiday to many and there is so much pressure to learn. This is perhaps so because there is no specific end date for the holidays and resumption for the third term, which ordinarily should start in the third week of April.
A mother, Rose Azuike, voiced her confusion about the issue on the Concerned Parents and Educators Network, a popular Facebook group of teachers, school owners, parents and other educators.
She said: “Right now, I think my children are on holidays. They completed their exams and every other thing about the term was normal except that they had to close one week earlier and I am yet to get their results for the term. So all they do now is what they do during the holidays.
Yes, we are on lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic, but it is not time for schools to resume for third term. So, why all the talk about homeschooling during holidays? Am I missing something? It is barely two weeks since the government shut schools to check the spread of the Coronavirus Disease.”
Parents have, indeed, been bombarded by various home-schooling tips, particularly digital learning solutions. Some schools – like Greensprings, and Lagos Preparatory and Secondary School, Ikoyi which had developed digital learning – platforms moved learning online, while many others gave pupils loads of homework and projects. Some parents resorted to home lessons for their wards, while others subscribed to various e-learning channels.
For parents whose children attend schools that do not have e-learning platforms, various organisations have come up with e-learning products for learners. UlessonApp; audio books by Audible.com which is powered by Amazon; udemy, twinkl.com and the like are some of the international learning platforms wooing parents to sign up their wards. As a result of the pandemic, many of them have offered free subscription and downloads to parents.
There are also local solutions like Gradely.NG and Exquitec Remote Learning platform.
Gradely CEO Boye Oshinaga said the firm would offer schools a platform to send homework digitally to learners as well as provide Mathematics lessons for secondary school pupils doing poorly in the subject.
In a statement, he said: “Gradely would be offering the public lifetime free access to digital homework resources for schools to set free homework and support students’ learning while they are at home; a one-month free access to weekly tutoring for secondary students who have been identified to be lagging academically, especially in Mathematics subject.”
Exquitec is moving away from academic subjects to offering remote learning in coding and other IT skills. Its chief executive, Dr. Oluwakemi Olurinola, said the firm would offer Creative Art, Robotics, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) and programming remotely in addition to coding. She said they would not have to learn online all the time.
“They don’t always have to be online – only during facetime on video calls for the demo sessions. They would have the apps downloaded and we also would be providing resources for download. We will work with them via chats through the platform or whatsapp group,” she said.
However, despite these good solutions, some parents have complained about the data cost, which they consider unaffordable.
A parent, Mr. Tunde Oluwadare, said he would enrol his wards for home lessons as he could not subscribe to online learning because of poor network and data costs.
“I can only engage my wards in private lessons at home because if we talk of online learning, it will be expensive based on data charges. Then, poor network connectivity is a challenge.The government should regulate data prices,” he said.
Nevertheless, home lessons (which involve teachers going to homes of their learners to teach them) are deemed unsafe at this time as it goes against the principle of social distancing.
Already, the Lagos State Government has warned parents not to patronise tutorial centres during the lockdown to discourage gathering of people. Although it did not outlaw home lessons, people are being encouraged to stay at home and not visit others to minimise transferring the virus.
A teacher, Ayotomi Fasuyi, noted she was still engaged in home lessons because it was a means of generating income.
“They should not stop us from doing that because that’s what has been helping me to survive this period to some extent,” she said on CPE platform.
However, a parent, Nwajiugo Sarah Onyinye, said she had stopped home lessons for her wards.
“I told my children’s lesson teacher to hold on for now, just for safety,” she said.
For those who cannot afford home lessons, some state governments have started broadcasting classes on various subjects on radio and television.
Lagos State Ministry of Education started airing lessons in eight subjects on Wazobia FM and Wazobia TV from Monday.
The lessons are targeted at SS3 pupils preparing for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
The subjects are: Mathematics, English, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Literature in English, Financial Accounting, Yoruba and Economics.
The Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board also offers radio lessons on Eko FM and Radio Lagos for primary school pupils.
The interactive radio instruction programme airing on Eko FM 89.7 and Radio Lagos 107.5FM include: “Kokoka and Labe Igi Orombo” for Primary 1 and 2 pupils from Monday – Thursday 9:30am – 11:55am on Radio Lagos; and Animal Garden, Learning is Fun, Let’s go Learning, and Aunty Bola’s Workshop for pupils in Primary 3-6 would air Monday – Thursday between 10.30am and 1pm on Eko FM 89.7.
Cable network satellite television firms like DSTV, GOtv and Startimes are also offering educational content to learners.
A statement by Startimes noted that its TV programme tagged: Home Schooling, began airing on March 27 on ST Kids channel.
“The Homeschooling educational channel will air every Monday to Friday by 9:00 am African time on ST Kids’ channel with great educative content that will inspire learning and spark curiosity in young minds. Homeschooling includes social studies, science, handicraft, painting, and dance,” the statement read.
A parent, Mrs. Bolanle Sanusi, said she would schedule time for learning.
“At this time, Coronavirus is threatening every sector of national life, education inclusive. However, as a parent, my children will have a schedule for their studies. It is not all going to be running errands or fun for the children because they have to continue learning from where they stopped before the closure.”
For Mrs. Biola Shodipo, the assignments given to her children are enough to keep them busy.
“They were given assignments last weekend before the state government ordered closure of schools. Though that is the usual practice in their school, I believe it will help to keep them busy,” she said.
However, academics is not a priority for Mrs. Funmi Olawole right now; taking precautionary measures against Coronavirus is.
“At this time, all I have been telling my children is to avoid contact with people, to refrain from playing with dirt and touching their mates. Helping them on how to take precautions against the virus is my major preoccupation now. During their holiday, I can help them with their studies, but not now,” she declared.