The Sunday Mail
The re-opening of schools in the last two weeks has been received with a collective sigh of relief from despairing parents. It has been a long and arduous wait, necessitated by the Coronavirus, a disease we would all be happy to see dissipate or disappear completely.
Education assumes towering importance in any society and is a right of every child as stated in the United Nations Charter. It plays a critical role in child development and goal attainment.
Education feeds into the developmental aspirations of nations, impacting an array of other factors such as health, marriages, character, poverty alleviation, economic growth and societal growth.
Yet it became necessary that schools be closed in the face of a rampant Covid-19. This was a global phenomenon. We were caught between a rock and a hard place.
Though regrettable, it was a necessary move, as authorities battled to stem the tide.
Many have debated the merits and demerits of course schools but as the President has repeatedly said, nothing compares to life. It cannot be recouped and restored once lost and yet with education, the economy and other things, restorative strategies can always be applied.
Prolonged closure had other consequences as inactivity amongst school children spawned other vices such as alcohol and drug abuse, teenage pregnancies and mental afflictions. Statistics have shown that many pupils have dropped out of school because they fell pregnant. Some justifying it by saying “we had nothing else to do”.
This is quite inexcusable. It has altered the future of many young ones. Many as young as 14 who are now mothers or wives at a time they were not mature enough to assume such roles.
Others were abused by their guardians and other relatives. Those that hooked themselves into drugs may now fail to find their way out due to the addictive nature of the substances they consume hence their future may no longer be as glorious as it was meant to be.
Of course we sincerely hope families and society in general will do their best to remedy the situation. The youths are our future hence we must do our all to redeem them. During lockdowns online learning was in vogue, as students battled to keep pace with syllabi.
This too has its flaws which include the cost of data, inadequate infrastructure in some areas, lack of requisite gadgets among the not so privileged and limited expertise.
Resultantly, many students could not attend online lessons or did so intermittently. This, of course means more work now that schools have re-opened. It is an opportunity that both teachers and students must grab with both hands. Things we used to take for granted ages ago have become “gold” in this Covid era.
Face-to-face learning has clear advantages such as close communication, body language assessment, enhanced opportunities for clarification, better supervision and physical interaction. All aiding the learning process.
Also, due to Covid restrictions, most students have gone through just half or less of the syllabus, across all levels up to university and have had to write examinations with half the requisite information.
The resourceful ones have had to take themselves through certain topics and parts of the syllabus that ordinarily require guidance from teachers and lecturers.
We sincerely hope exam classes will use the available time to prepare as much as they can so that students are not stranded in the exam rooms.
The importance of this process cannot be over-emphasised. Covid-19 lockdown restrictions have made us realise that things can change any minute. Hence the need to adapt, and to do so as fast as we can.
Furthermore, face-to-face learning helps pupils psychologically. They need to interact with each other and builds relationships and partnership that are helpful to their development at school even well into their lives.
The absence of such has affected some students mentally, resulting in some needing counselling services. Psychiatrists have stated that a number of students have reported mental disorders stemming from lockdowns and school closures.
But as much as Covid-19 has shaken the education system, nothing is entirely bad. It has also been beneficial as it has promoted the adoption of e-learning concepts previously unheard of and has allowed schools to explore the untapped educational resources on the internet.
A migration to digital platforms inevitably has teething problems and requires a period of training and adjustment. So, it is with this in mind that a hybrid approach, incorporating face to face and online learning was conceived as the best way.
Yet, complete schools closure was inevitable as the pandemic ravaged.
Now, with increased vaccine uptake, improved recovery rates at around 93 percent and better protocols in place, the Government took the right decision to open schools. The excitement amongst students was palpable as they headed back to their respective schools.
We should not be complacent though, the usual protocols should be religiously followed, anything to the contrary may result in another wave upon us, compelling yet another closure, and in a year learning has been massively affected.
Teachers and the pupils themselves will need to be watchful and nip any reluctance in this regard. Government has reassured the nation that all is in place for safe learning. The onus is on the schools themselves to enforce strict adherence.
A photograph that did the rounds on social media a few days ago of a young early primary pupil strapping his mask on his back for fearing of losing it had many laughing. His innocent mind was worried about what mum would say if he lost the mask, unaware of the risk associated with not actually wearing it.
The education sector has been unalterably transformed, new ways of learning have been incorporated and students will need to assume greater discipline and responsibility
Work is cut out for them as most lag behind.
The pandemic is still with us and its effect will still be felt in the foreseeable future
But the reopening of schools is most welcome and brings with it hope in this academic year, for exam and non-exam classes alike.
We should continue to be vigilant, the human spirit is indefatigable, let’s prove it.
In God I Trust!