Prof. Segun Ajiboye is the Registrar/Chief Executive Officer, Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria,TRCN. In this interview, he talks about the impact of COVID-19 on education in Nigeria and effects the pandemic will leave on the education system after it is finally contained. Excerpts:

By Adeola Badru, Ibadan

LET’s start by outlining the areas in education where you think the impact of the pandemic is being felt presently and might be felt in the future?

Well, thank you very much. I think one thing we will take away from this experience is the challenge that the COVID-19 has actually posed to education globally. Let me talk globally now, about 1.5 billion children are at home presently. Globally, there are 152 countries that are in one form of lockdown or the the other due to this COVID-19. The children are not going to school. There are some countries in the world that have actually been able to mitigate that challenge using technology. But Africa has a big problem, because in the first instance, when you look at some developed countries of the world that have been able to take care of that situation, though their children are staying at home, they have been able to use the internet to mitigate that challenge. They are able to reach the children at home from anywhere. The teachers are able to reach the children, but in Africa, we have a big challenge.
In the first instance, about one third of Africans have access to internet. If you look at Nigeria with our population of 200 million plus, only about 112 million Nigerians, which is about 61 per cent, have access to the internet.

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Big challenge to teachers

When you are looking at the access rate, you will also consider our people who are living in the rural areas. This is a big challenge to us. And that is why this COVID-19 has really posed a big challenge to us Africans and moreso, as Nigerians. You know we used to talk of out of school children, this has really compounded our problem. Globally, about 60.2 million teachers are also at home now. You know, it’s a big challenge to us as teachers.

How has it been a challenge to the teachers?

You know this pandemic has made it impossible for us to meet our children. The only thing we know how to do is actually to go to the classroom to teach. But now, this pandemic has made it absolutely impossible for schools to hold and so, teachers also remain at home and that is why, globally we say 60.2 million teachers are also at home now. As I said earlier, for developed countries, they are able to get round it, using ICT, but our own problem is compounded; we are not there at all.

Now, what school structure can be perceived as strategic during this lockdown?

Well, I don’t think we are ready for it. And I think this is a big lesson, it’s an eye opener. That’s why we are talking now that the system of face me, I face you, teachers standing in front of students to teach that we are used to, is not workable again globally. We are now coming to that reality. We have to do some other things to support that. And so, what do we do? We have to depend on technology. We now talk of technology-mediated learning and this is where the rest of the world is going. And the rest of the world cannot wait for Nigeria. Their own calendar is running now.

Their universities are running, their calendars are running, they will never wait for us. Now, it is imperative with this COVID-19, we need to check what we do. And I believe very strongly that after this experience, there is going to be a revolution in our education system in terms of how we prepare our teachers. Things are going to change fundamentally. The way we arrange our classrooms, how we leverage on the use of technology to move our education forward. And I think that is the way forward. We have to leverage on technology to be able to get it right. The way the rest of the world is going is to make sure that learning is democratised. And in order to democratise learning, you need technology and so, this is what Nigeria should be looking at post COVID-19 because the thing caught us by surprise, nobody anticipated it. This situation calls for a deep, sober reflection.

Who do we really blame for the situation we find ourselves at this time?

Well, let me say that it is a shared blame. You know, we have taken everything with levity over the years. You know, we were not able to wake up when the rest of the world was trying to move. We did not think a day like this will come so fast. We knew that it would come, but we did not know it would come so fast. This COVID-19 has now proven that, there is no alternative for you than to sit back and look at what to do and you have to do something differently to be able to be with the rest of the world.
We all have to sit back and think. It has really called for a big reflection for us as a country. I don’t want us to begin to apportion blame; it is a shared blame even for us in the academics, we must share in the blame. How far have we prepared our teachers over the years to be able to cope with this kind of challenging situation? Now, we all have to sit back, look at our curriculum, how do we prepare our teachers? What do we need to do differently now? A lot of technology will have to be reflected in our curriculum. Definitely, we have to change so many things to make sure that the curriculum now becomes technologically heavy.

How do you think the education sector will be able to cover lost ground. Not discounting the fact that some nations are reopening

schools already as of today? Apparently, schools will need resources to rebuild?

Well, we have always been lucky with the calibre of teachers that we have and I am very sure we are going to get round it, there is going to be a way by which we can get round it to make sure that we cover the lost ground. Presently, I think we are already on our long vacation. We have to sacrifice our long vacation and make sure that the period is now going to be utilised to make sure that we cover the lost ground.

The nationwide teachers registration and accreditation exercise is going to be a very crucial post COVID-19 issue, where are we?
You know, it is now very clear that there will now be a big focus on the teaching profession and the teachers post COVID-19. Because now, it is very clear the kind of people that can drive our education are not just anybody. So, the focus will now be on the teaching and the teachers in terms of the quality, level of competence, qualification and their performance.

I think Nigerian teachers will have to wake up. I think all of us as teachers now have a big responsibility, because we now know that given this experience that we are passing through now, we now know the role of teachers is not just something we can joke with.

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