Mr. Yinka Ogundimu is the Chairman House Committee on Education in the Lagos State House of Assembly. Reacting to issues relating to virtual class, Ogundimu in an interview with Ebunoluwa Sessou, explained that although online learning is a new innovation to be accepted into the Nigerian educational system, all hands must be on deck to make it work for Nigerians.
How would you react to the pressure that brought about virtual classes for children in Lagos state?
COVID-19 has taken its toll on all sectors and education is not left out. Almost every sector within the economy is affected. And in education, children’s sitting at home is a major issue especially for pupils in primary school and students in secondary and tertiary schools. All of them are affected and the pressure has been on the parents. The federal government through SUBEB is doing homeschooling which is not adequate but it covers some selected schools and areas.
The parents have been faced with pressure at this time and when we place it vis-à-vis the health of the child, I think, it is worth staying at home to be able to observe necessary precautions against COVID-19.
Presently, parents and children are doing online learning together. Unfortunately, some factors including the use of data subscription; electricity supply, and conducive environment have become major threats to online learning. But, I think, the safety of the children should be paramount.
As a policymaker, do you think virtual class can be compared to the onsite class?
It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. With the situation on the ground, lots of things have to be invented into our education which includes virtual class. Although innovation is not new, it is an alternative school. But, in Nigeria, it is new terrain. Even in private schools, very few have keyed into it. Everybody has seen it as a new way of life and it has been embraced partially. I think, there is a need to invest more in this innovation. It is not really compulsory that everybody must be in the classroom. Even organizations are putting such in practice and it saves cost. Nothing stops us from studying from home but we have to get this right. And that is when we can be 100% certain that we are ready for this.
Would you suggest that this virtual class should stop?
We cannot continue fully but we have to embrace the idea and develop it and it cannot happen overnight. It is something that can allow our education to be running without hindrance. We need to embrace and allow it to work. It is the responsibility of the government to assist those parents who cannot afford it by providing some facilities including community learning centres, libraries with internet facilities, and mini-laptops with internet facility and this will accelerate the workability of this innovation. The government should be considering a free internet facility for Nigerian children so as to assist the learning process. The mini laptop could be such that would be designed solely for education. Nigerian government should map out a policy in this direction.
As chairman, House Committee on education, would you sponsor this bill?
Not necessarily a bill. All the policies can never be put into law. What we need to do is to engage the executive arm of government led by the commissioner for education. Rub minds on something that is good and when the budget is considered, the plan will be included for the following year and it becomes a financial law. It could be divided into four or five years programme and implemented in phases.
Some schools are set for third term examinations, is this legal?
We have to wait for the final position from the commissioner for education and I think machinery is in motion for the schools to be reopened for both SSS 3 and JSS 3 students. The virtual class is just to keep the pupils and students abreast of the education and they can do their examinations online to test the capability of the students but not necessarily for promotional examinations. We need the commissioner for education to make a statement on that regard which I believe will be done any moment from now.
So, you do not know if the first and second term will be used to determine their promotion to the next class?
It will be part of the statement but I do not want to preempt them.
How is the House of Assembly responding in general on this?
The House Committee on Education has been having a discussion with the ministry of education and what the ministry has been doing is to ensure functional water system in all the schools in order to prepare for the SSS 3 and JSS 3 students just to maintain the necessary hygiene to curtail the spread of COVID-19. We have visited some of the schools and there is work in progress.