The Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 (PTF) has recently assured Nigerian children and students that all hands are on deck to reopen schools at a safe time and urged States and Local governments, proprietors and other stakeholders to begin to take steps that will facilitate an early and safe reopening.

Minister of State for Education, Barry Emeka Nwajiuba said that until the government is sure that these children can go to school, return safely without spreading Covid-19, it will not take that risk of reopening the schools just yet.

Nwajiuba who observed that the announcement that schools are reopening on 8th June 2020 did not emanate from the government said that the government will work with the guidance of experts and the World Health Organization (WHO) before it reopens the schools adding that the Federal Ministry of Education will publish Post-COVID guidelines for school reopening in spite of Covid-19.

The minister also said the government is working on a model to ensure that all the children do not return to their schools at the same time to ensure physical and social distancing as well as proper sanitation and hygiene at every school.

The plan entails adopting a two-shift system and allowing those who will write exams to return earlier than others. May be even morning and afternoon class shifts to avoid crowding in the schools.

The question however is, are Nigerian students ready to go back to school or should e-learning take priority?

The FG launched free e-learning portals for all students in primary and secondary schools following the closure of schools nationwide to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Nwajiuba, announced that all students in Nigeria have been granted free access to following e-learning portals; the schoolgate.ng and the mobileclassroom.com.ng app.

“These e-learning platforms have been declared subscription free for Nigerian students in primary and secondary levels during the period of this lockdown as necessitated by COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

It had earlier offered all Nigerian students free access to its online portal without subscription for the period of suspension of academic activities in schools nationwide. The minister said the timetable for online classes in all the states of the federation that have keyed into the programme have been provided in the platforms and could also be accessed at the Federal Ministry of Education website.

Nwajiuba said the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Education, is collaborating with telecommunication sectors and network providers to grant the students free access to the portals on their mobile phones. The online learning is being coordinated by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) in conjunction with the States Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs).

Airtel Nigeria network users can browse these e-learning portals for free while other telecom service providers like MTN, Glo, and 9mobile are currently making technical adjustment to their systems to accommodate this free access. Konga the Nigerian eCommerce company has offered laptops and tablet for e-learning in order to meet the yearnings of the students during the lockdown period occasioned by Covid-19.

This pandemic necessitated the need to explore other avenue to deliver lessons to students and with all this initiatives in place, Nigeria has put in measurable efforts to enable continuous learning for its students and that is commendable. However, if this transition back to school will be implemented; the following must be considered:

  1. Schools need to implement a system to identify the specific needs of students once they return to school.
  2. We need to accept the reality that education at home may continue as people especially parents will always have concerns about the health risks they may be placing their children.
  3. Schools will face major budgetary challenges to meet the social distancing requirements demanded in the guidelines by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).