The break of the global pandemic has held serious consequences for life as we’ve come to know it. The country was forced into a total lockdown in March and while things have slowly improved, the border closure and the presence of a 10 pm curfew serve as proof of the need to limit movement and the sensitivity with which the government is facing the issue. However, as the spread of the coronavirus slows down, the government is taking steps to lead a return to normalcy. In a staggered fashion, steps have been taken to open up restaurants for eat-in services albeit in a limited capacity, and the opening up of recreational centres and churches. The Lagos state government is also taking steps to open up educational institutions within the state. Typically, the September period tends to mark the beginning of a new school year and after their prolonged absence, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has directed all tertiary, primary, and secondary institutions to reopen on the 14th and 21st of September respectively. Naturally, this announcement has been the subject of criticism on the basis that the reopening of schools is premature owing to the fear that the increased exposure amongst students who will have to commute back and forth to their parents who fall within the demographic of those most susceptible to the virus could lead to a new wave. This raises questions on the government’s plans to litigate against this. There are also structural issues at hand- there’s a wide disparity in resources between private and public schools and this will undoubtedly play a role in how equipped they are to manage the process of returning and the mass numbers.
Education Post COVID 19
Over the course of interviews with the proprietors of 4 schools (2 public schools and 2 private schools) a general theme and expression of readiness to return to the classroom emerged. Some schools have taken the steps of fumigating their premises and submitting themselves for inspection by government officials. In cases where the officials were dissatisfied, the schools were asked to repeat the exercise.
However, some schools that have been in operation since August 4th to allow senior students to take their West African Educational Council (WAEC) exams have followed strict safety protocols and intend on doing so upon full resumption. Mrs. A.A Bello, the Principal(Junior School) of Girls Academy, a public school in Lagos Island offered an insight into the safety guidelines the schools have been mandated to follow. They include the provision of an isolation center, availability of health care, and complete protection kits. At a meeting convened by Principals and Vice-Principals in Lagos Island, it was agreed that morning assembly services will be scrapped indefinitely. Instead, teachers will hold 15-minute motivational sessions with students in their various classes. Webinars have also been conducted to offer training for teachers on navigating the “new normal”.
Speaking to the school administrators, there’s a clear desire for the resumption of the school session. One school of thought is of the belief that it is in the best intentions of the students for the schools to resume. Mrs. Bello argues that “we’ll have to start over with some kids. A few won’t recall what they’ve learned so far.” Another school of thought posits that the indefinite stay at home could lead some students away from the straight and narrow. Mrs. T.R. Idowu, the Principal (Senior School) of Girl’s Academy says “These students are busy selling things in the market and making money illegally. They are whiling away time. The more they stay at home the more chances they’ll lose interest in returning.” When asked if resuming was safe despite preventive measures put in place, they saw nothing to fret about. Mrs. Idowu goes further saying that “whatever it is we are keeping these students from within the school premises will get to them out there. The market and other places are not safe either but you see them there. Why is returning to school any different?”
Uncertainty from the Government
While the Lagos state government has announced its position, there is still uncertainty over the announcement and potential return to full-time education. In an interview with Comrade. Sulaimon Adenrele, Treasurer of the Lagos Island chapter of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), he pooh-poohed the impending return citing the failure of the government to inform the teachers of their position and engage them in conversation. He said, “we are eager to resume but right now, there are no plans in place because the date given by the government is a tentative one.”