He said “a large population of Africa students do not have access to the required infrastructure for online and remote learning.
“Therefore the online learning solution can only cater for a few, raising the risk of socioeconomic inequality in the future,” he added.
Beyond access to technology, Ajefo also identified infrastructure, skill personnel resource, uncharted territory in comparison to traditional education, knowledge gap on use of technology as well as internet security, privacy and child safety as other factors that hindered the smooth transitioning to online learning.
Sustaining Online Learning Post COVID
Despite the shortcomings that have been recorded while using various online platforms as alternatives to physical classes, experts believed that online learning can be sustained even after the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Emi Harry, it is not only possible but Nigeria can make great strides in online learning.
She explained that “the reason it’s been slow to adopt is because of the digital divide — which basically refers to the lack of access to the internet in low-income and poverty-stricken communities.
“The lack of willing collaborators in the private sector and lack of foresight by the government to create incentives for the private sector, like grant schemes, tax breaks, lower importation tariffs for tools necessary for development.
“However, if you dwell only on these problems I just listed, it will seem like a daunting challenge, but despite all of those challenges, Nigeria still has innovators that choose to work around the problems and find solutions.
“Companies like Alula Learning, Slum2School, Gradely, Edtech.ng, and Naina Tech, to name a few, are currently either offering or creating online learning solutions,” she added.
Harry thereafter recommended partnership with the private sector as a way to sustain online learning post COVID era.
“One major way this online learning solutions can be sustained in Nigeria, post-COVID, is by intentional partnerships between the various internet providers and ed-tech companies to ensure that individuals in our society who are plagued by the digital divide, due to poverty, can have free access to the internet, where this access is limited to the educational platforms only.
“They can even be made to pay a nominal fee of N50 – N100 monthly as research has shown that poor people feel more committed to a charitable cause if they have some sort of financial stake in it. These companies can consider it as their corporate social responsibility.
“Another way it can be sustained is through partnerships with the government, where they can decide to offer internet providers and mobile device manufacturers (like Samsung, and Huawei) with tax incentives if they support equity in access to online learning for the disadvantaged portion of our society.”
She concluded that, “in all, it will take a collective effort to ensure that it is sustained.”
Kokoma Brown also believes that e-learning can be sustained after activities have returned to normal, adding that “we’ve come to the age of digital learning”
“I’ll like to call it BC (Before COVID) and AD (After Disease), with that being said e-learning has come to stay. This is because the ease of learning has been tasted and it’s really hard going back.
“My advice however to schools will be don’t just stop at getting a platform for marking attendance and sharing report cards with the parents, they should explore content development and also training for the teachers on how to use online mediums to create content and to deliver training,” she added.
Ebe also agreed that online learning can continue despite the reopening of schools, adding that it would be of great benefit to learners.
She said, “Our education system will benefit from a hybrid of traditional classroom learning and online learning.
“Also, there are thousands of children who do not have access to the traditional classroom that can receive an education through online learning programs.”
Clifford Ajefo, however, believes that “online learning is now the new normal and efforts should be made towards improving this ed-tech solution.”
Redefining the Education Sector
The World Bank in a publication in June 2020 noted that the education sector would be disrupted after bans on school closures are lifted.
“Without effective policy responses when students return to school, approximately $10 trillion of lifecycle earnings (at present value in 2017 PPP) could be lost for this cohort of learners — because of their lower levels of learning, their lost months in school closures, or their potential for dropping out from school.
“This is approximately 16% of the investments that governments have made in this cohort of students’ basic education,” according to the World Bank report.
Regarding mitigating the effect of the pandemic on the education sector, Ruth Ebe stressed the need to address the gaps in the sector before the pandemic, noting that the challenges are still there and needed to be addressed.
“Before the shutdown of schools, we had highly significant gaps in our education system in regard to certain educational policies, access, teacher quality, infrastructure, etc.
“We must all remember that these challenges still exist.
“The pandemic hasn’t made any of these gaps less significant. We have a collective responsibility to ensure that every child has access to quality education and is receiving quality education.
“We still have a mission to leave no child behind,” Ebe added.
Ajefo recommended curriculum reform as well as equipping teachers and schools with necessary skills and learning tools to improve the education sector.
“The curricula and syllabus needs to be revisited to include subjects that fosters creativity and innovation which is key to disrupt the current African narrative from consumers to creators.
“Brainiacs offers a curriculum development program that aids schools embed STEAM into their current existing curriculum.”
He also added that “there is a need for schools to be properly equipped and staffed to compete with international standards. Without the necessary tools in-place students will struggle to compete in the global market.”
Kokoma Brown reckons that teachers need to be trained on e-learning practices, as such would shape the future of education in Nigeria.
“One of the biggest problems with the adaptation of ed-tech in schools is the lack of technical know-how on the part of the teachers. The teachers aren’t trained or informed on e-learning practices, so there’s a struggle when we come up with such solutions.
“The government, especially the Education Board, has a major role to play here by ensuring there’s an e-learning curriculum so that the teachers are properly equipped for growth.
“Another advice to the government is to invest in digital, equip the computer rooms in such areas so that students and teachers can practice.”
Brown however noted that, “everyone has a hand in bettering education, government, school owners, teachers and even the students. We need to work together in making this possible.”