By Ibironke Olurotimi
When the news of Nigeria’s first confirmed COVID-19 case dropped that morning in Late February, none of us was prepared for what lay ahead. We all thought we’d beat this just like we did with Ebola.
Faith-filled Nigerians continued to post things like “this too shall pass” on their WhatsApp statuses and other platforms. Here we are 60 days after and we can only hope we get out of this as fast as we can so we can gather the ruins of our broken economy and systems and begin building our “new normal” as a lot of thought leaders have postulated.
The government closed all schools in a bid to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and keep our children and all schools staff safe. This nationwide closure has affected our education system in no small measure and we have to deal with the effects of these on teaching and learning. The government has put in a lot of effort in responding to this sudden transition because children have had to learn from their homes.
Some of the interventions put in place by the government is the education and TV radio which has a wide reach and helps to close the inequality gap that has been suddenly created by the school closures. There is also digital content made available on portals hosted by the government to serve children who have access to the internet. Private organisations are also providing solutions at almost rock bottom prices and some absolutely free just to ensure that the learning of our children does not stop because education cannot wait. Some are partnering with the government to make content available online with no attendant data charges.
Sadly, some children will fall back because their learning was placed on hold, due to several factors ranging from loss of parents, poor and illiterate parents etc. Some will not be able to come back to school thereby increasing the number of out-of-school children which stands at 13.5 million nationally, a menace we all are collectively working to reduce and ultimately eradicate. All of these being said, the pandemic will come to an end at some point and we would be left with the after effects to deal with, how will we respond as education practitioners???
Post COVID-19, teachers will have little time to get their students up to speed and the might live with the pressure to ensure their children are open to learning again, putting into consideration that no child must be left behind.
Now more than ever before, teachers must begin to look at strategies, skills and practices that will help deal with the effects of COVID-19 and successfully get themselves prepared for times like these. I would outline a few things that education practitioners can begin to reflect on:
Flexibility in teaching: We cannot afford to go back to business as usual. Teachers will have to develop the ability to use:
- Data to inform teaching methods and strategies: Relying on using data generated from the classroom to inform the teaching strategy that would be employed. Simple assessments can be used to ascertain the levels of the children and then tailor their teaching to meet their needs. Teachers must always assess the impact of their learning strategies and be adept in not just gathering but cleaning and interpreting data.
- Digitised learning materials and digital skills: The internet houses a lot of innovations that can help teachers improve their teaching methods and strategies. We cannot shy away from the fact that the future is tech and a lot of learning in the days to come will be driven by technology. Teachers can also begin to introduce technology to drive learning in their classrooms, going from simple to complex. (Thisis very critical for those who are just easing into the digital world)
- Teach 21st century skills within their class: Using different teaching methods that embed this skill and measure the impact of these methods with relevant assessments. (Public education practitioners get in here!)
Differentiation: It would be important to note that we can’t return to business as usual. Children must now be taught at their levels. The one size fits all approach that might have been used in the past will not work ( It has actually never worked). Teachers must develop the ability to develop differentiated instruction. To create instructions that would meet each child at their level, teachers must:
- Develop empathy
- Understand that differentiated instruction is a blend of whole-class, group, and individual instruction,
- Plan : Be proactive in planning for their classes and putting all learners into consideration,
- Manage their classroom more effectively now more than ever before so that no one is lost in the cracks.
- The government and education planning bodies (MoE) must also support the teachers with resources and the required support for teaching and learning that would enable them carry out their activities effectively.
Planning: “He who fails to plan, plans to fail”
To remain ahead and relevant in times like these teachers can stay ahead by being:
- Informed: staying ahead by reading and studying about teaching and learning around the continent and in the global scene. Those who are able to think ahead and plan are those who will stay relevant.
- Critical thinkers: Those who are open-minded are quick to learn, unlearn and relearn
- Need peer support in communities for example teacher communities like The executive teacher, TTNF, school linkers etc.
- Prepared for eventualities like COVID-19 or worst-case scenarios; by producing resources e.g. Key points and study packs for emergencies especially those preparing for transition examinations like WAEC, UTME
Educators should also develop good relationships with parents so that collaboration with the parents can help learning continue at home. This is particularly important as a lot of parents are clamouring for support on how they can keep engaging the children this period.
Ibironke Olurotimi is an Amani Fellow and a 2018 New York Academy of Science STEM Mentor. She is a social innovator who works at the intersection of Social development and Education. She is based in Lagos, Nigeria.
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