‘The COVID-19 pandemic poses an enormous risk to the health and safety of learners, teachers, parents, school administrators, education practitioners, and the wider community. More than 1.5 billion children and young people globally have been affected by school and university closures. The index case of COVID-19 schools and learning facilities in Nigeria in March 2020. Schools are not only places of learning; they also provide social protection, nutrition, health services emotional support for the most disadvantaged. It is expected that the longer schools are closed, the more the learning loss, the greater the exacerbation of inequalities, the deeper the learning crisis, and the greater the exposure of the most vulnerable children to the risk of exploitation. This development will have a negative impact on the rights of learners and poses a very big challenge to the realization of Sustainable Development Goal 4 on inclusive and quality education.
The economic pressures and negative impact of school closures on girls, children living with disabilities, without access to family support networks or online or other distance learning platforms limit their access to their fundamental right to a safe and inclusive education. In addition, the pandemic’s health risk to learners and teachers is very high and maybe devastating without effective risk-mitigation measures. The resultant unscheduled, sweeping school closures also pose an unprecedented challenge to Nigeria’s education sector. An estimated 80 million children, youth, and adult learners in the system are deprived of access to schools and have very limited alternative learning opportunities for an expected three-month period at the minimum. The closure of schools and learning facilities during the pandemic will also result in further deterioration in facilities and capacities for the delivery of quality education. Without an effective response, the impact of COVID-19 will further aggravate the already weakened Nigerian education sector, which lacks the required
resilience. Furthermore, the school closures will inadvertently increase the poor educational outcomes in some states. However, there are also inherent opportunities in the response to COVID-19. Available resources from global initiatives to support COVID-19 response can be leveraged by Nigeria to comprehensively address long-standing weaknesses of the education sector for enhanced functionality and resilience. This is an opportunity to strengthen the education system to be more inclusive and resilient in future crises.’
The infodemic will likely be on the rise as schools are reopening; students are returning from different locations and their perspectives differ from one another. What’s the way forward as regards curbing the spread of fake news, misinformation and other myths about COVID-19? As well as compliance to the guidelines.
Due to the level of distrust between the people and those in governance, a large number of people don’t believe in the existence of the virus, you can read this through their actions as regards adherence to the guidelines put together by the authorities but as many people are dying, Dr Onyekachi Onouha noted that a large population of the world have lost their lives due to COVID-19, but we need to own up; educate and protect ourselves.
Dr Onouha further stressed the need for parents to ensure that their kids are kitted physically and mentally to ensure that their perception on the virus should not be a destructive one. More work has to be done by the government and the CSOs as regards making sure the myths about the vaccine are also curtailed especially now that the distribution is about to commence.
Personally, I believe that if we do not work curbing misinformation, the ‘salt and water bath’ that occurred during the Ebola outbreak will likely resurface in another form. In his opinion, Tosin Paul highlighted that religious leaders have a core role in creating the right narrative about the pandemic. Attention must be paid to the rural areas; residents of these communities battled with distrust to government and lack of access to information, the government, CSOs, and individuals should also pay attention to sensitizing these communities.