The coronavirus pandemic has overwhelmed the world systems, specifically crippling health, hospitality, aviation, and sports sectors. The education sector has also been adversely affected as the attempt to curtail the spread of the virus has resulted in the closure of schools. While many schools have adopted online learning, a lot of underprivileged children have had their education come to an indefinite halt. This foretells a significant rise in the numbers of out of school children in Nigeria.
EFFECTS OF COVID-19 SCHOOL CLOSURES
The Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria through the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control confirmed the first coronavirus case in Lagos State on the 27th of February 2020. Following the rapid spread of the highly contagious disease across the other states, the Federal Ministry of Education ordered the immediate closure of schools in the country on 26th of March, 2020 as a proactive measure aimed at curtailing the further spread of the dreaded virus.
According to UNICEF, the closure of schools has affected more than 91 per cent of students worldwide, that is, around 1.6 billion children and young people. This pandemic marks an unprecedented period that is recording the highest number of children out of school and massive disruption in learning especially among the most vulnerable and marginalized populations. For Nigeria; a country battling a learning crisis driven by poverty, cultural factors, and conflict-induced displacement pre-pandemic, the closure of schools signals a brewing crisis within a crisis.
Nigeria is home to 16 million out of school children as a result of an underfunded educational system fraught by low-quality teaching, inequity, and low government priority on innovation or infrastructure. Extended school closures may cause loss of learning that will increase the number of dropouts, subsequently worsening the rate of inequality and illiteracy. Loss of education also bears far-reaching consequences that will impact on the socio-economic development of the country.
To mitigate the negative impact of disrupted learning, the State and Federal government in collaboration with development organisations need to implement better responses that prioritise continued learning during the pandemic and substantial efforts need to be ensured to minimise the effect of the learning gap on vulnerable children.