The sudden outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) which originated from the city of Wuhan, China, has become a major public health challenge for countries all over the world.
The pandemic led to the total lockdown of most of the human activities in various parts of the world, which also destabilised academic activities in most parts of the world, including Nigeria.
The spread of the COVID-19 initially spared Nigeria, like many other African countries, with zero recorded cases as of Jan. 2020.
This luck, however, did not last. By the 28th of February, Nigeria reported its first case, and nearly two months later, 343 confirmed cases, 91 recoveries and 10 deaths were recorded.
The closure of schools, colleges, and universities by the Federal and State governments was an urgent need which prevailed in most States in Nigeria.
Nigerian Government started taking preventive decisions on COVID-19 just after the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognised it as pandemic disease.
However, the shutdown of most schools and colleges in some states, including the FCT and Kano, in which the academic year was interrupted, had a tremendous effect on the academic syllabus.
Schools had to concentrate on scheduling their final exams before the lockdown commenced. The affected schools and institutions had to cancel or reschedule examination dates, and other school activities, so as to curtail the spread of the virus.
There is no doubt that the interference of the coronavirus pandemic has caused so many challenges in the Nigerian education system, which Kano State was not left behind.
In April 2020, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), with support from the World Bank, launched the COVID-19 National Longitudinal Phone Survey (NLPS); a monthly survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,950 households to monitor the socio-economic impact of the pandemic and other shocks
Summary of the survey revealed that School attendance in October 2020 was substantially lower than in January/February 2019.
Among household members, aged 5-18 years, 59 per cent were attending school in October 2020 compared to 74 per cent in January/February 2019.
Following the outbreak, a total lockdown was declared in Kano also, to contain the spread of the disease after the mysterious deaths recorded within a short period.
The deaths have raised fears that the coronavirus pandemic could have spread far more than anyone expected in Africa’s most populous city.
Following the lockdown, all academic activities in the State were suspended, which also affected the academic calendars of schools, especially primary and secondary schools in the state.
Alhaji Abubakar Musa, a father of five children in one of the Public schools in Kano, described the situation occasioned by the pandemic as a great setback to the education sector.
According to him, the long stay at home by the students was terrible and it has really affected not only the children but also the teachers and parents.
“The impact was more severe for disadvantaged children and their families, causing interrupted learning, compromised nutrition, childcare problems, and consequent economic cost to families who could not work.
“The lack of student to teacher interaction also led our children to feel less passionate about the integrity of their work,” he added.
Hajiya Halima Muhammad, another parent, said the closure of schools has exposed so many teachers, especially those teaching in private schools into a serious hardship which she said many of them have not recovered from yet.
“If you could remember, for over seven months, schools were closed, and parents were not paying school fees. With that situation, many private schools were not able to pay their teachers.
“It got to an extent where many good teachers lost their jobs because the school managements can not afford to pay them. This is also a setback to the education of the pupils,” she said.
After the lockdown, and schools were opened, the state government ordered private schools in the state to reduce their third-term school fees by 25 per cent.
Mohammed Sanusi-Kiru, the Commissioner of Education, who announced this, said the decision was necessary to reduce the economic challenges parents experienced due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
The state government has remained silent on the enforcement committee set up to ensure the 25 per cent reduction in the third time school fees.
Kiru explained that the State government has the right and power to enforce the directive on any private school, but choose to negotiate with stakeholders.
“I want to inform you that we have 99 actions that can be taken on any private school owner that failed to comply with the directive. Even though over 80 per cent of them have complied.
“We set up an enforcement committee to go round all the private schools to ensure that they comply with our directive. We wanted to be fair to all, but some are trying to be stubborn.
“Even the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the states have cancelled the third-term session, therefore we also have the right to do the same,” he said.
Also, the Deputy President, Association of Private Schools Owners of Nigeria, (APSON), Hajiya Maryam Magaji, said they have accepted the directive, designed to comply with the government directives for the reduction of school fees.
She said, “With a view to cushioning the effects of the economic hardship suffered because of the COVID-19 pandemic by parents in the state, the directive given to the proprietors for the reduction of the school fees was not intended by the Government to hurt anybody but rather done in the best interest of the educational development of the state.”
However, another faction of the association, Joint Committee of Private and Voluntary Schools Association (JCPVSA), issued a statement saying they will not accept the government’s decision to reduce school fees. (NAN)
Abbas Bamalli, a Media Professional writes from Kano.