Virtual Learning: How Nigerian Students face the rot of a failed system.


Tijani Abdulkabeer

Olu, a first year student of the university of Ibadan was a few minutes away from classes on a Monday morning, when he dropped a voice note on his class group, appealing to his colleagues to give him motivation.

In his echoes, “Abeg anyone way fit give me motivational speech, I need am. As I dey like this, UI won kill me. I don thin more than thin self. I swear I don tire. Gbogbo ara, oju lon ro mi. I no dey come outside again like before. Abeg, just anybody with good motivational speech way go ginger me because O ti su mi. I don tire.”

While responses to this note were being processed, another student identified as kunle also poured out his mind about how the new learning model has been tiring and the bulk of issues he had to attend to if he truly wanted to come out good at the end of the semester.

Some other members of the class expressed displeasure about the virtual learning modalities and the non-responsive attitude of the management towards simplifying the problems identified and paying attention to student plight.

These and several others were the lamentation of fresh students from the faculty of arts who have been forced to accept the reality of virtual learning in the institution. Though, this might be a personal encounter but at least, it speaks the mind of several undergraduates in institutions that adopted virtual learning.

If one would be honest, the education system in Nigeria is deeply stuck in the stagnant water of mechanisation while the current situation speaks closely to a nation still in slumber. From the archaic model of teaching, to underfunding, lack of evaluations and performance management policies, for years, citizens lament the free fall of the system such that it has become a laughing stock among other polities of nations. Students learn under the worst conditions – under trees – in sun and bare floors. The afflictions in this sector are so frustrating that they emit tears from the eyes of parents who do not have the required human capital to properly fund their children’s education.

To have this compounded, the sector is in darkness and its full of absolute deception. Just mention, favouritism, nepotism, we have all the ingredients in no small quantity and yet the self-centeredness of our leaders is unparalleled.

On the 11th day of March, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID19 a global pandemic and from that period onward the virus spread at a geometric rate. Since the outbreak, many countries as part of the strategic measures taken imposed various restrictive policies – resulting in reduction of transport demand, both on local, regional and international policies.

Nigeria, like many other nations of the world was hit really hard by the virus and to this end, the government at different levels placed various restrictions order towards ensuring that the virus does not spread beyond the known victims.

In the wake of this virus outbreak, we were hit unprecedently with a ravaging effect most especially because our school activities have been drastically affected. In a recent report by UNESCO, it was revealed that an estimated 1.725 billion learners have been affected as a result of school closures, representing about 99.9% of the world’s student population as of April, 13th, 2020. In response to this statistics, developed countries are embracing technological innovations. Virtual learning are increasingly adopted to limit the total disruption in this sector and even UNESCO recommended the use of distance learning programmes, open educational applications, and platforms by schools and teachers to reach learners remotely.

Sadly, as pleasant as this solution is, the presence of some major internal crisis coupled with the unpreparedness of our government for situations like this makes it impossible to be achieved. Poverty is one of those ravaging fuel that makes it impossible. As stated by the World Poverty Clock, the nation currently has about 50% of her population living in poverty, with many of the citizens struggling to afford three-square meals, despite the palliatives measures by the government. Looking at the above indices coupled with some others, it means that there are lots of students who do not have access to either food & shelter, television, standby smartphones coupled with the issue of erratic power supply. Such students also do not have access to internet nor educational resources, a situation that would keep on creating gaps in their academic progress for as long as this pandemic persists.

Just while Nigerian students have for months yelled on concerned authorities to consider reopening of schools after the global pandemic, we all are back to school but now in a different dimension. Since the number of infected people keep soaring high, public institutions across the country were forced to adopt virtual learning. And while this appears to be a new development, it as well could be said to be a long overdue innovation that COVID19 shift it discussion forefront.

By this token, this decision was accepted with mixed reactions from many quarters, and this was settled with the belief that these institutions knows her onions and would always ensure adequate preparedness for this new model. Though, this belief was taken in good faith, the turn out of events in recent time has exposed the unpreparedness of the management and proved rather different from what is expected.

Like the lamentation of students of the University of Ibadan, tomilola, a pharmacy student of University of lagos expressed displeasure with the way the virtual classes were conducted by the school management.

She narrated to this reporter how the management left them on an island of their own sourcing for how to get data connection to join classes, the unpreparedness for situations like this coupled with the fact that the nature of her course wasn’t put into considerations at all.

“If I am to grade it, I will give it a 4/10. It was not introduced because the government was particular about an advancement, it all happen because of COVID19.”

“Lecturers were just dropping slides on the learning platform and cases of lab tests that deals with preparations ended up with jargons. I couldn’t practicalise and what if my job requirements demands for it” tomi had said.

Another student, boluwatife, who is a student of Physics in the institution also decried the multidimensional issues she has to face as a result of the new normal.

In her case, aside from the presence of the above challenges, she decried the state of the learning platform and told this reporter of how a larger portion of the class lost 20 marks to a test that was slated for 5 minutes at the expense of the site traffic.

“It was not good for a country that lacks the facilities, she said.

Just imagine, I had a biology test slated to hold for five minutes and considering the conjested traffic on the site, it was difficult for over two thousands students in my faculty to access the test page at the same time, before I could load the page to get the questions, three minutes gone. and yet lecturers threaten to take the record.”

“By the end of the two minutes, I have only attempted five 5/20 questions and yet this was a test that the lecturer threaten to take it record”

Unlike this pattern, In Obafemi Awolowo University the situation is complicated. Feranmi, a student in the faculty of agriculture told this reporter how students jostle for access to classes due to the learning platform adopted by the school.

She said, “the school actually considered Google Meet that could only take 100 participants at a time whereas we are more than 400 in my level”

“We complained severally to our lecturers but yet they didn’t take us serious. When it got to the point of test, the least we did was to ask question but yet the remnant members of the class that don’t have access to the class were left to cater for themselves”

Similarly, over at University of Ilorin, the indices got increased with the larger portion of the students decrying the state of electricity around Ilorin metropolis and the poor teaching method adopted by most lecturers.

Ranti, a 400L student in the faculty of social sciences said, “Some lecturers just come online and lecture the normal way and at the end drop bulky materials for students to read”

“Students find it difficult to cope reading those materials and when it was time for test many lay claims that they were not thought at all and examinations again they are still having these issues.”

A Systemic Challenge
An SDG expert and an international youth ambassador, Olasupo Abideen expressed dissatisfaction in the poor handling of alternative education in Nigeria, he says that the major factor affecting it free flow is a systemic challenge.

He explained how the education sector has for years being in total darkness with the government paying leap service to it. He stressed the fact that it was very unfortunate that a country like Nigeria couldn’t explore the issue of virtual learning in public institutions.

According to a recent United Nations report, it noted that because a good percentage of all technologies deployed for the learning is being imported, it says the cost of maintaining stable internet access will be challenging.

The United Nations ranks Nigeria under the Lower Middle Income Countries which record only a 20 percent access to internet and a personal computer.”

A World Bank report published in June 2020 also established 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.”

Olasupo, while speaking further, noted that to get out of this ensuing drama, there is a need to review the present curriculum so as to conform with the virtual space, the need for government to start training lecturers and equipping public institutions with modern day equipments that will make virtual learning realistic. More than before, he said that there is the need for government to start considering the categories of students that we have in various institutions with state government working in conjunction with federal government to reduce the right for way for internet penetration.

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