By Isaac Asabor
There is no denying the fact that the question of whether Covid-19 has come to Stay or not has become an obsessive issue to many people across the globe, and in this context, Nigeria. Without denying the fact, the question is no doubt salient from whichever perspective it is analyzed from. The reason for the foregoing view cannot be farfetched as it has now dawned on health experts, particularly those affiliated to the World Health Organization (WHO) that the coronavirus may never go away and that the world populations will have to learn to live with it just as they have been living with HIV. The world health body, through some of its key staff made the prognostication in May 2020 when the pandemic became worrisome to many, and when global death toll that it caused was reported in the media to have crossed the 300,000 mark.
Still in the same nexus, the WHO said the virus may never be wiped out entirely. “This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities and this virus may never go away,” said Michael Ryan, the global health body’s emergencies director in Geneva. He added, “HIV has not gone away, but we have come to terms with the virus.”
If there is any badgering problem that the pandemic have caused, and which borders on the future of the youths, it is unarguably how knowledge through quality education should be disseminated to them from henceforth. The pandemic, no doubt, has left the challenge of determining how the young ones should be educated since education, to a great extent, shapes their collective future. In fact, the uncertainty surrounding the virus have compelled governments world-wide to go back to the drawing board to once again find how policies aimed at protecting the health of the people should be, and decide on measures that can salvage the economy, risked to be wrecked by too many protective restrictions, and how education system can function without the health of people in the system not being imperiled.
Despite the fact that since the emergence of Covid-19 that the internet has been buzzing with positive information about online education, or rather online method of disseminating tutorials, and that the advantages are numerous; from lower cost costs to accessibility to flexibility, not few Nigerians, particularly employers, seem to be comfortable with online education.
To my view, given the fact that the prognostication of WHO that Covid-19 has come to stay, there is no denying the fact that online education has become the new normal, and it should be encouraged and accepted, particularly by employers.
In fact, the current unprecedented situation related to COVID-19 is affecting learning at all levels, especially at the tertiary level. The situation has upturned course schedules and attendance, disrupted teaching and learning, frustrated examinations and assessments, delayed certification and will likely affect the immediate and future careers of millions of learners across the country.
Despite these challenges, in some contexts, it is clear that the crisis also provides an opportunity for the development of more flexible learning solutions that make better use of distance learning and digital tools. However, the shift to online mode of study during the pandemic should be seen first and foremost as the new normal, and the way to go.
Online education which invariably falls under part time education cannot be said to be strange to Nigerians. From years back, so many Nigerians, including this writer, have risen from grass to grace by virtue of pursing their education through part time studies. To this end, few anecdotes as expressed below in this context will suffice.
For instance, Mr. X finished his primary education some years ago. His parents seemingly begged him to undergo an apprenticeship in carpentry but he bluntly refused. What spurred his parents’ decision then was not far-fetched since they were living below the then existing poverty level. Annoyingly, he left for Lagos where he did almost all imaginable menial jobs.
While performing all sorts of odd jobs, he almost died of starvation as he had to save enough for his tuition fee in a continuing education Centre towards the General Certificate of Education (GCE). Happily enough, he passed all his papers including typewriting.
With his GCE certificate, he secured a job as a Clerk/Typist in a prominent bank at that time, and from where he equally gained the experience to become a student member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) and triumphed in its examinations. He later, in his career, observed that there is an element of discrimination between professional and academic qualifications just exactly the same way there is discrimination between HND and B.Sc. qualifications in our contemporary labour market.
Having realized that he stands at a disadvantage during promotional exercise in his office with only professional qualification, he started planning how to acquire either an executive post graduate degree or undergraduate degree in any of the management sciences. It was at this point of his ambition that the dilemma he was in dawned on him. How could he have resigned from his lucrative banking job for a full-time degree programme? Assuming he resigned, it would have exposed the foolhardiness in his disposition since there was no guarantee that he will automatically get a job after his full-time degree course.
The plight of Mr. X is not imaginary or isolated. It is one way or the other shared by many Nigerians, even with this writer in the past. Many are losing their senses as they daily ruminate over how and why they should resign from their place of work in pursuit of full-time degree programmes in the universities. The fear of resigning one’s appointment, especially for anyone that is already married, is too psychologically dangerous, more so, when the thorny atmosphere in the job market is considered.
A friend of mine once remarked that the fear of joblessness is the beginning of wisdom. Many Nigerians were once in a fix on how to advance the wellbeing of their parents, brothers, sisters and other kinsfolk, on the one hand and the society at large on the other hand. It was at this point that the acquisition of good education through part-time studies came in handy. Today, it is very obvious that they took a wise decision.
Happily enough, some universities in the country already have distant learning Centres which, to me, can be upgraded with digital facilities that would place them on a better pedestal to be disseminating tutorials through online mode of study.
Being a beneficiary of Part time education, which I am still proud of, even if some of its critics derogatorily assess its value, I am in this context strongly advocating that online studies should be the way to go in the face of Covid-19 which health experts, in their conclusions, asserted have seen to have come to stay with humanity.
It would be recalled in this piece that most of our leaders studied for their GCE ordinary and advanced levels through now defunct correspondence colleges like Exam Success Correspondence College, Walton Tutorial College, Rapid Result College among several others that existed when our post offices were truly offering valued services to Nigerians. Some of our leaders did their preliminary law programmes through external or correspondence study method provided by Ivy League universities such as Cambridge, Oxford and the like. As you read this, Harvard Business School and London School of Journalism currently run online courses which they embarked on, years back, before the emergence of Covid-19.
No doubt, anyone that underwent part time studies through online mode of study must no doubt know what it takes to acquire university education. The reason for this is that such a person would have in the process of undergoing his studies tasted the good, the bad and ugly sides of life. It therefore goes to say that such person would be serious in his or her studies like full-time students contrary to general belief. In my personal view, those who often see part-time students as dullards are committing a fallacy known as fallacy of composition in philosophical logic. The fallacy is of the assertion that a constituent is bad does not imply or mean that the whole is bad. If a part-time student is found to be a dullard, that does not translate to mean that all part-time students are dullards. We should not forget that dullards equally abound in our full-time campuses.
The fact is that if all tertiary institutions adopt online mode of disseminating tutorials materials to their students in the face of the prevailing Covid-19 that such decision will no doubt decongest population in campuses, and by that reduce the chances of making students to be infected or spreading Covid-19 as ideal social distancing milieu would have being created by the adoption of online mode of studies. To my view, it is high time we came to terms with Covid-19 through the adoption of Online Teaching Method.
Isaac Asabor is a Public Affairs Analyst.