Tuesday, January 18, 2022

COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and subsequent closure of primary, secondary and tertiary education on March 23rd, has shifted the base of formal learning in Lagos State to E-Learning. Residents of Alimosho Local Government area of Lagos, express fear that the continued closure of academic activities would increase the numbers of drop outs amongst female students who are mostly in secondary school as a result of pregnancy.

“Initially, I did not know how serious COVID-19 pandemic lockdown would affect my education, when it was announced that schools have been closed till further notice in March I felt relieved, not knowing that it would take longer than I have envisaged. When E-Learning was introduced, having data to use for the online class that was scheduled by my school became a big challenge for me. The rate at which my data was consumed was very alarming. Before the pandemic lockdown started, I used to do a monthly subscription of ₦1,000.00 for 1GB, but since the advent of COVID-19, that same 1GB subscription hardly last for a week. So to me, online learning is too expensive and for that I have missed several classes. So it is for most of my classmates, online learning is not really good. We do have 2 – 4hours class everyday but I have missed several classes because I don’t use to have data every time. What I do most times after online class is to do my house chores and relax at home,” says 16-year-old Deborah Olanipekun.

Mrs Adejoke, a single mother of three who owns a store in Alimosho also said,

“I have three daughters, the eldest is about to write the next West Africa Examination (WAEC), but this pandemic lockdown has scattered everything. When I was informed about her school plan to start an online class, I was initially excited but things begins to turn the other way round when the demand for data became rampant, and due to my inability to provide data for her, she often miss class. Meanwhile, are two younger sisters attend a different public school here but the school have no provision for online learning. So I told her to be teaching her little sister what she knows till when schools re-open. We often don’t have constant electric power supply so it is always difficult to follow the Radio and Television broadcast. Online learning and staying at home is more expensive for me, I am a trader and their father is late, am the only one catering for their education so there is limitations to how long I can buy data. I am just being careful and have been praying to God for her not to be impregnated by those boys around, because that is what is happening around this place now. Small small girls around are just getting pregnant,”

“Nigeria educational infrastructure was built to prioritize face to face learning, person to person interaction until the coming of National Open University, everything was mostly face to face learning. But take note, not every learning can be done online, at some point, even curricular that are base on online modules have a part that is face to face. So definitely, what is happening now is educational institutions looking for fund to balance their online learning. No nation can survive with 100percent demand for any service; the internet cannot accommodate the world population at once. If that is done, the internet will crash. COVID-19 came with lockdown, social distancing and amongst others. As a result, everyone rushed to the internet without considering its price. School feeding program ought to be suspended, ‘abi’ how can children be in their fathers house and government will be feeding them while the parents are hungry. For instance, if I have four children in three different public schools and government official came to my house to feed one of them. How will I feed the remaining three? School feeding while children are at home is not the best solution. Such fund ought to be used to sponsor E-Learning in schools. Parents need to be empowered so as to be able to feed their children; this would discourage the girl-child from being lured by outsiders with peanut. Hunger can make the girl child to get close to outsiders who would take advantage of such poor child and impregnate her putting an end to her education,” says Adegbile Tajudeen, Social Science Teacher in a Private School in Alimosho Lagos.

The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen, earlier warned that the COVID-19 pandemic would likely lead to many girl child dropping out of school in Nigeria. She made the statement at the opening ceremony of the 2020 National Children’s Day celebration, tagged: “Promoting Girl-Child Education for Sustainable Development”, in Abuja.

“As we are all aware, Nigeria is already facing the struggle of enrolling the girl-child in school, the COVID-19 pandemic has a high tendency to set us back, as the likelihood for increased school drop-out rates of those already enrolled. These issues will further widen the gender gaps in education and lead to increase in all forms of violence such as sexual, physical and emotional exploitation, early and forced marriages, child trafficking and child labour,” says Tallen.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s violation of the national gender policy, which requires a minimum of 35percent female representation as against 16percent that is present in the President’s cabinet has made matters for female representation and equality a matter for lip-service only as further evidence points that only 7 out of the 109 Senate seats and 14 out of the 360 House of Representative seats are occupied by women. For the sustainable development goal of ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life to be actualized, there is an urgent need to apply a more realistic approach to the involvement of women in various stakeholders in the society. Government have to take the lead by supporting initiatives and implementing policies that will improve the cause of women, while private sector should adopt codes of conduct that strongly recognize the need for gender diversity. Civil society also have the obligation of holding the government and private sector accountable as well as embarking on initiatives to enlighten and empower women.

Obviously, there is a noticeable and horrendous absence of women at the country’s highest levels of decision making despite mounting evidence that countries where women are engaged in the public sector tend to prioritize issues such as health and education which are vital to overall economic development. Unlike the nation’s President, the Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has 14 women (37%) in the State Executive Council out of 37 Commissioners and Special Advisers. This should be a clarion call to all Parents/Guardians to see to the education and well being of their child especially the girl- child as stipulated in the 2007, Child Rights Law of Lagos State.

“Every parent or guardian shall ensure that his child or ward attends and completes his basic school education.
“Every parent or guardian shall encourage his child or ward to attend and complete his secondary school education.
“Every parent, guardian or person who has the care and custody of a child below the age of eighteen years, shall endeavor to send the child to a secondary school, except as provided for in sub-section (5) of this Section.
“Where a child to whom subsection (4) of this Section applies is not sent to secondary school, the child shall be encouraged to learn an appropriate trade and the parent or guardian or any other person or authority in charge of the child shall provide the necessaries for learning,” Section 14 (2,3,4,5) of the Child Rights Law of Lagos.

Formal education is very essential in developing the value systems of the girl-child which would lead to the development of a stronger society and ultimately a more productive workforce. Factors that disrupt the girl-child education during this COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in Lagos state is not limited to poor family background alone, early marriage and unintended pregnancy are also other factors that rear their heads in these trying times. The virus continues to present unfavorable outcomes as Nigeria was finally beginning to make some gains in the girl-child education. With the current reliance on E-Learning, this seems to be like the hydra-headed snake whereby the Awori warrior cuts of one head and two more spring up immediately.

By Ife Adewole

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