The Future Of Education: Post-covid

The article charts the state of education in Nigeria and the positive as well as the negative impacts necessitated by the outbreak of Covid.

Education has been widely defined as the inculcation and acquisition of knowledge and other relevant skills by learners, whether old or young, to enable them to be well-equipped to survive and contribute meaningfully to society's overall good and development to which they belong. Education, be it formal or informal, is as old as man's existence and is widely acclaimed as the bedrock of any national development. Education is all-encompassing in its gains, for it caters to the overall mental, psychological, material, and even physical needs of the populace. Simply put, education is the lifeblood of any nation. Show me a socially, economically, scientific, and technologically viable nation, and I will show you her structured educational system.

The future of any nation undoubtedly lies in the continual education of its citizens, especially that of the young. This is because society's younger generation is said to be tomorrow's leaders. With regards to this, the Chinese philosopher and educator Confucius is quoted to have said, "…if your plan is for one hundred years, educate children." In recognition of the above-proven truth, many countries of the world, especially the developed nations such as the United States of America, Germany, and Canada, to mention but a few, view education of their citizens as their utmost priority, yes, a national investment, for its multipliers effects on these nations are unquantifiable and visibly seen by all and sundry. Little wonder many countries that understand the enormous benefits derivable from education tend to invest heavily in the maintenance and sustainability of the sector. History is a witness to the fact that education liberates from the shackles of ignorance and its direct attendant consequence- abject poverty.

Unfortunately, it seems that African nations, particularly Nigeria, the giant of Africa, have only paid lip service to this indisputable fact. As Nigerians, it is sad to say that we have failed to realize that our future development as a nation depends largely on our attitude towards our educational system. As a consequence of the lackadaisical attitude towards this most important sector of our economy, we can unequivocally say that we have continued to reap what we sow. It is no wonder that our educational system is on the verge of collapse. Most painfully, we as a nation are unfortunate to be successively ruled by people who are so indifferent and apathetic to education, so much so that educators are the least paid civil servants in the country. Our educational system's state has so deteriorated that our educators now prefer to relocate to other countries where they feel recognized and well remunerated. It is no longer news that our fellow country male and female educators work their way to countries like Canada in order to secure gainful employment, without regard to the costs as well as the likelihood of being treated as second-class citizens, which is often the case, just in a bid to make earns meet. 

That our educational system is in a deplorable state could be clearly seen from the disdainful remarks made by a majority of people, including those who undeniably owe their successes to education. Take, for instance, during a one-on-one discussion with one of my students (a JSS2 student, to be precise), he told me without mincing words that he would never have any of his close relatives become a teacher. Probing him further, he stated that his reason was that teachers, in spite of the enormous workload they are mandated to carry out every day, are never well paid. In fact, quoting him succinctly, he said, 'teachers are always poor in this country in spite of the headaches they regularly feel as a result of constantly talking and racking of brain. I can't suffer like that for anything. From this simple and sincere conversation which reflects the general opinion of so many learners regarding the teaching profession, I quickly deduced that the future of our education is really in a critical state. If the educators who were in the past revered as mini gods, viewed as all-knowing and worthy of emulation by learners, have now become so degraded and placed at the lowest ebb in the nation's scale of professional preference, it, therefore, implies that the future of our education as a nation is hopelessly bleak.

Not to be forgotten is the ease with which job-seekers are recruited into the educational sector. It has therefore become a standing norm that more than 80 percent of the National Youth Service Corps Members must be absorbed in the teaching environment first, with little or no thought to their qualifications and professionalism, before they are allowed to go and seek employment in the ministries where they actually belong. As a result of this thoughtless policy, learners have been directly or indirectly affected negatively as untrained and unqualified 'teachers severely shatter their dreams.' This action has also led to the bastardization of education nationwide. It is only in the Nigerian educational sector that one is absorbed without proper consideration of one's area of specialty. Education jobs are now considered the last resort after one has searched for one's preferred job without success. All these instances buttress the sad truth that education has been denigrated in our country.

From the foregoing, it seems that from the futuristic point of view and with the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus pandemic (covid 19), which has adversely ravaged all spheres of the world's economy, education inclusive, one could rightly predict that the future of Nigeria's already crippling educational system looks bleak. The Coronavirus has wrought so much havoc on our economy. In the area of education, for instance, it can never be forgotten in a hurry because it has, in many ways, truncated the educational program of Nigeria and, indeed, that of the whole world. If eventually we are completely freed from the clutches of the virus, educators will be faced with adjustments in the scheme of work, methods of teaching, and even the curriculum planning and development will be in such a way as to suit the issues that have surfaced as a result of the virus. Also, there will be adjustments in the interactions between the teachers and the learners. These issues are in addition to the already existing problems in the sector.

On the positive side, however, the saying that 'necessity is the mother of invention' has proved true in the way educators have delved into the use of social media to engage students in teaching. Prior to the Coronavirus outbreak, few teachers and learners knew how to use those media such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Zoom applications to deliver lessons. But 'thanks' to the virus, which mandated everyone to stay at home, thereby enabling many educators to devise means of reaching their learners without having to be physically present with them. We laud the world's technical crew who thought out these new ways of teaching, although with it, educators have to decipher ways of reaching the heart of the learners, especially since they cannot rely heavily on the assessments via this means.

Having outlined some of the challenges bedeviling education in our dear country, it is now imperative that we proffer the ways forward. An Igbo adage says, 'whenever a child wakes up is his own morning.' Another one says,' it is better late than never. These expressions buttress the fact that realization and determination to right the wrong done, vis a vis in education, could, to a greater extent, help to salvage the future of our education; yes, a problem known is a problem half-solved. One way to do that is for the education stakeholders to go back to the drawing board. It is worth noting that Nigeria is blessed with intellectuals who make good policies. However, the problem has always been in the aspect of implementation. Suppose the decision-makers can ward off corruption and be patriotic by putting the interest and future of our dear country above any personal gain. In that case, I bet that we can in no distant time achieve greatly in the educational sector. 

Additionally, we can borrow a leaf from the saying that a traveler who asks questions never gets lost. There is nothing wrong or shameful in employing the methods that have worked for the nations that have succeeded in the management of their educational systems and then narrowing those methods down to what is workable in our own country. The so many bilateral relationships we have with those nations make it advantageous for us to tap from their wealth of knowledge and emulate them.

Last but by no way least is the need for us to look inward and ward off those long-held educational policies that have become obsolete and adjust our curriculum to accommodate the societal trends as we move with time. There is no need to use old ways to teach the younger generation who have become technological natives. We need to upgrade to the level at which technology has taken us. Ironically, the Coronavirus outbreak has helped us discover new ways of imparting knowledge to learners. Therefore, it is important that we embrace these new ways, improve upon them and add to what we already know-a' a wise person listens and takes in more instructions.' In so doing and in no distant time, our dear country would be reckoned among other nations whose educational systems are worthy of emulation.

Joy

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