The relevance of education to human development is an issue that has been, and is still subject of discourse across the different centuries of human history. This is because education decides the future of any human society. The United Nations (UN), in a bid to show the relevance of education to every human being and to every human society, declared in “Article 26” of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of December 10, 1948, that: “Everyone has a right to education…education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human right and human freedom.” The provision of this declaration has been part of the Nigerian Constitution right from her independence in 1960 to the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, which is in force till date. If this is the case, why is the sector not given its pride of place as pivotal to our national development? It is no news that, since March this year the Nigerian educational sector has face unexpected setbacks as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This had made the Federal Government to order the closure of all educational institutions in the country as a way of containing the spread of the Corona virus. Since the closure, now in the fourth month, many Nigerian students have been left in a state of uncertainty as to what becomes of their educational plans. Their dreams seem to be hanging with each day, causing them deep psychological trauma. Those mostly affected are students in transit; those graduating and yet to write their final certificates examinations. Few weeks ago, however, their hope was raised when Dr. Sani Aliyu, coordinator of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-29, on June 29, 2020 announced that pupils in graduating classes (Primary 6, JSS 3 and SSS3) will be allowed to resume in preparation for their examinations.
He announced that Senior Secondary Students would commence their West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) from August 4, 2020 to end on September 5, 2020. Unfortunately, this joy was truncated few days later following another announcement by the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, specifically on July 8. 2020, stating that the reopening of schools had been put on hold. Thus, he stated that the students of the 104 Unity schools spread across the country will not be taking part in the WASSCE of 2020, and encouraged the States to follow suit. This announcement by Adamu Adamu has been met with different interpretations. Was the declaration targeted only at students in Unity schools under his care, or all schools in the country?
The issues surrounding the reopening of schools in Nigeria has been generating controversies as the Federal Government is yet to declare a definite date for the safe reopening of schools. Thus, one is still at a loss on when the schools would eventually be opened. As it were, the question on many lips is when will the final year students be allowed to write their certificate examinations? With the state of seeming confusion in the administration of our educational sector, opening of schools might not be feasible in the nearest future because of the seeming lackadaisical manner issues bothering on education are handled by those in authority. It seems they place premium on only issues that favours them and their cronies. Little wonder Professor Wole Soyinka was alleged to have remarked that: “Examinations cannot hold because corona virus is a grave danger to students but elections can hold because it is an agenda of politicians…” Aviation, finance and some other sectors have since resumed full operations across the country while damning the consequences of the virus.
Why is the educational sector left unattended to? Is it that it is not under government’s top priorities? Granted that the health of our students remains the top priority of government, what concrete efforts are they making to bring this to fruition? Is it a case of more rhetoric and few actions? This is a wake up call on all Nigerians to be proactive and engage the authorities on ways of ensuring the speedy and safe reopening of our educational institutions, particularly to allow our graduating students to sit for their certificate examinations with the necessary precautionary measures put in place to contain the virus. It would be disastrous if, due to wrong policies or lopsided implementations our students are made to lose one full academic year. There should also be contingency plans to ensure that our educational system does not collapse, should the coronavirus linger. We need to plan on ways of ensuring our students live and learn effectively during this pandemic rather than stay idle and watch time fly.