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|The Pandemic Has Done Incalculable Damage To Schools- Pastor Nnamnso Okorie by Nnamnugochi: 4:54pm On Sep 05, 2020|
By Wilson Adekumola- Church Times, Nigeria
Pastor Nnamnso Okorie is the International Lead Director of Christians Schools Aid Network International (CSNI), a nongovernmental organization that caters for the welfare of Christian schools and educators. He is the proprietor of Blessed Heritage Christian Schools which was established to cater for children of the less privileged.
He studied Mechanical Engineering in the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (with a specialty in Industrial and Production option). He had equally worked with CBC Energy Nigeria Limited and he had also taught in several private schools. He is a pastor in Deeper Christian Life Bible Church and also runs consultancy services for business owners.
In this interview with Wilson Adekumola, he gives a perspective on the impact of COVID-19 on the educational sector.
In what way has this COVID-19 pandemic lockdown affected you?
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our business badly especially the education sector. We were ordered by the government to close down in March. We expected parents would come up before the end of the term but we were disappointed as the term ended abruptly. We run a school for low-income parents as such we couldn’t operate online school or lesson. Most of our parents can’t afford it; this made us to allow them to listen to teaching on Radio by the state government.
According to UNESCO, an estimated 1.725 billion learners have been affected as a result of school closure, representing about 99.9% student’s population of students as at April 13th, 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has no doubt adversely affected the global economy. It has forced many businesses to temporarily shut down and government across the world to place a restriction on movement while exempting providers of essential services who are to strictly observe social distancing rules while providing services as a way to contain the spread of the virus. It has not been easy with us as we had to struggle with the payment of salaries of staff and other exigencies.
Did you envisage this kind of situation?
No one ever envisaged such thing like COVID-19 pandemic as well. It caught us unawares. Even, if one had thought of any occurrence in 2020, it should not have been the scope and effects of a dreaded pandemic that shut down the global economy.
What has been the experience of not doing what you need to do?
The experience of not doing what I always did has not been quite easy. If not for the privilege of being online and associating with my family, it would have been quite burdensome and worrisome. The effect of loss or less income to a family man or breadwinner cannot be overemphasized. Nevertheless, God Almighty took control and was able to supply all our immediate needs.
If the situation persists what are your plans?
If the situation persists, one has no option than to look for other thriving businesses to do. We have to devise alternative means that will require less physical contact and travelling.
In what way do you think the government can help in this present situation?
The government can help in providing grant and interest-free loans to all private schools especially the ones serving the low-income parents and families. There should also be a tax holiday for businesses. The government can also help pay salaries of employees’, especially low-income schools.
Do you see businesses taking new shape after the pandemic?
Businesses will definitely take new shapes and dimensions. Approaches and strategies will change as there will be provision for physical and social distancing. Mode of payment will be surely defined as some business owners might not accept cash payment to avoid contact.
Do you think you can make up for your loss when normalcy returns?
The losses are numerous and unclassified. During the lockdown, I lost my immediate elder brother as a result of machete cuts by a man who might have been depressed by the negative impact of the lockdown. When I got the news on April 26, 2020, I could not contain it as my mother was with me. I had to travel with her with my family to my home town. All through the interstate travel ban I was shut up in the village. He is yet to be buried as Nigeria Police took over the investigation. The loss of my brother can’t be regained. The fees that parents would have paid for the third term can’t be recovered. Teachers and non-teaching staff can’t get back their full pay. The graduation ceremony that could not hold can’t be held again. Cost of maintenance of schools and facilities during the lockdown and closure of school can’t be regained. They are too numerous to mention.
As a school owner, how do you think social and physical distancing would be maintained in the class?
The possibility of social and physical distancing might apply in the classroom while learning but not outside the classrooms. The much emphasis on social distancing is uncalled for. Have you been to the markets, motor parks and so on, is it observed? How will that be 100% possible with children if adults can't abide by the rules? However, all school owners and teachers must try their best in ensuring and constantly reminding the students of the importance of keeping to COVID-19 guidelines.
When the ban on schools is totally lifted, what is the fate of the staff members that have been at home for months without salaries?
The pandemic has really dealt a big blow on schools’ income. Very few schools went on for virtual learning. Even at this, the salaries of the staff were slashed to accommodate the new normal as the parents couldn’t pay complete fees. For those schools that did nothing during the period, the possibility of paying the staff when school fully resumes is slim.
Some argued that technology will take over the way we run school. What are your thoughts on this?
Well, for now especially in Nigeria, technology will not immediately take over running the schools. To start with, devices like laptops and smartphones are expensive for millions of Nigerian families and, other affordable devices have limited capabilities and could underperform when used with high tech websites. How many families can afford that in Nigeria presently? What about the cost of data? Mind you, data (internet) is not free in Nigeria only about 50% of the population survives on $2 daily.
Even if data subscription can be obtained, what about electricity? How many cities in Nigeria can boast of steady power supply let alone rural and remote areas? Making mention of the schools on Radio/ TV organized by some states, did they cover all classes, apart from generic contents? How many pupils/students were able to sit down and listen in the midst of distractions at home and other exigencies like domestic chores? Look at public schools and universities, how many of them can boast of online or virtual learning? Equally, consider the low-cost private schools that serve low-income families, how can they afford these? With these, one can validly say, we are not yet ready for full technology takeover though few private universities and colleges can afford that.
What is your advice for school owners at this time and on resumption?
They should make sure that all the guidelines and protocols are put in place and observed.
What are the positive lessons you have learnt for this pandemic lockdown and what are your plans for the future?
I have learnt that problems can be turned to profits. I need to adequately take care of my health, that of my family and my clients. COVID-19 in Nigeria was not as envisaged. Though some key personalities died, we still never recorded the fatal loss as in some other countries. This means fear can kill more than any disease. I have learnt that virtual or remote learning must be inculcated into our learning system and curriculum. Low-income homes need to be encouraged and empowered to access recent technological advancement. Savings principles must be painstakingly, adhered to no matter the amount. Relationship is key as the lockdown opened up individual differences and temperaments. Closeness to God should not only be in times of adversity but also during prosperity. It is obvious now that we can worship God anywhere not only in the church. Fellowship in our homes should be more endearing than the church location.
What should be the attitude of business owners in this current situation?
We might not return to the old ways of doing business fully, there will be the utmost need for business owners to adjust to the new normal. We look forward to a bumper harvest with trust in God and focus in realigning with the government-approved guidelines.
|Re: The Pandemic Has Done Incalculable Damage To Schools- Pastor Nnamnso Okorie by ymstar(m): 11:03pm On Sep 05, 2020|
Fg no care at all o, whether the citizens are hurt or not, what matters most is as long as they are making money
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