Since the advent of Coronavirus plague otherwise known as COVID-19 early this year, governments of many nations across the globe have resorted to temporarily closing down their educational institutions as a measure to curtail or prevent the spread of the pandemic in their countries. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected educational systems, leading to the almost utter close down of educational institutions like schools, colleges, universities and colleges worldwide.
A recent UNESCO report reveals that the shutting down of schools has precariously impacted over 60% of the world’s student population. Several other countries have implemented localized closures, thus impacting millions of additional learners.
The report discloses that out of the sum total of 60.5% enrolled learners, one billion, fifty-eight million, eight hundred and ninety-seven thousand, and seven hundred and seventy-nine (1,058,897,779) learners are affected. Also, it reveals that 109 country-wide are affected by the closures. It should be noted that, the figures provided here correspond to the number of learners enrolled at pre-primary, primary, lower-secondary, and upper-secondary levels of education (levels 0 to 3), as well as at tertiary education levels (levels 5 to 8). Moreover, the enrolment figures presented here are based on the latest UNESCO Institute for Statistics data.
Most governments around the world have temporarily closed down educational institutions in an attempt to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. For instance, empirical evidence proves that, on 7 June 2020, approximately 1.725 billion learners were affected due to school closures in response to the pandemic. According to UNICEF monitoring, 134 countries are currently implementing nationwide closures and 38 are implementing local closures, impacting about 98.5 percent of the world’s student population. 39 countries’ schools are currently open.
On 23 March, 2020, Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) released a statement announcing the cancellation of Cambridge IGCSE, Cambridge O Level, Cambridge International AS and A Level, Cambridge AICE Diploma, and Cambridge Pre-U examinations for the May/June 2020 series across all countries. International Baccalaureate exams have also been cancelled. In addition, Advanced Placement Exams, SAT administrations, and ACT administrations have been moved online and cancelled.
In the same way, the Nigerian Government, through the Honourable Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, had earlier announced the reopening of senior primary and senior secondary schools to enable final-year students undertake their Common Entrance and SSCE (WAEC and NECO) examinations respectively, but in less than forty-eight (48) hours, the decision was abruptly reversed due to fears that the plague may exacerbate as a result of reopening of those schools. The government’s action of rescinding its earlier decision has sparked off ruckus, as well as aggravated resentment among religious, ethnic and political groups in the country.
Besides, school closures impact not only students, teachers, and families, but have far-reaching socioeconomic consequences. School closures in response to the pandemic have shed light on various social and economic issues, including student debt, digital learning, food insecurity, and homelessness, as well as access to childcare, healthcare, housing, internet, and disability services. The impact was more severe for disadvantaged children and their families, causing interrupted learning, compromised nutrition, childcare problems, and consequent economic cost to families who could not work. Likewise, some female students, who stay at home as a result of COVID-19, may end up being married out before schools resume. The large population of students idling at home as a consequence of Coronavirus may end up engaging themselves in social vices such as drug misuse, armed robbery, rapping, kidnapping for ransom, clandestine cults, other acts of radicalism, et al., as means of keeping themselves busy.
In its blazing proclivity to devise headway, UNESCO recommended the use of distance learning programmes and open educational applications and platforms that schools and teachers can use to reach learners remotely and limit the disruption of education.
Congruently, efforts to curtail the spread of Coronavirus via alternative interventions and preventive measures such as social-distancing and self-isolation have prompted the widespread closure of primary, secondary, and tertiary schooling in over 100 countries. However, effectiveness depends on the contacts children maintain outside of school. School closures may be effective when enacted promptly. If school closures occur late relative to an outbreak; they are less effective and may not have any impact at all. In some cases, the reopening of schools after a period of closure has resulted in increased infection rates. As closures tend to occur concurrently with other interventions such as public gathering bans, it can be difficult to measure the specific impact of school closures.