It’s been three years since the epochal lockdown and as much as there have been claims that everything is back to normal now, it is clear just as we mark our calendars BC and AD that there is now a pre-covid and post-covid era. Yes, we stop wearing masks and maybe back to our less religious habit of not sanitising our hands every five minutes as we did during covid, a lot of things aren’t normal.
There is now a work type called hybrid work where one works at home for some days and at the office for the rest of the week and remote work is now popular and increasingly becoming the order of the day. People are now between a rock and a hard place when it comes to using technology as it has become the air of work…and learning.
While governments around the world did their best to ensure learning continued during the lockdown, what we observed was that across all the nations, developed and others, no one was prepared for COVID, and in Africa, where most of the countries treat education like an afterthought, planning through COVID was arduous as these countries were already trying to salvage an already dilapidated education sector. Even though we claim that learning as we know it is back to normal, we have to look at the implications COVID left in its trail in the education system. According to the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET), these developing countries such as those in Sub-Saharan Africa were forced to make difficult fiscal trade-offs between sectors of the economy that require a higher share of limited resources and sectors that pose less contiguous socioeconomic risks in other words health system versus education.
What they may not have realised at the time is the fact that even though students in developed countries had access to facilities that supported remote learning, they still had learning loss to a certain degree. Comparing the level of learning loss in a country like Japan to Nigeria will give you an idea of how much recovery of learning we need to do to ensure that our nation’s economic output does not drastically diminish in the coming years. This deduction is simply based on the fact that before COVID, learning inequalities already existed even within and amongst nations. In identifying considerations in support of learning recovery, the authors of “How COVID-19 caused a global learning crisis” reported that globally students are eight months behind where they would have been if there was no pandemic and further classified these students according to their countries into three archetypes because the impact of the pandemic varies widely:
High-performing systems, with pre-COVID-19 performance levels that were rather high, and where kids may be one to five months behind owing to the pandemic (for example, in North America and Europe, where students are, on average, four months behind).
Low-income pre-pandemic-challenged systems where children may be three to eight months behind owing to the pandemic (for example, in sub-Saharan Africa, where students are on average six months behind).
Pandemic-affected middle-income systems, with intermediate pre-COVID-19 learning levels, where pupils may be nine to 15 months behind (for example, in Latin America and South Asia, where students are, on average, 12 months behind).
Learning loss is the term used to describe the reduction in academic performance seen in many pupils because of educational interruptions, such as school closings, shifts to remote learning, or changes to their family environment. Although learning loss can happen in any subject area, it is frequently most noticeable in areas like arithmetic and reading that demand constant practice and reinforcement.
Students who experience learning loss may experience a variety of detrimental effects, such as decreased academic performance, decreased self-esteem, and decreased drive to learn all of which are beginning to emerge in recent research.
Whilst there is a claim that everything is now back to normal, it is rather glaring that learning will take many decades to return to the way it was in 2019 and this is the big problem we have on our hands; returning to normal.
It is a long road to recovery especially for us in Nigeria considering the many plagues we were and are still facing in the education sector pre-pandemic.