JOS, NIGERIA - While the coronavirus has forced schools globally to switch to online learning, in developing countries like Nigeria, millions of children without remote- learning access have been left behind. Forty percent of Nigerians live on less than $1 a day and only one in four have internet access.
Seated under a pine tree on a sunny afternoon, 13-year-old Charity Yakubu’s older sister, Susan, is playing the role of teacher as she takes Charity through lessons she would have been learning in school.
This has been their routine since March, when the coronavirus pandemic led Nigeria to close schools.
“I feel very sad because I don’t get to learn new things, all the things I’ve learnt, I’ve forgotten them. By God’s grace, let this coronavirus pandemic finish so that everybody can get to go back to school,” said Charity.
Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics says only one in four Nigerians have internet access but three out of four have mobile phones.
Nigerian educators, like Bala Babangida, the principal of the Unique Schools in Jos, says that while some Nigerians have been able to switch to online and social media learning, there are challenges.
“Looking at the cost of data, and even the devices to use for effective learning, it is a bit problematic to Nigerians. I think if the government can do something about it, it will go a long way to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor,” said Babangida.
With 40 percent of Nigerians living on less than a dollar a day, the added costs make remote learning, for the vast majority, out of reach.
Veronica Ayuba has her 10-year-old daughter with her at her vegetable stall to help with the sales.
Ayuba said she would rather have her daughter at home learning her schoolwork, but she is unable to help.
Ayuba points out that authorities are saying parents should begin to teach children at home, but she said doesn’t know how to read, and she doesn’t know where to start.
Making matters worse, the restrictions brought on by COVID-19 have cost many their jobs, including Yakubu’s mother, Salome, a domestic house maid.
There is no money, Salome said, including money for food. She wonders where they can find the money to buy a good phone so they can learn on the internet.
To help bridge the education gap, Nigeria is broadcasting lessons on state run television and radio stations, while children wait for the pandemic to ease up enough to allow schools to re-open.