According to the United Nations, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly 1.6 billion learners globally. It has brought about a huge disparity in learning opportunities for learners, most especially from low-income economies. Global economies especially the educational sector are feeling the impact and despite UNESCO recommendation of 15-20% of fiscal budgetary allocation to education, most African countries have failed in their fulfillment, as can be seen in Nigeria allocating 6.3% of 2021 budget to education, quite lower than 2020.
Schools and businesses have shut down, industries, organizations and governmental institutions have had to restrict their activities. This strain of the pandemic has been felt most severely by households and low-income families who are, to a large extent, daily income earners, living below a dollar per day. In line with the above, constricted income situation has affected both schools and families, especially non-state actors. A recent UNICEF survey saw the rise of out-of-school children from 10.5 million to 13.2 million children.
No doubt, the withdrawal of a high rate of school children from non-state educational systems. Families are also burdened with the strenuous task of feeding and this basic need along with the need for shelter has taken precedence over the educational needs of their offspring’s. Likewise, non-state education is barely surviving the shockwave of the pandemic. Moreover, the educational sector has taken a backseat in the minds of parents and households at large, especially the non-state educational sector, therefore patronage by different families in the enrollment of their children in non-state schools has drastically reduced. Learning losses, missed midday meals, pressures of parenting etcetera are some of the challenges faced by not just by non-state actors but also the pupils.
In addition, low-and-middle-income countries in some parts of Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa have over 60% of children enrolled in non-state schools. The restricted incomes of households due to the lockdown measures in place to curb the spread of Covid-19 pandemic has affected the ability of parents and guardians to enroll their wards in non-state schools. Also, some non-state schools and the pupils could not continue learning due to inaccessibility to constant power/internet supply and this translates to many of the pupils withdrawing from non-state schools and enrolling in government schools all around the globe. However, the vital question is: ‘Are government schools in developing economies structured to absorb a colossal influx of students?’
The answer is ‘NO’. Because despite government schools catering to the educational needs of more than 70% of school children globally, the standard of their educational services has been debilitating for decades and many are skeptical about the quality of the government schools’ educational system. In lieu of this, there are not enough personnel, provision, or structure in government schools to absorb the large number of pupils that will seek admission if the non-state educational system is left unaided. In this regard, it is incumbent on the government and educational funders to provide the necessary grants, subsidies, policies, and financial support that the non-state education needs to avoid crushing the educational system that is finding a balance in a pandemic ravaged world. Furthermore, the implication of all the solutions is the effect on the budget and fiscal expenditure in countries like Nigeria and other developing/war-stricken economies.
It will also prevent a learning crisis from becoming a generational catastrophe, as education is a fundamental human right with a direct impact on other rights according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, Article 28 in line with attaining Goal 4 – quality education of the Sustainable Development Goals. Also, a resilient educational system for equitable and sustainable development to cope with future crisis will be built to promote distance and inclusive learning using technology, bring about positive change in teaching and learning, reduction in dropouts’ rate and accessibility to education as a right for all, while Institutions, teachers, and students will continue to look for flexible ways to repair the damage caused by COVID-19’s interruptions to learning trajectories.
In all, it will be a demotivation for external funders/organizations to invest in the human capital development (education) of a nation if the government fails to perform its duties effectively.
About the Author:
Lilian Efobi is a Public Policy Professional and serves as the COO of the Nigerian Global Affairs Council (NIGAC). With over three years in the NGOs space and having undergone so many leadership, fellowships, and trainings, Lilian has set forth a career path in the Public Policy space. Lilian hopes to use her passion-driven expertise through NIGAC Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanism that measures the expected and unintended outcomes of policy programs within the private and public sector. More so, she currently advocates for women and youth’s inclusion in governance. Lilian has been recognized as one of the African Union Top 20 Innovators and An Accountpreneur under the Accountability Lab Program.