Private varsities profits with e-learning as public institutions battles ASUU strike

In order to contain the spread of coronavirus, on March 20, 2020, the Federal Government shut down all tertiary institutions in the country. GRACE EDEMA writes on the effect of the lockdown on the university system in Nigeria

WITHOUT doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a huge disruption in the state of education globally.

Generally, the lockdown order, which was declared on all human activities, so as to contain the spread of the virus, also disorganised school calendars and halted learning.

During the lockdown, some universities decided to be innovative by using different social media platforms, apps and creation of customised educational websites to pass on knowledge to their students.

Investigation revealed that a huge percentage of private universities in Nigeria were able to engage their students in online learning. Although their participants also faced the usual challenges of poor connectivity, lack of data, lack of smartphones, to mention a few, they did not relent in ensuring that these students were actively gaining knowledge online.

A student of Crawford University, Igbesa, Ogun State, Oghenetega Urherebrume, said since the lockdown began, she did not miss anything academically because her school resumed the online classes with the use of Whatsapp and Classmarker platforms and ended in August.

On the contrary, the National President, Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, said public universities couldn’t participate in online classes due to government’s failure to provide the infrastructure needed to conduct seamless online classes.

In addition, ASUU has been on strike due to the disagreement with the government over the Integrated Personnel and Payroll System and insisted that they would not engage in any teaching service until government attended to their agitations.

Howbeit, the fact remains that the state of education in Nigeria had been negatively affected by COVID-19. This is because students of public tertiary institutions have been left idling at home while their counterparts in the private schools were getting value through e-learning organised by their various schools.

An employee of a federal university staff who preferred anonymity criticised ASUU for refusing to organise e-learning for their students.

“Almost 90 per cent of Nigerian universities have Computer Science Department or Computer Engineering Department and they are not making use of them to have a platform where lectures can go seamlessly. It is very difficult in the public schools because of bureaucratic bottlenecks, such as the union’s attitude towards the smooth running of the system.

ASUU went on strike prior to the closure tertiary institutions due to the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria. By the time a lot of federal universities proposed that lecturers should start work so they could create a platform where lectures can take place, they vehemently refused to do so and warned all their members not to attend to such request. You will see that the government schools are at a crossroad or self-inflicted disadvantage. No private school is lagging behind as far as COVID-19 is concerned in tertiary education.”

Similarly, a university don, Prof Toyin Falola, explained that among the issues of contention was the sustained inadequate funding of the education sector, which affected both teaching and research on one hand and students’ general performance on the other.

He said, “COVID-19 came and exacerbated the deterioration of the situation. Not only was the budget allocated for the sector slashed, the children that were supposed to benefit from this were also kept away from the four walls of their school. Simultaneously, the government, in slicing the budget to take care of the COVID-19 reality, ensured that even when these schoolchildren were home, they did not have access to good health. Apart from that, this year’s budget allocation for health has also been cut, leaving school children with nothing in education or healthcare.”

In his own view, Head of Department of Politics and International Relations, Lead City University, Ibadan, Dr Tunde Oseni, said COVID-19 had brought about transformation in the education system as the online learning had come to stay. He pointed out that government would have to invest more in e-learning, adding that consistent internet access would become a necessity.


“COVID 19 has brought about both a halt and a transformation. It’s a halt because schools have had to physically close and face-to-face interactions ceased for six months, except for terminal classes which resumed for examination purpose. On the other hand, it’s a form of transformation because online learning has come to stay.

“At the tertiary level, blended learning approach will become more popular and entrenched. Globally, governments will invest more in e-learning and internet access will become more necessary especially in some countries including South Africa, Asia and Latin America, where internet penetration has become hitherto insufficient,” he said.

Globally, stakeholders in the education sector have proposed blended learning; which is the use of both physical and online classes as schools resume.

In a recent interview, Vice Chancellor, Caleb University, Imota, Prof. Nosa Owens-Ibie, encouraged the higher education system to embrace blended learning in the face of the global pandemic which had restricted physical learning. He added that the education sector had no choice but to embrace blended learning.

“We are happy that we didn’t miss a school day in the semester; we are on schedule and we always have all our meetings online. Since April, the university resumed online and we are planning to have graduation online in September. E-learning is here to stay; it will be blended learning, brick and mortar. In Caleb University, we were supposed to resume in April but when we noticed the extension of the lockdown, we decided to move online and it has been 100 per cent efficient. Since then, we have launched different apps on Google Play Store, where students were able to ask questions about health, security. We also have a live Student Representative Council inauguration and final year thanksgiving,” he said.

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