FEATURED: Lockdown: Students relive experience, count gains, losses

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By Toyeeb Abdulquadri

More than four months ago, the Nigerian government shut down schools at all levels in response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, several academic activities have been at a complete standstill in most tertiary institutions in the country. However, students’ diverse experiences show that the closure of schools has both negative and positive impacts.

For one, the lockdown disrupted the academic calendar of many schools. While some business owners were counting their losses during the lockdown, students were imagining the extra days and months they would spend before they graduate. Specifically, final year students in tertiary institutions were hit hard as many of them could not take their final exams, let alone graduate as planned.

In Kwara State University (KWASU), Malete, it was just two weeks left for final year students to begin their last exam when the school suddenly shut down in March following the directive of the National Universities Commission (NUC).

KWASU’s Student Union President, Qozeem Hanafy, who is also a finalist, described the lockdown experience as a traumatic.

“The school shut down just two weeks before our final exam; and that was the beginning of the moment every final year student has been longing for. We just had few weeks to go; as we were almost done with our academic activities, expecting to do our convocation, be awarded a degree, and explore the next face of our career.

“We have been at home now for more than three months, we don’t know when next we are going back to school, we don’t know when we are going to graduate. The thought alone is traumatic,” he lamented.

To allow students in exit classes to prepare and take their exit exams, the federal government recently directed secondary schools across the country to reopen on August 4. But, it is uncertain to other students, including those in tertiary institutions, when their school gates will be thrown open to either round off their academic year or begin a new one.

Although some schools are organizing virtual classes, the uncertainty in the date of resumption has made many students to relax or even ignore their study habits.

The current Student Union President of the University of Benin (UNIBEN), Egwu Benjamin Lontanna noted that the lockdown had made many students to abandon learning.

“Many students have not been reading at home because they don’t know when we are going to resume… It is only a few. This is not helping our learning at all,” he said.

On the positive side, the holiday seemed to have opened the doors of opportunities for students to be productive in other areas of life. For some, it is a chance to explore new opportunities in business, to upgrade their skills or acquire new ones, and then to adapt to the current realities in the digital world.

Grace Abikoye, a 400-level student of Agricultural Economics and Farm Management of the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN), explained that she had been taking the moment to discover and pursue her interests beyond school.

According to her: “The closure of schools has given me an opportunity to develop my skills in programming. I have also had time to take online courses from Havard Business School where I earned a certificate on Investment Foundations from Chattered Finance Analyst Institute.

“It has also allowed me to focus on my initiative — sponsor a Beske child to school — which is aimed at granting scholarships and mentorships to needy children who hawk and beg for alms in the city of Ilorin.”

For Kanyisola Ibikunle, a 400-level student of Agronomy, University of Ilorin, she has utilized the period to learn new skills that she needed for her career development.

“So far, I have been able to narrow down a career path and learn outside the four walls of schools. From February to March, I learned Digital Marketing, and now I’m a certified digital marketer. In March and April, I picked another skill, UI/UX design, because I know that my career is focused on tech,” she said.

On her part, Fela Ajikobi, an undergraduate of the University of Ilorin, enthused: “I used to procrastinate doing online course, but now I have had more time for it. I have also had time to pursue what I really want to do, especially copywriting.

“I have had time for personal development and time to read a lot of books and catch up with the news. I also listen to a lot of educative podcasts now. Doing these things have expanded my knowledge more than I have ever imagined.”

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