When six-year-old Ifedola's school closed last week, she came home with some folders, some books and a Tablet.
"A Tablet"? I looked at my wife incredulously.
"Yes, for distance learning", she responded.
The school had forewarned all parents (by direct email) that, by the orders of the Austrian government, it would be closing on that particular date.
(Please, if you are in Nigeria, follow the story and read between the lines.)
We knew what "distance learning" meant. But we'd thought it was something she'd have to do using one of the computers at home.
But nooooo! No, no, no.
The school gave each of its 1500 students (Grades 1 through 12....12 is like our SS-3 in Nigeria) a Tablet! And the Tablets weren't brand new! Which means they had been in that school for a while. Of course, I go to the school every morning when I take Dola there; I know the students all have access to workstations and laptops there.
When my wife turned on the Tablet and connected it to our WiFi, Dola took over, navigating through the icons until she got to the one linked to her teacher and the particular folders pertaining to her.
(Meaning...the school had prepared the students before shutting down. And, more tellingly, the school had assumed that every home had access to Internet and electricity. Are you still following me from Nigeria?)
So, every day, my wife would watch Ifedola read new instructions from the teacher, supervise her as she does her work, enforce "recess" as instructed by the teacher, help her submit the work, wait for the teacher to acknowledge that she’s received the work, and check back for grading.
Oh...I forget! The first thing Ifedola had to do was organize her books, folders and Tablet on her desk, take a picture of it with the Tablet and send it to her teacher for "grading" on how suitable it was for studying!
(You think I am kidding? My friend in Nigeria...do you think I am making this up?)
My coworkers whose children are in the same school and in higher grades report the same. One kid is able to complete her Music instructions by video from home!!
(Another assumption the school has is that all students have at least one parent that can read and write.)
And to make sure that this distance learning thing works, the Austrian government coordinated its mandatory work-place shutdown and schedule modifications to coincide with the schools’ shutdown so kids are not home by themselves.
(We have started closing schools in Nigeria. I hear Oyo state has ordered closure today. Great decision. But I know that not all of our students have electricity at home, let alone stable electricity. Not all of our schools have desks and chairs. Not all of our schools have windows and ceilings. Not all of our schools have water that the students and teachers can safely drink. Not all of our schools have toilets! I know because I have seen many schools even in Ibadan, and in other parts of the state, that lack these basic things. Do you know if your state has all of these “conveniences” for students and teachers?
So, see our lives outside.
All these years that we engaged in populist tokenism; that we did "rankadede" to our half-baked, dimwitted and nitwitted rulers; that we failed to plan but planned to fail; that we systematically destroyed our institutions...see our lives outside.
What are those kids from the schools we are now shutting down going to be doing while home? Play Ludo? Fly kites? Roll tires?
Who's going to be with them? Are we going to remove them from school for COVID-19 and then enroll them in “lesson” where they’ll still be exposed to the virus?
Are the parents going to leave work to be with the children? If they do, who is going to compensate them and how much? Their employers? What if they are not civil servants? Do we have anything that tracks us at all…something that can give the government an idea who we are, where we are, and what we do for a living?
Let me let you in on an open secret: Most governments in the West had planned, rehearsed, practiced and simulated all the steps they are executing today against COVID -19 many, many times; many, many years. Without any fires, you will see fire fighters doing drills in many communities, practicing different scenarios of fire outbreaks. Without any crime in progress, you will see law enforcement agents training, doing drills on all sorts of scenarios – suspect armed with a knife, the one armed with a gun, the one armed with a bomb, the one armed with biological agent, lone suspect, multiple suspects, single attack scene, multiple attack scenes.
These drills will be conducted in conjunction with other “First Responders” – automobile ambulance services, helicopter ambulance services, fire engines etc.
These drills are planned out several months in advance, marked on the calendar and conducted regularly to ensure that everybody knows exactly what to do when the balloon goes up.
The responses you are seeing across the Western world today are the results of the drills that each country had mastered independently and in collaboration with neighboring countries. These countries are acting on models that have been committed to muscle memory. They are not acting on hope, prayer or luck. It's all planned out.
So, when some of us criticize, it is not because we hate any particular government official. It is because we want our country to start moving forward. The steady retrogression in the face of abundant human and material resources is what we detest.
If we do whatever it takes to have basic things like electricity, for example, we will remain in the dark (no pun intended)...remain in the Stone Age…for as long as it takes. Everything depends on that. No nation has moved up without stable electricity. Let’s continue to remind each other of that fact. And yes, stable electricity costs money EVERYWHERE in the world. Anybody telling you otherwise does not know what they are talking about.
This COVID-19 thing may be the catalyst that galvanizes us to launch our own industrial revolution...or political revolution...any revolution, I don't care. We can't go on like this forever. We need A #RevolutionNow.