Minister to varsities: restart session through virtual teaching

Higher institutions shut to prevent the spread of Coronavirus are likely to reopen for teaching but through the e-platform

Unsure of how soon the Coronavirus pandemic will end, Minister of Education Mallam Adamu Adamu on Thursday opened talks with 237 Vice Chancellors, Rectors and Provosts on how to reopen using virtual learning.

He directed all universities, polytechnics and colleges of education to activate virtual learning environment to enable students to continue their studies through digital devices.

He said although the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is on strike, the government will do its best to resolve the labour crisis.

Most Vice Chancellors of private universities embraced the idea and expressed readiness to reopen because they claimed that they have top grade virtual learning system.

Adamu, who had a teleconference with the Vice Chancellors and other heads of tertiary institutions for four and half hours from his home in Abuja, said the Federal Government, cannot afford to shut schools for a long time.

He said he called the meeting to find solutions to the challenges posed to the nation’s school calendar by Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).

Those physically present with the minister were the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Rasheed; the Executive Secretary of the National Board for Technical Education, Dr. Masa’udu Adamu Kazaure; the Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission, Dr. Hamid Bobboyi; and the Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof. Ishaq Oloyede among others.

Adamu, who declared at the session that he has tested negative to COVID-19, said: “We cannot be held down by COVID-19, we have to deploy all e-platforms to keep our universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and other schools open.

“COVID-19 has changed everybody. I am pleading with you to device alternative ways make sure the education of our children will not stop. We have to create virtual learning environment.

“This is the second meeting I am having. All I want is that we should fully engage our students. We are already speaking with the World Bank and UNICEF on how to create platforms for virtual learning classrooms.

“We need to take advantage of technology like the case in other parts of the world. We cannot shut down all schools when we have other means to teach our students.”

Responding to a question, the Minister said: “As for the strike action, we will try to resolve issues with ASUU to have synergy.

“But the private universities that are not on strike can start with virtual learning while we are finding solutions to issues between the Federal Government and ASUU.”

Although a Vice Chancellor of a second generation university said “the e-platforms cannot replace face-to-face contacts with students,” the Minister said: “This is a period we have to make use of the platforms available, we cannot keep students at home.”

He also asked the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) to work out modalities on how primary school pupils and secondary students could learn by using radio and television stations.

“We will work out how we can involve state governments to use radio and television stations.

At the session, most of the Vice Chancellors of private universities were excited by the prospect of reopening.

They all admitted that that they have “top grade virtual learning system.”

A Vice Chancellor of a private university said: “Hon. Minister, you can see why it is necessary to amend the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) Act to enable private universities to benefit from intervention funds.

“Other than complying with the directive of the Federal Government, we did not see any reason for closing private universities because we have efficient virtual learning environment.”

Vice Chancellor of Federal University, Dutse, Prof. Fatima Bature, said: “We are very strong in virtual learning, we are set for it.”

It was not immediately clear when the reopening of varsities online will begin.

 

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