We are beginning to realize that COVID-19 isn’t leaving anytime soon.
If we have to follow what scientists have been postulating; we may have COVID-19 with us for the next two years.
No one is even sure whether a vaccine for COVID-19 would be the solution with all the zany theories being bandied around.
What we do know, for now, is that we have a virus (COVID-19) and we must learn to manage in the foreseeable future.
Also, we must create ways of living our lives with it.
So, when I heard that Babcock University had taken the lead to finding ways to continue life; with the announcement of its intention to conduct online exams for their students who had been idling at home; I applauded the effort.
Exams had been scheduled to start just a few days before students were sent home around the 19th of March.
I thought the announcement of the online exam would be a relief to them; you know, write and be done with it.
But I was wrong.
The school released a timetable; students had two weeks before the start of the exams.
My ward, who had been following up on news about the school online via different platforms from school; told me students were not happy about the online exams.
My ward, like most of the students in the school, panicked.
She didn’t understand the modalities for the exams.
How would it be conducted?
Wouldn’t students cheat?
Would it be multiple choice?
How would they log on the server at the same time and it won’t crash?
How would some students get easy access to the internet?
What if the server froze like it often did on normal days and they were unable to complete the exams before time was up?
What would happen to students who have no laptops for instance?
With everyone on lockdown, what would happen to students whose laptops were bad or being fixed?
Questions upon questions I had no answers to; particularly as none of them applied to ME being old and all.
“You’ve been given two weeks to prepare for your exams,” I told her.
“Go and study.”
However, there was a general consensus among students that the school had been unfair in expecting students to prepare for an exam they had no idea how to sit for.
Consequently, they put up a petition and passed it around; to other students, parents and friends and sympathizers of this (lost) cause, to force the school to shelve exams.
I got it on WhatsApp from my ward.
We do not have internet issues and I thought my ward should consider herself blessed. Neither did I think online exams were unheard of.
I told this child schools abroad were already carrying out lectures online and conducting exams successfully, too. You have no problems.
Go and study after all.
Didn’t you do JAMB online?
“That’s unfair to other students who don’t have laptops or internet access or… Won’t they have people like us to speak for them? And what of students whose parents can’t afford the Wi-Fi like ours?” she asked me.
I was going to say, “Well, I didn’t create the unfair game…”
Okay. I signed the petition for the sake of a ward so she wouldn’t think me a hypocrite.
I kept saying though, “They have two weeks to fix that problem.
They could go to uncles, aunties, relations, friends to help them with internet because exams are coming!”
I knew what most of the students didn’t. Their petition would fail in the face of the seriousness of our situation.
This COVID-19 pandemic is changing our lives in ways no one could have predicted.
Classroom lessons and physical examination centres may well be in our past. With a virus that mutates so fast; we may be at its mercy for a long time to come and yet… Life must go on.
As I predicted, the school ignored the petition and exams began…
Then the school’s server took a hit!
I’m guessing the school anticipated the surge in traffic on its server so it phased the time table. Some students were scheduled to write papers in the morning for the same course. Others later in the day and yet…
The school’s server crashed!
The surge in traffic was more than they anticipated because I suppose that even students who didn’t have papers at that time logged in to check how the exams was being conducted.
The crash jeopardised the exams of many of the students.
Though a few students were able to log in and write their exams, majority were unable to! The school had to stop exams.
A gleeful ward came to tell me the school had failed to achieve their aim of online exams!
“I expected the server to crash. This is a novel thing. They will keep tweaking until they get it right. Go and study for your exams.”
I told her even though I had no idea what the school’s board was doing; or what they agreed to do but if I were on that board; that would’ve been my advice.
A few days’ later, the school came back and apologized for the crashed site. Further, it reassured students they would be able to log in and continue with their exams. Those who had successfully logged in and written their exams had got their results almost immediately. On the other hand, those yet to were advised to wait a few more days; while the school’s technical crew worked on the server and the time table was rejigged.
This is what our lives will be like going forward, even after COVID-19. We will rejig our operations, our mode of education, our mode of transportation, our social engagements; our religious commitments.
We will phase out the things we can do without, like the rowdy parties, the crowded weddings, the swarming malls…
Hey, who knew we could actually live without attending church or mosque every week? This is still a shock to me as a Nigerian.
Easter was…not Easter. We were on lockdown worldwide…. But we will keep tweaking and asking; do I have to go to the market today?
I can avoid it and go on a less busy day. Must I spend X amount of money on new clothes when I hardly go out every weekend like before?
What of school fees? Now I spend more on data than petrol. Individuals, institutions, corporate entities are making changes. Zoom any one!
Now, while all of this confusion about exams was going on; many of the students poked fun at their situation, with many sharing funny comments like; ‘an elephant ate the cable and so the server crashed’.
Others said they spoke to the VC and he assured them that exams had been cancelled… (when it hadn’t been).
This will be our reality. We will find the fun part in the new way we live with COVID-19. We will poke fun at one another. And we will find relief, a sense of wholeness in our new way of life; as we are all emerging into a new world order.
While students await a new timetable from the school and hope that when the portal opens again; the server would hold and they would easily be able to conduct exams online with less glitches; no one knows how long schools will remain shut.
But in the meantime, education shouldn’t be stunted. Learning and knowledge shouldn’t take the back seat. Indeed, life must go on.