The new normal: What COVID-19 has changed in our lives

IMOLEAYO OYEDEYI and ADEOLA OTEMADE report that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of things about people all over the world.  In Nigeria,  personal lives and lifestyles have been altered and the trend may continue even after the pandemic might have been contained.


SINCE the prevalence of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)  pandemic compelled government at all levels in the country to shut down schools on March 23, being one of the containment mechanisms employed by advanced nations with worse incidence rate of the virus, Adeola Adeyemi and her siblings, like others in Nigeria, have remained at home.

The teenager, a secondary school student, has three sisters: Olaitan, Jumoke and Rachel. Olaitan and Jumoke attend a public school while Rachel is in the same school with Adeola. However, for the four girls, learning hasn’t stopped because the managements of their schools have devised strategies of distance learning that make them take classes and assignments seamlessly despite the closure of their schools.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the Adeyemis are part of the 290.5 million students whose education has been disrupted in many countries of the world in a bid to globally curtail the debilitating spate of the virus which the World Economic Forum said has changed how millions of children are now educated.

In a vigorous manner, the epidemic has emplaced a new style of learning which, unlike the erstwhile system, is driven by smart technology and web-based mechanisms. The virus has forced school managers and the various state ministries of education to search for simulated solutions in a bid to lessen the disruptions effected by the pandemic on the education sector.

Adeola said unlike in normal school settings, students now have their assemblies, classes, teachings and tests via interactive apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram. She said for every class, a WhatsApp group chat was created and that daily, each of their teachers reached out to them at specific hours for teaching and dishing of assignments whose answers they typed and submitted to the tutor through the same platform.

She said that is how fellow students have been undergoing their teachings and tests since the government closed down their schools.

But for Olaitan and Jumoke, who attend a public secondary school, learning has been a bit different as the government organises teachings for students via radio and television stations unlike those who use the interactive mobile applications, due to the huge population of government schools students in the state. For other states in the country, the system of learning has been the same.

While government employed broadcast stations to engage the students academically, the private school managers use the web-based systems and interactive Apps to ensure the continuity of learning during the lockdown. In one Nigerian school, standard asynchronous online learning tools (such as reading material via Google Classroom), were improved with synchronous face-to-face video instruction to help in the tutorial.

Secondary schools are not the only ones in this mode as private tertiary institutions have also exploited the opportunities offered by technology to teach their students and organise their semester examinations.

According to UNESCO, over 130 countries have implemented nationwide closures and this has impacted over 80 per cent of the world’s student population. To cushion the spread of the virus, students in Hong Kong began virtual learning at home in February via interactive apps. In China, 120 million Chinese got access to learning material through live television broadcasts.

Similarly, students at one school in Lebanon began leveraging online learning, even for subjects such as physical education. Students shot and sent over their own videos of athletics training and sports to their teachers as “homework”, pushing them to learn new digital skills. These are some of the new education trends occasioned by the virus pandemic globally.

Now, even educational conferences and seminars are held through cybernetic means. Unlike before, UNESCO on March 10 held a ministerial video conference which featured representatives from 73 countries. Right from the comfort of their homes, each of the education ministers deliberated extensively on ways to help countries across the globe deploy remote learning systems so as to minimise educational disruptions and maintain social contact with learners.

Also, through another webinar, the education body launched a Global COVID-19 Education Coalition that brings together multilateral partners and the private sector, including Microsoft and the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) to assist countries. This shows that the prevalence of the virus has spurred educational institutions and bodies globally to search for innovative solutions within a relatively short period of time.


Altered governance … Business… Lifestyles

But the new trends is not only evident in the educational sector; it also has imprints in the political sector as it has to a greater extent changed the way political office holders in Nigeria carry out their day-to-day operations.

Due to the need to practise social distancing seen globally as a key mechanism to lessen the spread of the virus, state governors and ministers have employed the use of technology applications such as Zoom, Microsoft Team, Mixlr, Facebook, Messenger and Skype for their meetings and engagements. Even the Federal Executive Council meetings (FEC), chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari, have so far been holding virtually.

Also, church services and business conferences are now carried out through Zoom. And this has shot the market capitalisation of the App to $48.78 billion which exceeds the share of seven global airlines in the last few months, according to Visual Capitalist of the United States.

The prevalence of the virus has also changed the manner in which social engagements are carried out nowadays. It has impacted how weddings are held owing to the social distancing clause and ban on mass gathering.

Atitebi Esther is one of the new brides who got married during the pandemic. It was such a quiet wedding: no crowds, no large gathering. According to her, she had always wanted a big wedding.

“I had always wanted a big wedding; at first my parents were not happy with having a quiet wedding. They wanted us to postpone it, but my in-laws pleaded with them to allow us do it the way it is.

“On the day of the wedding, it was just the officiating minister, the groom’s parents, the bride’s parents, the best man and the chief bride’s maid that were allowed in the church. The engagement had in attendance only the concerned family members and the Alaga iduro and Alaga ijoko (traditional wedding comperes) that were needed. It was such a quiet wedding and I came to accept it and I loved it. The advantage there is that we didn’t spend extra money on feeding, no money for hall, it really in a way cut down the cost for us,” she added.

Akinleye Grace also shared her wedding experience, as she got married during this period of lockdown. According to her, “Many people will come to see this lockdown as a blessing in disguise because it taught me lots of things as a person. I had always wanted a big wedding, but I realised that a wedding is not about the large crowds, food, buying of clothes and noise, but the success of the marriage itself.

“At the registry where we had our wedding, it was just the bride’s parents, the groom’s parents, the bride and groom, the best man and the chief bride’s maid that were allowed to enter, and the wedding went on smoothly. One thing I can say is that after this pandemic many people will resolve to be having a quiet wedding.”

Aderibigbe Detiloye, a member of a new generation church shared his view concerning the new normal courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to him, ever since the pandemic started, he has adjusted well to not going to church.

“I now realise that I can virtually stay at home and worship God; online services are being done and I have realised that my heart is the church and that where we worship is just a building. Many people can still serve God without going to church; many can still have a relationship with their maker without gathering in spiritual places to worship,” he said.

Alaka Temitope talked about how the pandemic had changed her perspectives towards life and social gatherings.

According to him: “As a person I have always loved to go out; go to the cinemas and attend parties. But ever since the lockdown started, I got used to staying alone; I so much prefer staying at home these days. I realised that staying back at home reduces unnecessary spending. After all these are gone, many people will change in all facets of their lives.”

Mary Oluwo is a 400 level Law student of the University of Lagos (Unilag). She told Sunday Tribune that the stay-at-home restriction has changed many things in her life as it has affected her daily routine. “Yes, it has changed my routine. I had to plan out my time carefully. Instead of me spending time throughout online, I planned out my schedule to read, to cook, to teach, to pray and lots more. Personally, I had to discipline myself to read. I had to motivate myself. So I made sure I read two hours or more per day. I made sure I don’t get distracted. I read other books apart from my school books,” she said.

Speaking further on how it has impacted her life, she said: “This season has helped me to develop myself in all areas. It has helped me to grow spiritually too. It has made me to have a deeper relationship with God. It has made me to have more time to read the scriptures and pray more.

“It has also improved my writing skill. It has made me to write articles and appreciate my talent more. More people have viewed my writings and appreciated my work. This gives me a sense of fulfillment. The season has also made me to improve my interpersonal skill. It has strengthened my family bond and friendship as we have been praying together more than before,” she added.



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