• Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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FG, UNICEF unveil platform to boost access to education for 12 million Nigerians

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The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the federal government on Thursday launched the Nigeria Learning Passport (NLP), an online, mobile and soon-to-be offline learning platform that will provide continuous education to 12 million Nigerian students.

The UN agency said a total of 3 million learners will be targeted in 2022 alone, and a total of 12 million students will have increased access to education by 2025. It noted that the aim of the platform is to reduce the burden of out-of-school children, and ensure that more children do not fall out of school.

UNICEF noted that before COVID-19, about 10.5 million Nigerian children aged between 5 and 14 were not in school; it also disclosed that more than 9.7 million children are at risk of never returning to school, their learning left behind.

According to the agency, the NLP is designed for pre-primary, primary and secondary school learning. Children, youth, and teachers can access a digitalized curriculum providing learning materials in all core curriculum subjects for Primary One to Six, and all Junior and Senior Secondary School classes.

With the launch, Nigeria has joined 20 other countries in the world where the Learning Passport is reaching children with improved learning opportunities. A learner can register on the platform using any device with a web browser, or through the NLP mobile application, to access a variety of high-quality learning content.

Vice-President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, represented by Adamu Adamu, Minister of Education speaking at the launch, said, “To ensure continuity of learning for all children and the resilience of education systems to future shocks, we must change and reimagine the education sector.

“Deploying innovations that rethink the current methodologies, including new approaches to delivering education in ways that defy the digital divide, and ensuring learning continuity in emergencies, has become imperative.”

Catherine Russell, UNICEF’s Executive Director, in a goodwill message said, “Before COVID-19, about 10.5 million Nigerian children aged between 5 and 14 were not in school. Today in Nigeria, more than 9.7 million children are at risk of never returning to school, their learning left behind. The Learning Passport can help change that.

“By offering simple, easy, and fun ways to learn, as well as tailor-made training programmes, the Learning Passport will help respond to the needs of every child. With online, offline, and mobile options, it can help us reach the most vulnerable and marginalized learners,” Russell added.

Read also: Why 9.7 million Nigerian children may never return to school – UNICEF

Nigeria’s education sector faces many challenges that have contributed to keeping more than 10.5 million children out of school in Africa’s most populous nation.

One of these challenges is access to quality learning, exacerbated in recent times by attacks on learning institutions and abduction of students. Both have made parents fearful of sending their children to school. The disruption to education by school attacks has meant millions of children have significantly missed out on learning they would have acquired if they had been in the classroom.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the digital divide two-thirds of the world’s children face, having no access to the internet in their homes. This lack of connectivity affects low-income countries and rural regions in greater proportions and puts children and youth in these areas at greater risk of missing out on education, perpetuating inequalities.

“Both the digital divide and COVID-19 have shown us that we must innovate to help Nigerian children fulfil their right to an education,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria. “We appreciate the partnership with Microsoft, the Global Partnership for Education, and all partners who collaborated with the Federal Ministry of Education on this project to provide continuous learning access to children in Nigeria.”

The NLP is supported by GenU 9JA (Generation Unlimited in Nigeria), with the aim of delivering connectivity and digital learning to young Nigerians at scale. Partners such as IHS Towers and Airtel are currently connecting schools to the internet and providing zero-rated data to ensure that UNICEF can deploy the NLP in connected schools and reach millions of children with digital learning.

GenU 9JA has an ambitious objective to support 20 million young Nigerians (aged 10 to 24) to transition from learning to earning and delivering data, digital learning, job-related skills, and livelihood opportunities by 2030.