The future of any nation lies in the skills, strengths and focus of interest of its youths. It is on this premise that the importance of investing in youths is paramount to any futuristic government. For a country like Nigeria with half its population categorised as youth, this investment ought to be a priority.
That is why in April 2022, Governor Godwin Obaseki disclosed that the next step of Edo State’s signature basic education programme, EdoBEST, would be its implementation in junior secondary schools and higher learning institutions which are dominated by youths.
As the world celebrates the International Youth Day which is set aside to recognise the beauty of youths and entrench measures to make this rare demographic more relevant to global development, spotlighting EdoBEST is inevitable.
This year, the theme is instructive. “Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages” borders on seeking ways to improve the world by tapping the strengths of all age brackets in society as the deadline for attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approaches.
The objective of this year’s International Youth Day theme is to amplify the message that action is needed across all generations to achieve the SDGs and leave no one behind. This is one thing the Edo State mandate under the Make Edo Great Again (MEGA) led by the Obaseki-led government, seeks to achieve.
As the heartbeat of the nation, Edo State boasts of a population of 3,233,366 with about half of its adult population categorised as youths. For a state as large as Edo State, it is important that the state government invests in its youth demography to safeguard the future of the state. Living up to its slogan, it can be said that the state leads in taking the initiative in resetting the future for Nigerians especially those in Edo State.
The place of youth in Edo State
For many years, youths in Edo State have been associated with varying vices that not only painted the state in a negative light but also demeaned the youths. That effectively ensured a consistent negative taint to the Human Development Index of the state. Taking the need to create a safe environment for all, the state government has taken youth development seriously, effectively looking into ways to engage the youths.
Deciding on education as the driving force for youth development, Governor Godwin Obaseki noted that the mass exodus of young people from the state to other states and countries did not reflect on the state the right way. In a Financial Times article, Governor Obaseki noted that “The extent of human trafficking and irregular migration that peaked in 2016-17 was our call to action. We were forced to focus on the root causes propelling them to migrate at any cost.”
One of these root causes lay in the dearth of the education sector and its failure to impart knowledge in the future leaders, which resulted in a significant learning deficit among young people, as some of the became unemployable. Therefore, the government was faced with the need to reform the education sector — particularly at the basic level.
Factors like lack of education content and teacher gaps inevitably leading to an increase in the number of out-of-school children in Edo State projected the need for a sector wide reform to reset the future of the Edo youth. This birthed the EdoBEST reform.
The reform started in primary schools taking basic education to the next level using digitised content, standardised curriculum and classroom management techniques targeted at improving learning outcomes, assimilation and classroom participation. This played a major role in influencing the mindset of the youths, engineering their thought processes to positive ways of contributing to the economy.
The success of the programme in state-run primary schools led to the expansion of the programme to secondary schools under the EdoBEST 2.0 programme.
EdoBEST implementation in Junior Secondary School
EdoBEST focused on reforming specific areas: governance and institutions, community participation and partnerships, infrastructure, leadership and — critically — teacher development and curriculum. This it did through a strategic positioning of teachers and stakeholders in the education sector.
The Edo State Government has extended the reform to 232 junior secondary schools effectively engaging about 22,862 students in JSS across the 18 Local Government Areas in Edo State.
The programme has taken basic education to the next level especially in rural hard-to-reach areas in the state with low student enrolment and teacher-pupil ratio. What this guarantees is that more children in the state will have unfettered access to education. What is more, they will be taught by experienced and well-trained teachers who are well versed in the EdoBEST pedagogy guaranteed to inspire success, increased assimilation through class participation and improved learning outcomes.
Actively training 1,859 teachers and principals on the EdoBEST pedagogy strategically positioned these education stakeholders to make an impact in junior secondary schools following the disarticulation of JSS by the state under the UBEC law.
For 10-year old Jedidiah Johnson of Imaguero Junior Secondary School, having to continue the EdoBEST programme even as she continues her secondary education in a different school is a blessing she can attribute to the Edo State Government. She, like her classmates, attends school everyday to be taught by teachers who are grounded in classroom techniques that encourage maximum active participation from students.
Jedidiah noted that having a dedicated teacher to her favourite subject English Language has helped her improve her vocabulary, exposing her to new experiences through literature. She says it encourages her to attain excellence in her academics.
“This term, I will read my books so that I can improve my vocabulary”, she says enthusiastically while participating in the programme’s EdoBEST@Home initiative as schools are on vacation.
Governor Obaseki’s passion for youths
Taking education to the next level in fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals 4 – Quality Education, requires governments institutionalising a better learning curriculum that is inclusive of both formal, vocational and technical education, upskilling the youth for the future. Edo State understands the importance of providing quality education to the Edo child. This is why the EdoBEST 2.0 programme not only continues to provide basic education services to children in EdoBEST schools, but extends the reach to cover TVET and tertiary education.
Using technology to re-engineer the entire cycle of delivery and accountability while redesigning teacher support, welfare and training to foster success in the classroom, Edo State is systematically reforming the society through education and skill acquisition. Speaking to Financial Times, a business and economics British daily newspaper that highlights new insights into various economies around the world, the Executive Governor of Edo State, Governor Godwin Obaseki expressed his passion in engaging the youths of Edo State.
He said, “At the root of the social, economic and security challenges faced by many African states is the failure of governments to provide mass quality education, notably in basic numeracy and literacy.
“It is the right of every child to receive a quality education. Denying anyone access is not just an abuse of their rights — it also reveals a catastrophic failure which must be tackled, not neglected.”
This year, it is telling that the government has redefined the theme for the International Youth Day to speak to the reality of the impact of the EdoBEST programme and other innovative reforms of the state government.
The theme, “Resetting the Future, Empowering Our Youths” speaks true to the fact that the Edo State Government is resetting the future using education as a driver for improved learning outcomes and ultimately community development through the utilisation of skills acquired.
According to the Edo State commissioner for youths and humanitarian affairs, Christopher Nehikhare, “The Edo State Government takes the issue of youths very seriously that is why the state can pride itself as a state with the highest employment rate of youths in Nigeria and our educational programme like EdoBEST is one of the best as it is been studied to be replicated.”
Achieving SDG by 2030
The Sustainable Development Goals are a set of goals initiated by the United Nations as a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges developed and developing countries face, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice.
As the world draws closer to the timeline for achieving these goals, it is important that it has a driver for sustainable development. A key driver to address these challenges and create a sustainable future for all, is the youth. An investment in the youths is an investment in the future, thereby creating an environment where every youth is a winner.
More efforts should be put into educating the future of the society – the youths. Government should make more investment in education to enlighten the youths as an enlightened youth demography is that that is equipped to effect change in the society, and proffering solutions to socio-economic challenges thus creating a world for all ages.