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Long-distance learning should be available, accessible to all children in Oyo- Group

A group working for the rights of children to education, health and protection, Child Protection Network on Wednesday urged Oyo State government under the leadership of Governor Seyi Makinde to as a matter of urgency, make long-distance learning available and accessible to all children in the state.

“This is necessary in order to ensure that no child is left behind due to Coronavirus pandemic or any other emergency situation occasioning disruption in learning or any other emergency situation occasioning disruption in learning” the group said.

Coordinator, Child Protection Network, Oyo State, Ebunlomo Walker, in a statement made available in Ibadan noted that an all-inclusive education should be the watchword of the government to avoid gross inequality whereby the well-endowed continue to learn while the rural and other underserved are left behind.

Walker who noted that the global COVID-19 pandemic has led to drastic responses that include lockdowns with closing of schools and other spaces of learning for children in Oyo State and indeed globally, remarked that closing of schools has popularized the use of long-distance learning modalities, which include radio program, home-schooling, online learning and other innovative approaches to enable children continue to learn.

Walker warned that failure to do this would negatively impact and make a mockery of Governor Makinde’s well-known and lauded education Program for all in Oyo State.

According to her, the COVID pandemic has led to drastic responses that include lockdowns with closing of schools and other spaces of learning for children in Oyo State and indeed globally. Though this is in a bid to break community transmission of the virus, an unintended consequence is the resultant disruption of access to children’s learning, at great costs to the children, family and community life. This is because education is a child’s right and foundational to development and cannot wait and neither should it wait. For the most vulnerable, not only does it offer safety and protection, it also offers hope for a brighter future, she said.

“The closing of schools has popularized the use of long-distance learning modalities, which include radio program, home-schooling, online learning and other innovative approaches to enable children continue to learn. The most popular of this is the on-line learning that is being implemented only by the well-endowed schools and families. This modality requires computer, smartphones and internet connectivity which are out of reach of more than 90% of Oyo State children due to parental poverty.

“This marginalizes underserved children from the rural and poorer urban communities who form the bulk of the children in Oyo State, live in poverty and are dependent mainly on free public-school education.  Even for those with ability to access, the cost of data is prohibitive, making it financially unsustainable for even middle-class families.

“In the new realities of post-Covid era that will be marked by new learning modalities, this trends if allowed to persist, will not augur well for the society, as it will spin up an ‘almajiri’ type of scenario whereby a few learn in best environment, while majority are left without learning, thereby denying them their fundamental rights to education and creating children of two worlds.

” All-inclusive Education should be the watchword of the government to avoid gross inequality whereby the well-endowed continue to learn while the rural and other underserved are left behind. Failure to do this will negatively impact and make a mockery of Governor Makinde’s well-known and lauded Education Program for all in Oyo State.

“It is mandatory and urgent for Oyo State government, the custodian of education, to develop an equitable and evidence-based policy for long-distance learning which will articulate the modalities for reaching all children across the socio-economic and geographic divides of Oyo. The government should collaborate and partner with all stakeholders in the private sector, development partners and Civil Society to facilitate the building of infrastructure and planning and implementation of long-distance learning for all children. For example, the cost of resources for different modalities could be reduced through subsidy, private sector or development partner assistance to support the education sector and parents. This will ensure access for all children and leaving no one behind.

“There is a need for research to inform policy formulation and  identify the most affordable, accessible and cost-effective modalities that can be adopted and funded to ensure access by all children, irrespective of geographical area of residence or socio-economic status. In conclusion, there is an urgent need for Oyo State government and all stakeholders to take proactive steps to stem the demonstrated widening of the gap occasioned by the need for distance learning occasioned by the COVID response and which will persist into beyond the era”.

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