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Lessons from Edo State’s basic education transformation drive

Edo State’s achievements in transforming basic education delivery are showing that scaling innovation and change across any critical sector is quicker when led by strong political leadership.

Two years ago, under the strong political leadership of Godwin Obaseki, governor of Edo State, the five million people strong state embarked on a long journey to upskill teachers in the basic education space and invest heavily in education technologies.

This makes more sense given that experts have said for Nigeria to build an education system that is relevant in the twenty-first century; it needs to apply digital tools, which personalise the learning process for each individual.

Nigeria largely operates an education system that was built in the nineteenth century for the industrial revolution in a twenty-first century that is driven by innovation. Such an education system has outlived its relevance.

“The market of learners is ready for new ways of learning our experience has shown. What we see is that digital technology comprising smartphones and hyper-fast internet connections, faster processors and cheaper computing are forcing us to rethink our approach to education. Government officials and entrepreneurs may have the vision, the challenge is the willingness to apply this vision, Sim Shagaya, founder ulesson said during at Businessday’s Digital Dialogues titled “A National Conversation: Mapping Nigeria’s Response to COVID-19.”

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In April 2018, Edo State launched a programme to retrain and support all 15,000 government teachers— novice and experienced. This was to transform the learning outcomes for the 300,000 children across 1,500 public primary and junior secondary schools in Edo State.

In June 2019, Obaseki said the Edo State government would ensure that the gains in education technologies enabled teaching and learning recorded in primary schools through the Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (Edobest) programme are sustained at the secondary school level by designating special junior secondary schools for technology transfer.

Rather than conduct slow pilots and trials over many years, EDOBEST boosted education capacity in the State in a single stroke. During April and May 2018 over 6,000 government teachers and more than 800 headteachers were trained as EDOBEST teachers across five, ten-day training sessions. Exactly a year later an additional 6,000 government teachers and 600 head teachers were added to the EDOBEST programme.

All headteachers are given additional training to enhance the management of their schools and cultivate a mindset geared towards excellence of both teacher and pupil. Much of the traditional administrative ‘burden’ associated with managing a school is streamlined through the use of technology, giving more time to monitor classrooms and develop good relationships with parents/guardians and the wider community in which they work.

In additions all schools in the EDOBEST programme are using a school-wide pupil placement an approach known as across-grade ability grouping; which sees pupils grouped according to their ability and not their age, to strengthen their literacy and mathematics skills. This seems like an ‘obvious’ approach but it rarely happens.

Public primary schools in Edo State have witnessed a high influx of pupils from private schools across the 18 Local Government Areas of the state, due to the total transformation of the Basic Education Sector in the state. EDOBEST is changing lives and pupils in public primary schools across the state are at the centre stage.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which made the Federal Government of Nigeria shut down schools, has resulted in the termination of learning for many states. But Edo State, through the EDOBEST@HOME has sustained learning.

Schools have been closed for more than two months, in more than 190 countries affecting 1.57 billion children, but EDOBEST@HOME has deployed measures for learning to continue through platforms, television and radio.

At the launch of EDO-BEST@ Home the governor emphasised it is an extension of the EDOBEST programme, which is now to be supported with mobile tutors to provide daily lessons on the State Universal

Basic Education Board (SUBEB) website for parents across the state to keep their children occupied during the holidays.

“I remain committed to the provision of quality education for all as the new academic calendar begins during this period of partial lockdown; it is my pleasure to announce that we have provided an alternative source of schooling for our children and it is called EDO-BEST@HOME,” the governor said.

Obaseki noted that his administration introduced the use of technology in the primary school system with the launch of Edo BEST two years ago, “we have acquainted over 280,000 children with technologybased learning model and trained 11,000 teachers and education managers on model digital teaching and learning methods.

According to him, over 40,000 users have accessed the lessons on SUBEB website. EDOBEST@HOME comprises interactive audio lessons with customised messaging, digital self-study activity packs, mobile-phone-based interactive quizzes, digital storybooks and virtually moderated teacher and student classroom interactions.

The programme offers four hours of learning content daily, and the mobile technology company, MTN Nigeria, is a partner on the e-lesson programme, to provide zero-data access and two-way SMS at no cost to parents.

Experts have contended that the longer the school interruption, the larger the learning loss. This means the earlier schools can reopen the less risk of long-term damage to the learning journeys and well-being of millions of children. Prolonged school closures will exacerbate inequalities, deepen the learning crisis and expose the most vulnerable children to a heightened risk of exploitation.

“Over 30 percent of learners will not resume when the schools reopen after COVID-19 lockdown is lifted. Young girls are getting pregnant as a result,” Otto Orondaam, founder, Slum2school said.

Finding innovative solutions is an urgent priority, not only to mitigate the learning loss but also to avoid flattening the education curve. While most of the solutions typically discussed are from highor middle-income countries, there the Edobest@home programme is helping the state’s education systems adapt to the schooling and learning crisis amid the COVID-19 lockdown. The case of Edo state is paradigmatic.

The programme may not be perfect, and learning losses will be inevitable, but the current situation demands “harm-reduction” education policies that can mitigate the risks and minimise inequalities. Thus, investing in education through innovative approaches that can reach everyone is imperative to avoid one of the most silent but potentially devastating consequences of COVID-19: the increase in the learning gap.

Some of the achievements of the EDOBEST programme include over 11, 356 teachers and headteachers trained on the use of modern technology to enhance teaching delivery and learning outcomes. About 234 public primary schools renovated with playground and over 12,000 pupils’ furniture (desks and chairs) distributed.

Under the programme, the state has also distributed over 1 million free textbooks distributed to over 270,000 pupils of public primary schools. It has also established an active trained School Basic Management Committee (SBMC) in communities across the state.

Other milestones achievements of EDOBEST include a total number of 3,781 children admitted into public primary schools across the 18 LGAS on the first week of school resumption last year. Approximately 2,057 out of the 3,781 pupils were from private schools.

“Any politics that doesn’t develop people is bad. Politics that doesn’t take from our collective good to support the weakest in the society is bad politics and that is what we are changing in Edo State,” Obaseki once said.

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