In many states in the country, they roam and ramble through the streets with neither purpose nor direction. At the time they are supposed to be stationed in the classrooms getting their future fashioned, many children are out of school.
Over the years, this has been the norm for millions of children all over the country. It has been reported that no fewer than 13 million children of school age in Nigeria are out of school, placing the country among nations with the highest number of out-of-school children worldwide.
Naturally, such children become vulnerable to varying degrees of social vices from their early years. Many of them become victims of criminally-minded groups and individuals. Some are introduced to crimes and ignoble practices quite early, and weaning them off such habits in later years becomes a herculean task.
Many of such boys have become addicted to drugs and cult groups while the girls get introduced to prostitution, among other social ills. Not a few of them have become child-brides, sometimes to men old enough to be their fathers.
In Edo State, the situation over the years has not been too encouraging. Girlsnotbrides, a social advocacy group that fights against child marriage, informed that in Benin, the Edo State capital, about seven per cent of the girls is married off to suitors before their 15th birthday. The group noted further that those who marry before their 18th birthday constitute 26 per cent.
But right now, analysts noted that a steady transformation has been taking place in the state, thanks to an initiative of the current administration led by Governor Godwin Obaseki.
Through the Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (EdoBest), many of the challenges are being tackled by the state government, it was learnt.
So, what is EdoBest? Dr. Joan Osa-Oviawe, chairman, Edo State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), said the initiative is aimed at achieving a total transformation of the basic education subsector in the state and to revamp the state’s degraded educational system. She explained that the programme represents the totality of managing the basic education system that can deliver quality education to every child in Edo State.
“EdoBEST has five pillars,” she informed. “The first pillar is the system, government and institutional strengthening. This is aimed at building the capacity of every staff, teaching and non-teaching. The second pillar is the teacher’s professional development and quality assurance aimed at revamping the school inspectorate division of our basic education sub-sector. The third pillar is curriculum and learning outcomes, focusing on the pupils and how they are able to learn well so that they can grow and graduate to be useful members of the society. The fourth pillar is community engagement and private partnership where we shall involve the private sector, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and religious bodies. The fifth pillar deals with the provision of school infrastructure and facilities. By the time we successfully implement the five pillars, we would have transformed education in Edo State.”
Under the programme, it was gathered, about 8,700 teachers have been trained and equipped with information and communications technology (ICT) gadgets for improved learning outcomes. As many as 150,000 school children in the state have so far been impacted, it was gathered. The programme has also transformed teaching in Edo from analogue to digital, as teachers now employ custom-built, cloud-run tablets in the classrooms.
Besides that, it was learnt that more than 320 schools are being reconstructed, while 7,094 computer tablets have been distributed to teachers and head teachers.
It was further learnt that 11,688 school-based management committee (SBMC) members have been trained to help in administering and maintaining public education facilities.
The initiative has been attracting commendations from reputable global institutions like the World Economic Forum (WEF), the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank. Even within the country, the state governor, Godwin Obaseki has been garlanded over the success of the programme.
Only recently, on its website, the World Economic Forum (WEF) eulogised the EdoBEST programme for improving learning outcomes among pupils in primary schools in Edo State. The organisation also applauded Obaseki, as a trailblazer, asserting that the governor has been dramatically lifting the quality of government schools and up-skilling teachers in the low-income state.
“Education experts around the world and across Africa, in particular, are paying close attention to EdoBest, and has become a beacon of light to other education ministries because it is improving learning for marginalised children and up-skilling both novice and experienced teachers at scale, within existing state budgets and without western aid,” the WEF noted.
“The changes are happening within the existing system and being spearheaded by existing teachers and school leaders. It is a Nigerian solution to a Nigerian problem,” the organisation added.
To the World Bank and the United Nations, EdoBest is a crucial programme that can be a template for transforming education in educationally disadvantaged societies. At the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) summit in New York in September last year, a side event was facilitated by the World Bank to discuss the EdoBest programme.
And to further show its support for the programme, the World Bank recently gave Edo State a $75 million facility to further ensure education development in the state.
Speaking at an engagement during one of the ward-to-ward rallies ahead of the September 19 governorship election in the state, Governor Obaseki assured that the facility would be utilised to change the face of education in Edo and Nigeria for the next three years. He pledged that the intervention fund would help to expand the existing EdoBest programme from the basic education level to secondary level and reset the state’s tertiary education system on the path of progress.
“What this means is that over the next three years, we will have about N40 billion to utilise in changing the face of education in Edo and Nigeria. This is because of the fantastic work which members of our team have undertaken in the past few years to show the world what we can do with our educational system.
“It will interest you to know that this facility will help us at the secondary school level to do what we have started doing at the basic education level, so that by the time a child has gone through five years of learning, that child will be exposed not only to learning and literacy but also to a vocation. This is the last time in our history that our education system will produce
agberos and touts,” he asserted.
Mr. Crusoe Osagie, the Governor’s Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, said the facility was given by the World Bank to boost Obaseki’s vision of holistically revamping the state’s education sector. He said the facility was given because of the steady developmental strides of the Obaseki administration’s strategic implementation of programmes in the education sector.
It was gathered that the programme is already being understudied by a number of states in the country. Several delegations from a number of African countries, including Rwanda, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, among others, have also visited the state.
The governor has also received awards in Nigeria as a result of the success of the EdoBest initiative. Recently, the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) gave Obaseki the Best Performing Governor Award in recognition of his education reforms, the success of the EdoBest programme and for prioritising teachers’ welfare in Edo State.
At the event, Governor Obaseki said: “What this award means is that a nation should know that we are prioritising education. The country should know that what is important today is mental infrastructure, the intellectual infrastructure not stomach infrastructure.
“What we have done in Edo in the last one and a half years is to first prioritise basic education and technical education. If you are not able to add your sums and pronounce your alphabets, you cannot write and you cannot think logically.”
In his words, EdoBest has helped tremendously to encourage teachers and deploy technology to determine when a teacher is in class, among others.
“I can tell from my office today when a teacher is in class. If a teacher is not in class then the teacher hasn’t signed into the database. Once a teacher is signed in, the lesson note for that day will be loaded into the teacher’s tablet. And we’ve trained teachers to understand how to use the tablets and the technology to teach the children. So, this is also to motivate them and corporal punishment has been abolished in our schools. The outcome is that children are learning. A child in Edo state today after one term has now learnt more than three terms of work in the old system.”
Many teachers and pupils in the state have praised the Governor Obaseki’s administration for initiating EdoBest, among other programmes.
Ayo Omokhagbon and Raymond Madugu, both teachers at Omigie Primary School, Okpella, Etsako East Local Government Area of the state lauded the initiative, concurring that EdoBest has brought professionalism into the education sector. They informed that the governor gave the school some facelift with the construction of a block of classrooms and a headmaster office. Toilets were also built for teachers and pupils, they said.
Monica Aliu and Promise Oshoke, primary five and six pupils at Eveva Primary School, Okugbe Okpella, praised Obaseki for providing a number of learning and teaching aids like modern desks, textbooks, computers, and school buildings for their school.