Funmi Ogundare

The Director-General, Lagos State Office of Education Quality Assurance (OEQA), Mrs. Ronke Soyombo has reiterated the government’s commitment to supporting schools to improve the quality of education in the state.

Soyombo who made this known, recently, at the innovation fair and close-out event of the UK-funded Developing Effective Private Education in Nigeria (DEEPEN) Challenge Fund when creative products such as teacher empowerment app, Mathematics software, an indigenous board game and a talking pen were displayed in Lagos, described such innovations as laudable.

She said such solutions can help improve teaching and learning in schools, adding, “Every little help counts and that is what we are doing today. We need to put all hands on deck to raise the standards in our schools. What the DEEPEN Challenge Fund is showing is how we can be more creative in our schools.”

The Governance Adviser for the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), Mr. Chris Okeke said UK recognises the absolute importance of supporting children and young people to gain a decent education in Nigeria, adding that the DEEPEN Challenge Fund was established to identify what works to improve the quality of education in low-cost private schools, disseminate examples of best practices and support the growth of a competitive non-state education market.

DFID Education Adviser, Mrs. Esohe Eigbike provided an overview of the UK’s education work in Nigeria, which cuts across the public and private sectors, teacher development and girls’ education.

‘The Challenge Fund has been able to support the delivery of educational innovations which is helping children from poor households to improve their basic numeracy and literacy, ” she said.

The Team Leader of the DEEPEN Challenge Fund, Dr. Nneka Enwonwu, said the programme provided both financial and technical assistance for five business models to pilot or scale up a range of innovative products and services in low-cost private schools across Lagos.

She described the feedback from participating schools as encouraging, saying, “they are quite excited that people are coming up with solutions to help them overcome many of the challenges they face, and improve the quality of education they deliver.”

She noted that about 70,000 children are benefitting from these innovations, which include an indigenous board game that facilitates the regular practice of basic concepts in Mathematics and English; a teacher empowerment app providing curriculum-based lesson plans on tablets to help teachers deliver lessons to their pupils; and a unique combination of talking books and pen designed to simplify the learning experience.

Others are an interactive software which teaches Mathematics in a fun way, with the aim of improving children’s ability and confidence in the subject, and a bespoke training and mentoring programme which seeks to transform schools into sustainable, profitable institutions.

The programme featured grant recipients delivering presentations about their products and services, sharing lessons, challenges and successes from their work with schools across Lagos.

It also featured documentaries showcasing testimonials from school owners, teachers and pupils about each product as well as an exhibition showcasing the innovations.

Development partners such as the World Bank commended the grant recipients, and expressed willingness to work with them through the states to scale up the innovations across the country, particularly to improve the quality of schools and educate out-of-school children.

The close-out event was attended by the Commissioners of Education from Anambra, Ekiti, Ogun, Jigawa, Kano and Kaduna states as well as senior officials from the Lagos State Ministry of Education. The event also had in attendance, private school associations, and representatives of international non-governmental organisations as well as other non-profit and private organisations.

The DEEPEN Challenge Fund is an innovation fund within the ‘Supporting Innovation’ component of the DEEPEN programme, designed to pilot or deepen the use of innovative learning and teaching aids in low-cost private schools in Lagos.