Pioneering Transformation in Edo

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Rebecca Ejifoma reports that the gradual but steady improvement in Edo State’s education sector, is a testimonial of Governor Godwin Obaseki’s drive to tackle the root cause of academic impoverishment, which is by changing the way teachers impact knowledge

Education, as one of the key indices for development, remains a veritable parameter for gauging any government’s commitment to societal progress. With the gradual but steady improvements to the education system, a number of states in Nigeria are pioneering innovations to ensure that children are properly moulded to better contribute to societal growth.

This is cast against the backdrop of when public schools were overcrowded, with school buildings dilapidated, and learning aids in short supply. It was a cause for concern that school leavers were a far-cry from what was expected of them, with many lacking in basic literacy and numeracy skills. Hence, government and other stakeholders across the country sought for ways to change the narrative.

In Edo State, since the return to democracy, concerted efforts to restore the glory of public education have recorded varying degrees of success. As is still fresh in the memory of residents of the state, under Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the red-roof revolution brought about massive infrastructure development in primary and secondary schools. But Oshiomhole’s administration could only do so much to reverse a damage that had festered for decades.

When he assumed office, Governor Godwin Obaseki continued the revamp of public education in Edo, but with a focus on the root cause – changing the way teachers impact knowledge.  Many analysts argue – and a number of parents agree somewhat – that the teaching method in public schools was anachronistic and the workforce had lost touch with the times. So, they preferred private schools.

Obaseki, given his private sector background, knew things had to be done differently. He was unequivocal about his commitment to primary education, with the understanding that fixing the rot in education from the root would drive a bottom-up revolution of the basic education sub-sector. He had to bring in modern technology to classrooms and retrain the teachers to adapt to the new technology.

“To fix basic education, you need to look at all aspects, the training of teachers, review of curriculum and refurbishment of the physical environment of the schools,” the governor said, while justifying his decision to invest heavily in education in Edo State.

To kickstart his plans, the governor reconfigured the Edo State Universal Basic Education Board (Edo-SUBEB) and inaugurated a new, forward-looking board with a mandate to revolutionalise basic education in the state.

Launch of Edo-BEST

Governor Obaseki’s overhaul of the basic education sector is driven by the Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (Edo-EST) programme, a multi-prong initiative that migrates teachers from analogue to digital pedagogy, drives infrastructure development, ensures better monitoring and community ownership of schools.

Early in 2018, Governor Obaseki gave insights into how reforms of basic education would transform primary schools in the state. According to him, “Our teachers will be supported, and the school curriculum adjusted to make it more relevant. We are overhauling our basic education system by introducing technology to our primary schools and enhancing the capacity of our teachers to instruct our children by using modern technology tools.”

Fast forward to April 2018, Governor Obaseki, known for keeping to his promises, kick-started the overhaul of the basic education sub-sector with the launch of Edo-BEST programme. The initiative commenced with the pilot training of over 2,000 teachers drawn from over 300 public primary schools across the state on new teaching methods, which involved deployment of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools in teaching; harmonisation of teaching and learning outcomes in primary schools as well as the adoption of interactive classroom management model among others.

In the last one year, part of the gains recorded, according to the Special Adviser to the Governor on Basic Education and Executive Chairman Edo State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Dr. Joan Osa Oviawe, include training of 8700 teachers; improving reading and numeracy skills among pupils in not less than 931 public primary schools across the state. She said as a result of this, pupil enrollment in primary school increased by 20,000 in just one year.

Teachers Testimonials 

After one of the training programmes in Benin City, elated teachers were impressed with the new approach to education introduced by the governor, so much so that they conceded that the old method of teaching belonged to another era.

A cross-section of the teachers said they learnt vital skills in managing pupils, noting that the new pedagogue will not only bring them up to speed with teaching methods but also strike a stronger bond between them and their pupils.

A teacher from Buwa Primary School, Ikpoba Okha, Mr. Okerenkporo Paul said that the training changed his perception about teaching despite being in the profession for years.

Noting that he has learnt new methods of impacting knowledge to pupils, he said, “When I get into the classroom, I will scan the class and narrate the positive. I will encourage and motivate my pupils to learn in such a manner that they will long for knowledge.”

Bazuaye Hope, a teacher in Aghahowa Primary School in Egor, said a high point of the training was the charge for teachers to discontinue corporal punishment as a corrective measure in instilling new behaviour. They were encouraged to adopt a more humanising approach that makes the learning experience more rewarding.

According to her, “Before now, in our various schools, we applied corporal punishment and we felt it was the best way to correct a child. But from this training, I have learnt that corporal punishment is not the best measure to correct a child.”

The hallmark of the new system is digitalising the teaching experience for teachers, which makes for efficient class management and interaction with pupils.

“We have been put through the new regiment of digital teaching system. We now use the Teacher’s Computer to deliver lessons, which is a great drift from the old system,” said Ekogiawe Fedrick, a teacher in Oba Primary School, Ovia South West Local Government Area (LGA).

Community Participation 

A key feature of the basic education reform in Edo State is the inclusive structure set up to ensure that members of the schools’ host community contribute to administration and management of schools.

Called the School-Based Management Committee (SBMC), the structure is made up of members of the host community and others appointed by the state government, who have been trained to monitor quality, protect infrastructure and ensure efficient management of the schools to assure quality.

There is a total of 11,688 members of the SBMC in Edo State, who help the school management in administering the schools, providing the needed community input to promote good governance.

Confident that the SBMC will ensure that the schools are better managed, Governor Obaseki said the ongoing renovation of schools will be based on the constitution of the SBMC in the schools.

According to him, “We will not invest in any school without the involvement of the School-Based Management Committee (SBMC) and the communities. SBMC will now take charge of maintenance after construction with the support of the communities.”

Renovation of Schools’ Infrastructure 

Part of ongoing renovation work being carried out in over 230 schools considered as critical component in the overall vision of Obaseki to reposition basic education for improved outcome, with Edo SUBEB leading the charge.

The remodeling of the 230 schools is part of the Obaseki-led administration’s commitment to improved teaching and learning methods, and provide conducive environment for teachers and their pupils.

Some of 230 schools where renovation work is ongoing to improve infrastructure include Ojirami Primary School in Ojirami, Akoko-Edo Local Government Area (LGA); Ugbogo Primary School in Igarra, Akoko Edo LGA; Amegor Primary School in Uwelu, Egor LGA; Eweka Primary School in Egor LGA; Olua Primary School in Egor LGA; Ivbiyeneva Primary School in Ikpoba Okha LGA; Aduwawa Primary School in Ikpoba Okha and Uhie Primary School.

Others are Egbokor Primary School, Idunmwingun Primary School, Iguere Primary School, Evboeghae primary school and Oza Primary School, in Orhionmwon Local Government Area, and over 200 other schools across the three senatorial districts.

In his innovative approach in providing solutions to problems, Obaseki noted, “We are committed to ensuring that the schools in Edo State are in good shape. We wanted the School-Based Management Committee (SBMC) to be in place so they can play a critical role in ensuring that the schools are well run and that whatever is provided for the schools are not vandalised”.