Tackling Edo State’s Humanitarian Challenges with Quality Education

Godwin Obaseki

Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, who described education reforms as one of his major achievements so far, explained why he took the initiative, the strides made so far, the outcome of his investment and the future expectations. Uchechukwu Nnaike reports

On assumption of office in 2016 as the Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki moved swiftly to address the rot that had occurred in the education sector over the years.
He said the deterioration of the public education system in the state had an extreme effect on children from poor communities, adding that the system was characterised by overworked and poorly trained teachers using outdated teaching methods which failed to prepare the children for the challenges of the 21st century.

According to him, his administration discovered what he termed humanitarian crisis among youths who are not educated and as such not empowered to make the right choice.
“When I realised that we had about 40,000 Edo boys and girls in Libya waiting to cross over to Europe, then I knew we had a humanitarian crisis; they were not properly trained, they are not educated and they had lost hope. If we continue this way after a while, we will not even have a state to govern.

“More importantly was the social effect on the society. You go to some communities, you won’t find young people, everybody has moved to the fringe of Benin so that from there they can take off and travel. And when we looked at the data, they were not just trafficking women anymore; we had more young boys migrating regularly than women who are being trafficked.”

The governor said he realised that the answer is knowledge. “If people knew and they felt they had options, they won’t opt for this dangerous option. That was why we said we need to make a lot more investment for tomorrow.”

As part of his intervention in the education sector, the Obaseki administration started with the primary level, having identified basic education as the most important building block for learning and development for every human being.
The determination to transform the sector birthed the Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (Edo BEST), which has led to the successful training of over 7,000 teachers in the use of digital tools to aid learning since 2018.

The teachers now prepare and deliver lessons, as well as monitor students’ performance with the mobile devices.
The governor also implemented a new curriculum in public schools, which supports ICT tools.
He also ensured constant reward of teachers to motivate those who show exceptional commitment to teaching the children who are the future of the state.

To promote a conducive learning environment, the government, in collaboration with the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) renovated and reconstructed 230 public schools in the 18 local government areas. The work done included the addition of classrooms and restrooms, replacement of leaking roofs, repair of broken wall and flooring. In some cases, buildings were demolished and rebuilt.

In a bid to engage more youths, thereby reducing school drop out rate and youh restiveness, the government also embarked on the rehabilitation of the Government Science and Technical College, formerly known as the Benin Technical College. It involved the construction of new classrooms for 400 students, new laboratories and workshops, renovation of existing buildings with internal and external fittings and a dedicated power line, which will supply power directly to the college and the University of Benin.

During a visit to one of the primary schools when lesson was ongoing, THISDAY observed that the mobile device called Teachers’ Computer (TC), made the teacher’s job easier, while the pupils were eager to learn in a relaxed atmosphere.
One of the teachers, Ms. Sandra Orherhator commended the state government and the SUBEB for moving teachers from the era of diaries and lesson notes to the era of using computer to teach, making teaching and learning easier.

“Today, the children learn easily, you pronounce a word for them and at the count of two, they give you what you want. They pronounce, they spell, they make you happy. I feel very happy doing this job, I feel very proud becoming a teacher.”
Explaining the use of the teachers computer, she said, “right now we no longer make use of the diary and register, it is the TC. After the assembly in the morning, you use the TC to take attendance of pupils in the class. Even in the afternoon, we also use it to know those who came in after break and those who did not. Then all classes for the day, schedules will come that we use to teach each subject and with time. So the schedule and daily lessons are uniform in all primary schools.”

It was also learnt that the device is used to track Teachers’ attendance as teachers have to clock in before 7.40am or the system will automatically declare them absent for the day.
“As a teacher, when it is 7.20am you should be in school, when it exceeds 7.40am you are already late, you should know you are late for that day. You can use the TC to work, but you can use it to sign out at the end of the day.”

The Headteacher of one of the schools, Mrs. Oti Osariemen said there is a central server used by the supervisors so when a teacher is not in school, the headteacher will be called to inquire about the teacher. She said the device is programmed to function within th school premises while the headteacher is close to her computer so the possibility of a teacher signing in from home is ruled out.

She recalled how a child was absent from school and with the information provided by the parents, the school had to call the parents who informed the them that the child travelled to attend a burial. “The man was so happy that we noticed the child’s absence and called to find out what happened.”

She added: “Anytime we admit a student here Edo BEST will send a congratulatory message to the parents. So the parents and teachers are happy.”
From the primary schools, the governor said he plans to restructure the junior secondary school so that by the time a child goes through the first nine years of learning in Edo State, the child is ready for life. “So even if you don’t have an opportunity to continue, you would have picked out something from the school system because the first six years will consolidate your ability to learn then the next three years in junior school will expose you to life.

“You must leave school with a vocation so that if you don’t have the opportunity of continuing to senior school or technical school, you don’t end up being a tout as the situation was. So at the end of the day it is about human capacity, once you build the human beings then they make things happen.”
He expressed delight that the government was able to pull back and recover a system that it thought was lost within a short time, adding that the educational transformation will have a positive effect across the board.

To sustain the quality, Obaseki stated that teachers’ performance is constantly being monitored, while retraining is consistent. “We have field officers who go round, they have records and can tell when a teacher has not completed the lesson notes and areas of weakness, once they do, they talk to the teacher and try and help; they do what we call teachers support system. The teachers also have groups so when they spot weakness they also try and nicely help and support. There are also mandatory trainings they have to undertake so every holiday period for instance they need to take time out to go through some programmes maybe there is a change in the pedagogy or curriculum.”
He said with the availability of data, education administration is now easier.