PAL Network Pledges to Improve Children’s Learning Outcomes

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By Funmi Ogundare

The People’s Action for Learning (PAL) Network, a partnership of member organisations working across Asia, Africa and America, has expressed its determination to assess children in basic reading and mathematics so as to improve their learning outcomes.

The initiative will be implemented in 13 of its member countries and will witness ordinary citizens being trained to assess children in the selected households.

Briefing journalists on the initiative recently in Lagos, the Managing Director, PAL Network, Dr. Sara Ruto said she believes that coming together as member countries will help to understand the current status of enrolment and basic mathematics for children between the ages of five and 16.

“We felt that as members of the global community, it is important to look at the status of our basic numeracy as countries and be able to proffer solutions to it. We started with numeracy as a common project; we are doing that across the 13 countries because the language of maths speaks to each other in a more easy way and next time we want to do reading assessment.

“We are doing a Citizen-led Assessment of Numeracy (CLAN) assessment. We are going to the households and villages because that is where we will get children irrespective of their social or economic circumstance, so as to enhance their learning outcomes at the end of the day. All our countries have signed up to the SDGs 4 on education and 4.1 specifically says that countries will ensure that children have the ability to read and do maths. So by doing the CLAN assessment, we will able to generate information and data. Though it has not been easy to get a comparative study, but we are proud that citizens have been able to do what may take another 20 years to do.

“We are very proud that LearnNigeria will be able to generate empirical data on the foundational literacy and numeracy skills that children possess. For us as Africans, we are not waiting for solutions to come from the north, but if we come together with our taught, we can be solution providers as countries in Africa rather than wait till 2030.”

She said the data collected needs to speak to the policy makers and the society, to find out if the child is learning so that they can solve their own problems, grow as an individual and be useful globally, adding that the group would share the information collected with the UNESCO Institute for Statistics to determine whether SDG 4.1 has been met.

The Programme Manager, CLAN, Nigeria, Bridget Azubuike said the citizens in the local government areas they go to are the ones collecting the data, adding that their capacity to collect the data depends on how much training they were able to get.

“Already we have done the training and embedded in it is the practical which ensures that they carry it out in the households. So far, we started the data collection last week and it has gone very well. For this project, it is one local government in Nigeria and we are doing this in Ikorodu where we have 60 data enumeration areas. We expect that we should be able to get at least 3,000 children.

“We had a guideline to selecting the local governments, we looked at the education level across Nigeria and we discovered that the data was not available in Nigeria, so we went back to the CLAN assessment conducted in 2017. The idea was to look at the local government that has an average learning level. 72 local government areas were assessed that year, so Ikorodu was the one in the middle. So we had training for them to judge their level of understanding of the tools and process of collecting data,” she said.

The Managing Director, The Education Partnership (TEP) Centre, Mrs. Modupe Adefeso Olateju expressed excitement about the CLAN assessment, saying that though it was the first time the organisation will be collecting such data on numeracy, there will be a benchmark to compare what other countries with similar characteristics have done in measuring learning outcomes.

“However, we have implemented another CLAN programme called LearnNigeria, within the same context, what we see is a huge amount of interest from the community. We had town hall meetings; we found out that there were a lot of children who were out of school and startling data on learning outcomes. We had to begin to ask questions from community leaders and what we needed to do to fix the problem.

“For us, what we saw was that as a community, we all have a responsibility to educate our children, rather than blaming or waiting for the government. We as parents and community have roles to play aside just sending our children to school. We also had interest on the data from the government. Recently, we were with the Lagos State government sharing this data and with them taking such a key interest in it because it is going to help them to move towards evidence-based policy making.

“We saw that across the six states that we have implemented the LearnNigeria programme, there are substantial interests from the government. Some states said they wanted to include the data in their plans. Once it gets in there it becomes a policy priority for the country. Another area is the use of the tools themselves by UNICEF, International Rescue Committee (IRC) and NGOs across the country that are using these tools to create programmes for themselves.”