By Francis Osadolor
The deadly Coronavirus outbreak has presented a host of challenges for different sectors of the society, education inclusive. Over 180 countries have ordered the closure of schools nationwide, as a result of the outbreak, which has claimed over 183,000 lives and infected more than 2.6 million people globally. This is unprecedented, as the world has never seen this large number of children out of school at the same time.
Having recorded the first case in Nigeria on February 28, the federal government, three weeks later, ordered closure of all public gatherings including schools, from primary to tertiary institutions, as part of measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
ences of being out of the classroom for so long a time, began the scramble for online solutions to ensure learning continues at home. As a response, the Edo State Government has introduced a novel homeschooling initiative, Edo-BEST-AT-HOME, a platform that provides digital learning alternatives for pupils and parents who have been forced to stay at home due to the lockdown.
The programme, which specifically allows for real-time tracking of users, deploys the data of 280,000 pupils and their parents in the state’s public primary and junior secondary schools to monitor active learners on the platform to ensure efficiency.
Chairman, Edo State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Dr. Joan Osa-Oviawe, said the EDO-BEST-AT-HOME initiative is a well-thought programme to support pupils whose schools have been closed due to the restriction of movement caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
Already, several schools and pupils from various parts of the country are leveraging on the opportunities provided by this online platform, with thousands logging in daily to benefit from the innovation on the platform. The initiative provides for downloads with zero-data access or through free Short Message Service (SMS) supported by MTN Nigeria. Over 50,000 users have already accessed the lessons on SUBEB website.
Oviawe said the home-schooling model has been reviewed by the World Bank and appraised to be pace-setting, as it allows for real-time tracking of users, as against the resort to only television and radio channels, which does not provide data on who and how many persons are watching or listening respectively.
According to her, “We have developed a digital, multi-platform framework for the Edo-BEST-AT-HOME initiative, to serve the 250,000 pupils on our database. We have the contact number of their parents as well. Details are being worked out with a telecommunication firm to provide free airtime for these parents, specifically on the lines they would be using to access our home-schooling materials.
“The telecommunication firm is also working to confirm the kinds of phones these parents are currently using to determine what kind of services they would need. This would ascertain those using android, feature or only SMS-enabled gadgets.”
She noted that the lesson materials are available at https://subeb.edostate.gov.ng/home-school/, adding that the model takes care of the needs of parents in rural areas, where mobile tutors are being mobilised to attend to the peculiar needs of the pupils. The e-lessons are categorised weekly with the instructions: “Each day with your child, complete the learning activities for every subject. Now that the term has ended, the activities review content from throughout the term and provide extra practice in reading, writing, and mathematics. For daily reading practice, download the story from the African Storybook app and read with your child.” According to Governor Obaseki, “In order to cater to the educational needs of our children who are to resume school on the 27th of April, we have designed EDOBEST-AT-HOME in partnership with MTN. EDOBEST-AT-HOME consists of interactive audio lessons with customized messaging, digital self-study activity packs, mobile phone based interactive quizzes, digital storybooks and virtually moderated teacher-student classroom interactions. Private schools are welcome to access the materials which will be updated on the Edo SUBEB website.”
Some parents, who commended the novel programme, tasked the government on sustenance, noting that digital learning was the future of the nation’s education sector.
Esther Okosun noted, “The Edo State Government, through the EdoBEST programme, has continued to change the narrative of the country’s educational system and it is commendable. We cannot be talking about industrial revolution without innovations such as this. Why should we stop learning in the first place because of the pandemic, when we could