NEC Directs NUC to Develop Digital Learning Platform

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Yemi Osinbajo

•Wants lecturers trained on technology teaching
•Warns against complacency in handling and attitude to coronavirus

By Omololu Ogunmade

National Economic Council (NEC) yesterday rose from a virtual meeting in Abuja with a resolution asking the National Universities Commission (NUC) to equip Nigerian universities with the capacity to evolve digital learning platforms.

The council, which also directed the National Commission for Colleges of Education and National Board for Technical Education to be part of the initiative, said implementation of the directive should commence from November this year.

Briefing reporters after the meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in the State House, Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, said the resolutions were the fallout of a presentation by the Minister of State for Education, Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba.

El-Rufai said the council also resolved that the tertiary schools’ regulatory authorities should accelerate and strengthen the use of electronic digital system for all Nigerians, pointing out that doing so would enhance enrolment, retention and completion of studies at all levels and as well as eliminate fraud, forgery and certificate alteration.

The governor said NEC also resolved that the regulatory agencies should come up with capacity building programmes for all tertiary institutions in Nigeria, including training programmes for lecturers to enable them deliver distance learning to their students.

“A national training programme to equip all university lecturers in delivering blended learning, especially the open and distance learning component should be developed by NUC, National Commission for Colleges of Education, National Board for Technical Education and implemented starting from November 2020. This should be a rolling capacity building programme covering all our tertiary institutions.

“Finally, accelerating and strengthening the management of an electronic digital identity management system for all Nigerians. This will aid easy enrolment, retention and completion of learning at all levels as well as curb and eliminate fraud, forgery and alteration of certificates,” he said.

El-Rufai, who said the outbreak of COVID-19 had had adverse effects on the country’s educational system, reported that Nwajiuba told the council about measures put in place by the Federal Ministry of Education to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on schools.

He listed such measures to include the development of education sector COVID-19 strategy and national education sector COVID-19 response plan in collaboration with parastatals, development partners, public health experts, and the Nigerian education group.

He said the objectives of COVID-19 education response plan are to ensure continuous learning for children “through access to the best remote learning programmes appropriate for each context to meet the need of each child, including the most vulnerable.”

He added: “Some may have access to the internet, but the poorest can get their lessons over the radio; some through television. So, the whole plethora of platforms were made available so that no one is left behind.”

He said the plan was also aimed at building the capacity for teachers to deploy technology teaching technique the country is hitherto not used to teaching through digital technology.

“So, we need to do a lot of training. Second, we need to provide technical assistance in the selection and delivery of online digital content and offline learning resources among others,” he added.

El-Rufai disclosed that the federal government had put in place some financial incentives aimed at assisting the states in implementing the education COVID-19 response plan, explaining that select states would benefit from the COVID-19 global partnership for education (GPE) funding.

He said states that are above the national average from at least two of three criteria spelt out would benefit from GPE funding from the World Bank and other donors.
He listed states that are already qualified for GPE funding as Abia, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Ebonyi and Jigawa states.

Others are: Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Kano, Nassarawa, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto and Zamfara states, adding that “these are the states that made two of the three criteria for GPE funding.”

El-Rufai said the council was also briefed on measures being taken to forestall an increase in the number of out of school children, bearing in mind the situation of things before the pandemic and during the pandemic.

He classified such measures into three categories, which include: the intervention of Universal Basic Education (UBE) in states, almajiri integrated quoranic teaching; and open schooling.

“Disbursement of the federal government of Nigeria, UBE intervention funds to states on equality basis to enable them to implement tangible state-based priority projects, including the building of schools or additional classrooms, renovations, rehabilitations, procurement of furniture and equipment et cet era with a focus on enrolling more pupils or having more flexibility to do shifts.

“The Almajiri Integrated Quaranic teaching school programmes to mainstream the Almajiri boys into basic education and eradicate the out-of-school children syndrome in northern Nigeria.

“Open schooling, which is principally aimed at reducing the number of out-of-school children in the country, amongst others,” he said.

In his own briefing, the Director-General of National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the council discussed the impact of COVID-19 on other healthcare services in the country.

According to him, the pandemic resulted in the reduction of access to other healthcare services such as immunisation, family planning, cancer care and routine health services.

However, he said in the last one month, such services have begun to pick up, adding that “we will continue to encourage people to come forward for their health services,” as doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, laboratory scientists had been trained and retrained on how to protect themselves and their patients.

NCDC DG, however, said following the reopening of the aviation sector and prospective reopening of schools, there may be a resurgence of infections, adding that “we have to be prepared for this and we have to mitigate the impact of this; we cannot lock the economy down again.”

He said Osinbajo and the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, warned against complacency as a result of seeming reduction in the number of COVID-19 cases, saying “we must not look at the curve and think we have come out of this; this virus will remain with us until we have a vaccine and until we have distributed that vaccine across the country; until we get to that situation, we have to keep doing the work that we are doing.”

On her part, the Minister of Finace, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, gave balances in federation accounts as at September 15 as: Excess Crude Account (ECA) – $72,408,743.16; Stabilisation Account – N43,603,048,431.80 and Natural Resources Account – N138,770,528,353.88.