By Vikas Pota
All crises come with opportunity, no matter how bad you might feel for taking it. In Nigerian education, that opportunity came well-disguised, with the sudden closure of schools across the country.
That add urgency to a long-standing situation where gender discrimination, conflict, language challenges, poverty, child labour, and child marriage have already contributed to depriving many Nigerian children of their right to access quality education.
Since the onset of COVID-19, millions of Nigerian children in Nigeria have been stuck at home not learning, and there’s a risk of millions of children forced out-of-school by the pandemic won’t ever return. Globally, according to Save the Children, education cuts and rising poverty as a result of COVID-19 could force almost 10 million children out of school forever by the end of this year alone.
After shutdown, there have been pockets of innovation. Lagos State, for example, launched a radio learning programme and distributed radios to low-income families. Startups like uLesson have also launched e-learning solutions – but the fact remains that millions of children are priced out of that sector.
The long-term answer to the challenges presented by Covid, conflict and other social ills will lie in innovation, and digital innovation at that.
Clearly, there are connectivity and accessibility issues to overcome, but I remain stubbornly optimistic that the combined minds of the global education sector can bring forward the innovative changes to help address education poverty in Nigeria.
That’s one reason why I launched World Education Week, which begins on Sunday and which pulls together the expertise of 100 schools from around the world (and nearly a quarter of them from Africa) to share their skills and solutions to common problems.
There are three schools from the Ogun state alone, for example, taking part and sharing their knowledge globally in what will be the world’s biggest education conference. Each school has been chosen for its expertise and commitment to key areas (centred on the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN). Access to education technology is the core offering from the Baptist Primary School, Ogbogbo, but it’s not just EdTech: the Local Government School III in Sango Ota has been chosen for its focus on wellbeing, while the Ikangba Erinlu United Anglican Primary School is noted for its work in deepening family and community engagement.
There are others too: the Christ Anglican Primary School in Ijebu-Ife is to show its vital role in enhancing employability, entrepreneurship and life skills, while the LGEA Kurmin Mashi school in Kaduna will talk about its creation of a platform where students are utilized as student group leaders and are accountable for peer performance and learning outcomes.
It’s this use of technology in the wider context of community and the outcomes for students that shows the way forward. In the conference we will be using technology to enhance the knowledge of Nigeria’s schools, while also showing how they have used it to improve the life chances of their pupils.
That is the way forward – we have the tools and we’re building the connectivity to use them. Nigerian schools can show the rest of the continent, and the rest of the world how to free ourselves from the issues that hold us back and how education can set the next generation free.