Two years into the introduction and commencement of the EkoExcel initiative by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration, its stakeholders who have been saddled with the responsibility of coordinating it to ensure its success in Lagos, explained to Funmi Ogundare why it is imperative to deliver accessible, quality education
When the idea of the Eko Excel initiative was mooted in 2019, it was to support teachers in achieving better learning outcomes in the classroom. The initiative is an education reform of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration in developing more highly skilled teachers in public schools and enhancing Lagos’ basic education curriculum.
The programme is encapsulated in the third pillar of the THEMES agenda to provide education and technology. So far, over 18,000 headteachers and teachers have been moved from analogue to digital teaching, using tablets and updated curriculum. Over 14,000 primary school teachers from 1,017 public primary schools have been captured under the scheme.
The permanent board member in charge of the special project of the Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (LSUBEB), Bayo Adefuye, told THISDAY that the outcome of the teacher training over the past two years had improved drastically as it has made the classroom more interesting, engaging and fun.
“Their outcome over the past two years has improved drastically. It shows that learning is now uniform all over the state because the same thing is taught all over the state every day,” Adefuye stated. “The same thing they are learning in Epe is what they are learning in Badagry or Shomolu.”
He described the initiative as a transformational intervention to raise the standard of education in Lagos State, adding that it seeks to increase teachers’ capacity and improve pupils’ learning outcomes leveraging technology.
“Teachers are given tablets to use, while the headteachers are given smartphones. With these tablets, you can take attendance. You have your lesson plans on it and enter your exam and assessment scores. Lessons are timed on it. Through it, we give advice to the teachers on how to go about their lesson plans,” the official stressed. “Information on exams, attendance, scores, even information on details about their parents are taken on the phone.”
The smartphone also helps to geo-locate each school. Adefuye opined that geo-location is important because there is a dashboard that, if given access to, all the information on any primary school within the state comes up and is available at the push of a button.
Asked how the initiative has improved the enrolment figures in schools in Lagos, the permanent board member said there had been greater interest in public primary schools because of the EkoExcel programmes.
According to him, many parents are withdrawing their children from private schools and putting them in public schools.
“The figure has improved drastically because there is greater confidence in the public primary school system, and it will get much better,” he disclosed. “The interesting thing about all these is that the children are being conditioned to think better to study better and see knowledge and education as something to be acquired rather than something to be forced on you. So education is now more interesting and more fun for them.”
The board has backend officers who visit our schools at least two or three times a week to watch the teachers. Where they see teachers lagging, they mentor them and give them tips on the job.
Adefuye added, “If you set a solid foundation for him (a student), you will find out that the individual would press for his own development. The good thing about EkoExcel is the think tank behind it.”
He further revealed that the state has technical partners (New Globe).
“The fact that students learn better in a fun environment is a scientific way of looking at learning. Creating learning around those principles and departing from the old ways of doing things is an added advantage,” said Adefuye. “So EkoExcel keys into these different modes of learning so that everyone is carried along. By the time you go through the lessons, it promotes interaction, and you are also keying in their interest. If you look at what is going on around the world, you will find out that there are people teaching online, and they are not degree holders, but you learn a lot from them. That shows that education cannot be rigid. You have to be flexible to get the best out of these pupils.”
In the course of training the teachers, they encountered some challenges, including fear of adapting to technology, using the tablet and getting used to its features.
To get over the challenges, he said the board took time to “calm them down and tell them that it shouldn’t scare them.” He pointed out that there are some “who are just afraid” of technology.
“Unless you interface with them and calm them down, they will resist it. Some of the other issues we had were that they complained about using the tablet because it’s new, and getting used to the features; it was expected,” admitted Adefuye.
The board engaged internal and external evaluation to evaluate the project’s outcomes.
“Even by external evaluation, The Education Partnetship (TEP) centre has given it a good rating. Through both modes of evaluation, we had seen that literacy and numeracy has increased greatly, the children are doing much better,” noted Adefuye. “We have gotten laurels in Nigeria. For instance, we had a contest in Abuja whereby our pupils had been leading because of the innovation.”
Further illustrating the point, he stated that the good thing about the initiative is that primary education becomes strengthened for a 21st century economy.
On her assessment of the initiative, the Commissioner of Education, Mrs. Folashade Adefisayo, said most of the project’s objectives had been met.
“Within the two years, we had the Covid and schools shut down. We have just done our assessment, and most of our children are reading right from basic one, and literacy has been improved significantly, and we are seeing a lot of that,” Adefisayo explained.
She noted that teaching has become more engaging for the learners “because the teachers do not use one methodology for them.”
The commissioner added, “There are varied strategies for teaching the learners in the classroom. So the teachers too are enjoying it. It’s about teamwork and collaboration.”
Adefisayo, however, noted that “our only worry was during the lockdown, but even with that, we were still able to impact the pupils significantly,” stressing that every teacher must learn how to teach using varying instructional strategies.
The Chairman of SUBEB, Wahab Alawiye-King, corroborated Adefisayo, stating that the initiative has improved teaching and learning in public schools.
According to Alawiye-King, the teachers are more enthusiastic about their jobs and lead their classes more efficiently, pointing out that classrooms are more interactive and engaging, as the programme is pupil-centred.
Prior to EkoExcel, he noted that teachers had the burden of preparing handwritten lesson notes, which sometimes does not allow uniformity and strict adherence to the curriculum. However, with the introduction of the initiative, teachers can work within the curriculum as their teacher tablets are preloaded with lessons and content that can be effectively monitored for standardisation across all of Lagos’ 1,017 public primary schools.
The chairman disclosed that the standardisation of the curriculum has been able to redress the inequality in access to adequate primary education in the state, adding that it also reflects international best practices.
On how manpower development can affect the new work order, Alawiye-King stated that the sole aim is to guarantee that Lagos’ human capital is used to the fullest capability.
“It is important for us to address personnel issues in order for pupils to receive attention and individualised instruction. In consonance with our mantra, we hope to leave no child behind as we continue to evolve to meet the reality of the dynamic world we live in,” he added.
Speaking on the future of EkoExcel, the SUBEB chairman said, “It is important we get it right at the basic education level, which is the foundation upon which other continuous education is built. In a short while, we will be introducing EKOEXCEL lite for Junior Secondary Schools (JSS). This is to aid the smooth transition of EKOEXCEL primary pupils into secondary schools.”
He added that the Lagos government under Sanwo-Olu is committed to transforming the education sector as encapsulated in the T.H.E.M.E.S agenda.
“We will not rest on our laurels as we continue to deliver accessible, qualitative and standardised education to all and sundry in Lagos State,” he pledged.