Children Day: For Bayelsa, Education is a Development Strategy

By Gentle Emelah

Children’s Day has been celebrated on May 27 in Nigeria since 1963. The day is set aside to recognise the place of children in society, re-examine their challenges with a view of proffering solutions.
Over the past few years, there has been renewed emphasis on children’s rights during the celebration of this all important day. The concept of Children’s Rights has however remained vague and misunderstood across society. This has meant that many children are denied their rights.

One of the most misunderstood rights of children is the right to education. The Child’s Right Act (2003) is unequivocal in stating that “Every child has the right to free, compulsory and universal basic education and it shall be the duty of the Government in Nigeria to provide such education.”
Twenty-one years after the signing of the Child’s Right Act into law, a significant number of children still lack basic education. Many in school are not receiving quality education capable of engendering lifelong learning. This is not exclusive to Nigeria.

The United Nations states that by 2030, an estimated 300 million children will lack foundational literacy and numeracy skills. Even more worrying, 750 million children between the ages of 5-16 currently lack age-appropriate literacy skills globally.
UNICEF Nigeria notes that circa “10.5 million of the country’s children aged 5-14 years are not in school. Only 61 percent of 6-11 year-olds regularly attend primary school and only 35.6 percent of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education.”

Bayelsa has been frontal at addressing this challenge. In 2023, His Excellency, Senator Douye Diri, Executive Governor of Bayelsa State launched BayelsaPRIME to improve access to basic education and engender quality basic education service delivery in government primary schools in our dear State.
PRIME which is the acronym for Promoting Reform to Improve and Modernise Education encapsulates what the Bayelsa State Government is set to achieve: To obliterate the out-of-school pupil phenomenon in our State while delivering quality education to children, irrespective of their family backgrounds, status or locations.

In line with the aspiration of His Excellency for the basic education system, 2,182 teachers were retrained and equipped with the requisite technology to deliver exceptional learning experiences to children in the last one year. Teachers in the four pilot local government areas were issued 2,507 teacher tablets, 226 smartphones and nearly 300,000 teaching and learning materials including textbooks, other learning materials, posters and teacher tools.
To engender uniformity and democratise quality across rural and urban schools, a new pedagogy was introduced which improved classroom culture, schools’ management style and overall administration.

Today, data and evidence are the drivers of decision making in the system. Schools are all connected to a centralized database where critical key performance indicators like teacher arrival and departure from school time(s) are collected electronically, lesson completion of all teachers for all classes are collected, pupil performance data is also pooled to allow for constant review and analyses for improvement purposes. Additionally teachers use scripted lessons which aid their lesson delivery.

Since implementation of BayelsaPRIME, we have witnessed, firsthand, what reform can do for a basic education system that experienced challenges. Few weeks into the start of BayelsaPRIME, our classrooms lit up with excitement and gradually teacher presence in school has improved to an average of 84%. Pupil presence in school has also snowballed and our pupils are exhibiting significant improvements in literacy and numeracy. age long challenges including teacher truancy and absenteeism have been drastically reduced, the quality of teachers has improved and attitude to work has improved among most of our teachers.
His Excellency, Senator Douye Diri, Executive Governor of Bayelsa State has been clear in stating his vision and direction for Bayelsa State. “For me, there can be nothing as heartwarming as seeing our youths in the classroom seeking knowledge. I believe that they are all keying into the prosperity mantra,”His Excellency Stated earlier this year in Yenagoa.

“We can build all the roads and all the bridges but if the human beings are not developed, who will use the infrastructure we build? That is why our government is more of manpower development, hence we decided that it is not enough to have certificate education only. What we need are skills,” he added.
Education transformation in Bayelsa State has transcended basic education. His Excellency is promoting skills acquisition to secure the future of our teeming population and guarantee their employability now and in the future. We are equipping our children through technical colleges and making it easier for them to access much needed financing for higher education both within and outside the state.

As we look back on the Children’s Day celebration our vision remains clear: We want to use education and skills development to launch our children and youth into the future and explore it as a major strand in our developmental strategy.
His Excellency is clear on our responsibility to the younger generation and we will not let them down.

Dr. Emelah is the Commissioner for Education, Bayelsa State.

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