Written by Godfrey AKON

Nigeria, COL sign MoU on open schooling

Nigeria has signed a memorandum of understanding, MoU, with the Commonwealth of Learning, COL, on its open schooling programme being implemented by the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC.

Executive Secretary of UBEC, Dr Hammid Bobboyi, who represented the country at the ratification of the agreement in Abuja, said the open schooling system was aimed at addressing the out-of-school children problem.

Bobboyi said the issue of out-of-school children has become a perennial problem in the country for the last ten years, adding that figures have continued to rise until they climbed to 13.2 million in 2015 because of the Boko Haram crisis.

He however said after the personnel audit conducted by UBEC in 2018, the figure came down to about 10.1 million, which is still a worrisome development.

While stating that 10.1 million was more than the population of some countries, he said Nigeria cannot relent on its effort in ensuring that everything is done to reduce that number or completely eliminate it.

The UBEC boss called for synergy among stakeholders and all the federating units to ensure that the out-of-school children crisis is frontally addressed.

Bobboyi thanked the President of the Commonwealth of Learning, Prof Aisha Kanwar, for coming to Nigeria to sign the agreement herself, as well as the swift response of her organisation to calls by UBEC to partner on the Open schooling project.

He said the open schooling system will provide opportunity to so many children with flexible and long distant learning that leverages on technology, adding that a curricular has been developed by the Nigeria Education Research Council, NERDC with support from the ministry of education.

Also speaking, the President of the Commonwealth of Learning, Kanwar, said her organisation has found out over the years that open or alternative schooling was the answer to the out-of-school children crisis.

Kanwar said it was difficult for conventional approach of schooling to reach such children who prefer to learn only what is relevant to them.

“Children will only learn what is relevant to them. The out-of-school children are not going to come back to learn number counting or literacy or anything, they want to learn something relevant.

“We did something in Trinidad and Tobago in a fishing village. There were out-of-school children there. They were taught how to make nets, how to do fishing and how to mend boats, and they came back to school because they found that this was a curriculum which was relevant to them.

“Many of our children are very addicted to technology; how can we reach them through those technology options and make them knowledgeable not just for speaking to friends and watching movies but how to convert it into a learning tool?” she said.

She said 27 of the 53 countries of commonwealth of learning have implemented open schooling, reduced the cost of schooling, improved the quality and made it cost effective, and increased access in large numbers.

“For example, the national institute for open schooling in India has 1.3 million students around the country.

“That is exactly the situation here in Nigeria where we could very soon see the population of enrolment and it would really have a benefit because every child who pass through education is not the same child anymore neither the family nor the community.

“Nobody can do anything alone, we want the help of the ministry, we want the help of all of you and hopefully we will be successful and so we will be boasting in other countries, the Nigerian open school has 1.5 million,” she said.

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