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    Tuesday, March 21, 2023

    GPE AF: Outcomes on Learning Crises in Northeast

    Carl Umegboro

    The synergy of the federal and state governments, humanitarian societies, international agencies and non-government organisations (NGOs) through the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Accelerated Funding (AF) projects in North-east Nigeria is worthwhile. The thoughtful interventions followed critical situations vis-à-vis education of children in public schools resulting firstly from destroyed schools by bandits in the region coupled with other uncommon challenges militating against good education outcomes in the northeast, namely; Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. Data shows that about 1.9 million boys, girls and youth affected by conflict are without access to basic quality education in the region. This is inclusive of 56 percent of all displaced children who are out of school.

    In overview of education in Nigeria, Saadhna Panday-Soobrayan (PhD), Chief Education, UNICEF Nigeria, underlined that Nigeria and especially the Northeast are experiencing a severe learning crisis though access to education is improving, but remains inequitable, especially in the Northeast. UNICEF submitted that learning poverty rate has dramatically increased in low-and lower middle-income countries from post-COVID accelerated results to 48 percent while post-COVID simulation stands at 65 percent, and agitatedly summed that 3 out of every 4 children in Nigeria cannot read with meaning or solve simple mathematics problems. This seriously calls for concern.

    For instance, statistics show that across north-east Nigeria, only 29 percent of schools have teachers with the minimum qualification. Added to this, the average pupil-teacher ratio is 124 to 1. Furthermore, almost half of all schools need rehabilitation. Taking it state-by-state, in Borno, only 47 percent of schools have furniture with lower proportions in Yobe (32 percent) and Adamawa (26 percent). In Adamawa, only 30 percent of schools have adequate learning materials for pupils with lower proportions (26 percent) in Borno and (25 percent) in Yobe. From the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS 2021) released by the National Bureau of Statistics, less than half of children (48.6 per cent) complete their primary school education in north-east Nigeria.

    These explain why the challenges of out-of-school children and the learning crises in the education sector remain critical issues that UNICEF and stakeholders are working tirelessly to address to ensure that every child has the opportunity that education confers and be equipped with skills to survive and contribute positively to the society. Arguably, it is a deserving teamwork. Other partners include; Federal Ministry of Education; State Ministry of Education; State Universal Basic Education; Ministries of Religious Affairs; State Agencies of Mass Education; Ministries of Reconstruction; Rehabilitation and Resettlement; University of Maiduguri; Street Child International; Norwegian Refugee Council; Plan International; Save the Children International; Restoration of Hope Initiative; Goal Prime Organisation; and Education in Emergencies Working Group.

    The synergy has recorded huge achievements in the education sector. One major accomplishment is the teachers’ training programme of the GPE AF project, an initiative of the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Federal Ministry of Education; the National Teachers’ Institute (NTI) and the Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN).

    According to UNICEF Chief of Maiduguri Field Office, Phuong Nguyen, the training programme has supported over 18,000 unqualified teachers working in north-east Nigeria to study and pass the TRCN’s qualifying examination. On February 4, 2023, these teachers were inducted and licensed across Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. The 12-month course was funded by the GPE AF and supported by UNICEF, Teaching at the Right Level (TARL Africa) and the Nigeria Union of Teachers. This is perhaps the first training of its kind targeting a large cohort of teachers in Nigeria.

    “At least 1 million girls and boys will benefit as these newly certified teachers return to their classrooms equipped with modern and effective teaching methods, including the skills to provide gender-sensitive and psychosocial support to learners. UNICEF is excited that we might finally be turning the tide against high dropout rate as well as facilitating access and retention of children in school. Millions of children will surely have better learning outcomes with a large cohort of motivated, trained, prepared, and equipped teachers in classrooms across the north-east.

    “Other aspects of the GPE AF project also target improving access to education. Classrooms in at least 50 schools have been renovated and 50 temporary learning spaces constructed. Today, you will have the opportunity of visiting some of these schools, seeing and interacting with some of the newly certified teachers in action. Over 500,000 children have been provided with learning materials. The capacity of 438 education officials have been strengthened on education-in-emergency leadership, and result-based planning and budgeting”, Nguyen stated at a media dialogue.

    UNICEF’s priorities for education include scaling model on Out-of-school children (OoSC) including safety; building model on transition and completion; building system of credible, alternative pathways with clear-cut targets from 2023 to 2027 to reduce the world’s highest number of out-of-school children. Others are the reciprocal relationship between access and learning/skills development; educational trajectories through an age continuum as well as a longer-term focus and increased capacity to reach the marginalized. Its blueprint targets that “by 2027, more children, including adolescents, particularly the most disadvantaged, participate in quality education, learn, and acquire skills for the future”.

    In the targets of the GPE Nigeria Accelerated Funding (Northeast), the first output is improved education-in-emergencies (EiE) leadership and coordination, budgeting, planning, implementation, monitoring and reporting in all three BAY states (Borno, Adamawa and Yobe). The second is that conflict-affected children have increased access to education and child protection services in a safe and protective learning environment. The third is that the education system is equipped with a robust and transparent teacher preparation and recruitment system to facilitate acquisition of grade appropriate learning and transferable skills among conflict affected children, whilst the fourth is that of strengthened school governance to support education for conflict affected and internally-displaced persons (IDPs) children.

    Assessment from a field trip to three intervention centres; Moduganari Primary School; Ngarannamn Primary School; and Yerwa Peace Estate Primary School in Maiduguri, Borno State recently attests the partnership is optimistic and should possibly expand beyond the northeast. The new learning environments at the three schools with necessary facilities, visibly upgraded to standard, are conducive and cheering to attract children for positive learning outcomes. Learning environment and teachers’ capacity play pivotal roles in education outcomes anywhere.

    Umegboro, ACIArb, public affairs analyst and social advocate, writes via umegborocarl@gmail.com

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