By Awwal Nasir
The arrival of COVID-19 has forced many countries to take drastic measures to curb the disease’s spread, and Nigeria has been no exception. States across the country have locked down activities and restricted the movement of people. Schools have not been spared – closing across the country, forcing students to stay home.
In Niger State, under lockdown since 25 March, all movement is restricted except for essential services such as markets, banks and worship. Security checkpoints enforce the measures.
To ensure continuous learning during the lockdown, the State Ministry of Education and the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) – supported by UNICEF and World Bank funding – has embarked on a series of interventions. These include the development of a costed education contingency action plan and an emergency preparedness plan for education. These include lessons broadcast on-air for children at all levels — primary, junior and senior secondary – using a combination of radio, television and e-learning, via social media platforms.
To make it work, state and funding partners work with television and radio stations to develop lessons for 25 local government areas. Lessons are broadcast from Monday to Friday, and interactive feedback and review sessions with children are held during weekends.
Community education groups are also playing a vital and supportive role in home learning while schools remain closed, voluntarily providing extra lessons to children within their communities.
In the Dnawyi community of Munya LGA, for example, volunteer teachers provide extra lessons to children every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Additionally, the UNICEF Girls Education Program (GEP3), funded by the UK Department for International Development, has provided resource materials to Niger State officials to support home-based education on COVID-19 prevention. Materials include the UNICEF COVID-19 Kids Booklet — in English, Hausa and Nupe — and the COVID-19 Advisory.
State officials and education community support groups have also trained teachers and community members on the management, monitoring and evaluation of home-based learning programmes, as well as COVID-19 prevention, so officials can make home visits or organize extra lessons when necessary.
To effectively track and monitor the progress of the intervention, UNICEF GEP3 field consultants have monitored the impact and reach of the e-learning initiative. Their reporting shows that 44 per cent of learners access lessons via radio, while 28 per cent access via television, 17 per cent through social media, and 11 per cent through house-to-house visits. They also determined that providing teachers with access to resources and online platforms for collaboration and feedback is a good way to keep them abreast of rapidly evolving challenges and the educational and social responses that are needed.
Another finding was that effective communication between schools, parents, government, and communities builds mutual trust and improves support for children when learning from home – and that a key factor in the success of the home-based learning is the collective and coordinated participation of all stakeholders to create the best learning environment for the child.
Awwal Nasir, Communications Consultant, UNICEF Nigeria