Inclusive Education for Children in Marginalised Communities in the Fourth Revolution

Communications May 20, 2020 2

Inclusive Education for Children in Marginalised Communities in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Why education should be prioritised in marginalised communities in the era of COVID19

By Blessing Akpevwe Uwisike

As of the first week of May, The Spectator Index confirmed over four million positive cases of the Corona Virus globally and at least 200,000 deaths. As the virus continues to spread its tentacles across countries, threatening human existence, human lives are being changed in unprecedented ways. As the pandemic affects nearly every sector of human interaction ranging from economic to social, health, education and commercial to mention a few; we are forced to make quick adjustments and life choices to prevent further spread.

Blessing Uwisike teaching children at a Primary School

While grappling with this new reality, a major change the world has had to make is maintaining social distance. To ensure compliance, the government at the state and federal level enforced a lockdown order where virtually all social activities came to a screeching halt. As expected, education was not excluded, giving that it became imperative to shut down education facilities across Nigeria and many other countries to prevent the pandemic from affecting children’s education and more importantly, their health. 

This move affected 1.3 billion students globally and has forced the government and members of the society to see the shortcomings of the education system in Nigeria. The most glaring of these is the unpreparedness of the system to embrace online and digital learning strategies, and if well attended to, it also gives a laser focus on specific areas of improvement and innovation.  

As COVID-19 widens the margin of education and access to the basic learning amenities, my volunteer experience with OneAfricanChild has enabled me to see first-hand, how children in low-income communities are forced to share rickety desks and uncomfortable wooden chairs, manage their very few books for many subjects, and enjoy internet connectivity/laptops only when we are able to organise our monthly digital classes. With the break of the  pandemic, their learning is currently in a state of hiatus as their main motivation is derived through the school system and informal learning opportunities we provide them. With this disruption, the children are exposed to anxiety and panic alongside learners facing similar struggles. The social skills, emotional well being and educational aspirations of these children are put on the line, worse still if they are enduring these challenging times in a community that undermines the value  of education.

Despite the world tilting towards technocracy, public schools in Nigeria are still grossly underfunded and there are no considerations for digital learning tools. At this point it is difficult to measure Nigeria’s effort towards the Education 2030 agenda aimed at “ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Several children are still learning under conditions similar to the system their parents’.  While the future of education is progressing exponentially, ours seem to be moving at a slow pace. Education in this part of the world is still largely monolithic and children are not being adequately prepared for the world they are expected to lead.

Children in Nisama village study under a tree.

A risk factor of the pandemic is the possibility of a high school drop-out rate, especially in low-income communities. Deliberate efforts are required to reintegrate children in these communities back to school. According to the World Bank’s “Learning Poverty” indicator, the percentage of children who cannot read and understand at age 10 stood at 53% of children in low- and middle-income countries – before the outbreak. While the situation can still be salvaged, a proactive move by the government will ensure a successful transition back to formal education post COVID. 

Innovation is required to provide quality and sustainable education to learners, and teachers cannot be left behind in this campaign. Understanding that learning can happen anywhere and in different forms, teachers must be trained to embrace this new reality, and as a matter of urgency, be provided with practical materials on how to meet learners where they are. Digital skills training to make learning accessible as well as emotional intelligence and creative teaching styles workshops need to be prioritised for teachers so that they are able to create safe spaces and assume the role of mentors and guides for learners. 

This period, providing content like interactive videos, soft copy materials, class activity, and lectures on websites where teachers can easily access will help them to prepare for a robust teaching-learning experience after the pandemic is over. But while it persists, partnerships with media houses like radio and television stations, to air educational programs for primary and secondary schools like some states in Nigeria have adopted are positive steps in the right direction.

Children in Nisama village

Teachers must also be made to understand the Education 2030 goals as this has not been adequately communicated to them, only when they understand it are they able to run with it and ensure its actualisation. Workshops and materials to enhance this understanding should also be provided, with realistic benchmarks set in place to achieve it.

OneAfricanChild Foundation in partnership with Learning Equality, organises digital skills training for children in select marginalised communities in Nigeria. Through Kolibri, a digital solution developed by Learning Equality to provide offline access to a variety of learning materials, we provide quality education for children in low-income  communities on a broad range of global citizenship education topics such as media literacy, internet safety, fake news spotting, and lots more. We have had virtual learning sessions with students from other countries to share knowledge and exchange experiences. This exposes learners to blended learning that combines digital skills with offline learning. With support from the government and key stakeholders, and the welcome involvement of an  NGO like Follow the Money, which focuses on tracking government spending to ensure transparency and accountability, we can successfully scale this project and double our impact. 

To further ensure inclusive education for marginalised children, learning styles need to be diversified to include project-based and personalised methods so that the children are more engaged, involved and enthusiastic to learn. Their emotional well being needs to be prioritised and the school must be a safe space for them to heal from the instabilities that came with the pandemic. 

As the world around us changes torrentially, it presents opportunities to embrace technology, innovate and improve our education system to be more sustainable and to accommodate the changes that come with this new world, together with its industrial revolution. If other sectors are constantly improving to meet up, the education sector must not be left behind, because in this space, leaders are groomed.

Can We Truly Achieve Social Justice in Nigeria?

Communications February 19, 2020 2

By Anne Alagbe

The idea of social justice continues to be far-reaching especially in a country like Nigeria. We still grapple with fair treatment and advocating for equality seems to be daunting. There is a component of social injustice at every level in the country.

Children in Bagega, Zamfara State

Unemployment in Nigeria remains at a staggering high of 23.10%. The roads are dotted with street sellers, trying to sell anything they can from groundnuts to crossword books for children. Okada bikers and Keke drivers recklessly put themselves at risk while facing the brutality of the roads in order to earn a living for themselves and their families. Then, there are the saleswomen who wake up early to sell their merchandise in the markets persistently negotiating prices with their customers in order to provide money to feed their children. One may wonder where justice is in such a broken system. A system which benefits the rich and consistently puts the poor at a disadvantage.

The theme of this year’s Social Justice Day is ‘Closing The Inequalities Gap To Achieve Social Justice’. It may appear impossible a task to achieve here in Nigeria with all the chaos taking place, the hundreds if not thousands of people in the towns of Lagos who have now been rendered jobless due to the ban of Keke and Okada bikes– a strong avenue for crime and other atrocities to thrive, if you ask me. With actions like this, one may wonder if Nigeria can boldly speak of Social Justice for all.

Women speak up in Waru Community, Borno

According to an article written by the UN, ‘Social Justice is an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations.’ The truth is, in order to truly achieve this ‘peaceful’ and ‘prosperous coexistence’ in the country, much more than empty government promises, citizens need to be prioritised more than selfish interests. There must be a complete and utter revamping of a system which has consistently been broken, alongside the reprogramming of a mindset that can ensure people begin to trust the leaders.

Social Justice Day advocates for poverty eradication and fair treatment in employment and support for social integration. This is a goal that we should thrive to achieve, however, with the statistics showing that one in five workers still live in moderate or extreme poverty coupled with stagnant wages and gender inequality, socio-economic growth is hindered greatly.

Dilapidated School in Damagum, Yobe State

Despite the disorder which is currently taking place and how uncertain things may look, Social Justice can be achieved if tackled with a sense of urgency and a determination to completely transform the status quo. One of the main ways to achieve this is ensuring citizens are able to access basic human facilities such as clean potable water, decent healthcare facilities, good quality education for all, well-paid jobs made available amongst many others. Corruption from the top being state governments not using the full funds that they were received to fulfil the needs of its citizens, corruption of policemen and army officials waving their guns around at drivers whilst coarsely asking for money, and may God help the unfortunate soul who refuses to pull out a few hundred Naira’– all must be frowned against and tackled. 

We will truly be able to advance Social Justice once all barriers, including tribalism, ethnicity and religious discriminations are obliterated, promoting a wholesome society where everyone has an equal opportunity and an equal right to succeed.

How Nigeria lost 3.3 billion dollars through tax exempts: The ActionAid report

Hamzat Lawal January 20, 2016 0

It was apparent that everyone sitted in the Acacia Room of the Ladi Kwali Hall in Sheraton Hotels & Towers, Abuja were interested in the reason for the event – Nigeria had lost 3.3 billion dollars from tax holidays given to the NLNG consortium made up of Shell, Total, Eni and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation [NNPC].

How did this oil rich nation lose so much from tax, when 70% of all its previous budgets were financed from the profits of crude export?

Honourable Herman Hembe, representing Vandeikya/Konshisha federal constituency, Benue State noted that with the global crises arising from falling oil prices, it was time that executive and national assembly revisited policies and laws that granted corporate bodies tax exemptions in Nigeria

In her welcome address, Ms. Ojobo Atuluku, Country Director, ActionAid Nigeria pointed out that tax incentives in developing countries was costing 138 billion dollars yearly. Citing the current research undertaken by the organisation, Nigeria’s current loss of 3.3 billion dollars was equivalent to twice the national education budget and thrice the healthcare budget in 2015.

More statistics shared showed that 10 million children were not schooling and 15 out of 100 children die before turning 5; the leakages in the system could have been put to better use to uplift the citizenry.

She challenged the federal government of Nigeria on the current tax culture and calling for collaboration of the country with other countries to end harmful regional tax completion.

The launch of the report also featured a panel discussion between ActionAid Nigeria, government officials in the Federal Revenue Inland Service [FIRS] and staff from the Ministry of Finance.

You can Download the Report here