Instructional materials crucial to teaching and learning – NERDC Boss

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By Olubusuyi Adenipekun
Recently, public schools from all the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) gathered in Abuja to showcase their instructional materials made from available local resources.

The momentous event marked the reactivation of the National Festival of Instructional Materials (NAFIM) which had remained in the doldrums for about a decade following the defunct of the National Educational Technology Centre (NETC), which was the body that was conducting the national exhibition.

This responsibility has now fallen on the shoulders of the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) after it was mandated by the National Council of Education (NCE) in 2008 to reactivate it.
In the last exhibition, the display of ingenuity by participants was incontrovertible.

But Ondo, Imo and Oyo States outshined others by coming 1st, 2nd and 3rd in that order, smiling home with a cash prize of N100,000, N75,000 and N50,000 respectively.

In this exclusive interview, the Executive Secretary of NERDC, Prof. Godswill Obioma speaks on this  exhibition of instructional materials,  their usefulness to the teaching/learning process, the steps that were taken to reactivate the Festival and how the event is crucial to the realisation of the ideals of the Roadmap for Nigerian Education sector. Excerpts:

What steps did you take to revive NAFIM?

Thank you very much. Let me give you a background about Nafim. You will recall that the National Educational Technology Centre (NETC) that was then based in Kaduna was in charge of certain statutory responsibilities which included production and dissemination of instructional materials.

And so, part of its duty at that time was to carry out a national exhibition where states are encouraged, that is Ministries of Education, Educational Resource Centres, SUBEBs and the likes and other stakeholders, to make exhibitions on instructional materials that will be useful for teaching and learning in the classroom.

That is also a way of providing the infrastructural environment to encourage students, teachers and practitioners generally to provide instructional materials that will add value to educational delivery. Unfortunately, NETC was scapped with the establishment of National Open University of Nigeria and with the need to harmonise education entities within the education sector.

NETC was engrained into the National Open University of Nigeria. It was now discovered by the Federal Ministry of Education (FME) that there are commonalities in their mandates. Open University to deliver education,  using the open platform to increase access; and part of NETC’s mandate was to use broadcasting and the media to deliver education. So you could see the commonality. So in order to consolidate the entities, the Open University took over NETC and that aspect of the function.

That was about five or six years ago. But the other aspect of NETC’s function as regards the development of instructional materials was unattended to by Open University and has been lying fallow for a long time, for over ten years which was compounded by the taking over of NETC by Open University.

And so at 2008 convocation of the Network of Educational Services Centres in Nigeria (NESCN) which comprises of Educational Resource Centres, SUBEBS and the likes, a decision was taken on the case made by NERDC, that there was a need to reactivate the exhibition of those instructional materials under the auspices of the National Festival for Instructional Materials (NAFIM).

And so the NESCN convocation urged NERDC to present before the National Council on Education (NCE) the need to reactivate NAFIM because it will add value to the delivery of education as it will encourage teachers and students and the likes to look inward as regards the provision of instructional materials and that it will unleash their creative energy.

When NERDC now took up the challenge and at the 2008 NCE, a strong case on it was made by NERDC and NCE approved that NERDC should take over that aspect of NETC’s function. NCE then directed that we must reactivate it before the run out of 2009.

That is what you saw happened here today. So in order to add more value to NESCN convocation, we have now included NAFIM as part of the activities of NESCN, which is to say  that every convocation of NESCN  will feature a segment of NAFIM, which is an exhibition calling for states, entities, individuals, local practitioners both public and private to display instructional materials as best practice and for people to interlock and work together, to learn from one another and to provide the best practice in education delivery.

How did you get those schools from across the states of the federation to come up with instructional materials which they brought here for  exhibition?

First of all, we informed them by writing circulars to them. We advertised through print and electronic media. We wrote to state governors, Commissioners of Education, Chairman of SUBEBs as well as Directors and Chief Executive of Education Resource Centres. We wrote also to the general public and we gave guidelines on what we wanted. We chose a theme to drive the guidelines.

If you recall this year’s theme is: “Development, Use and Selection of Instructional Materials from Local Resources.” The emphasis is on local resources because of the need to look inward, given the impact of the global economic melt-down. If you look around, you will see states coming up with very very ingenious instructional materials. One of the states, for example, through the Junior Secondary School student of the school, engineered a local oven for baking cake.

That is the device they use for their home sciences. We saw another state through a school put up local counting machine that is used for learning mathematics, that is Abacus. It is an adapted Abacus using their local culture. You see some of the schools also putting up science experiment which are battery – powered. So all these kinds of ingenuity is so amazing.

Yet this is the first reactivation and we hope to improve upon this in the years to come.

I noticed that the schools that came for the exhibition are publicly owned. Do you intend to extend participation in the exhibition to private schools?

That is a very good observation. First of all, when you make a plan you should delimit it to the parameter you can control. And within the framework fo trial run, we took it that this reactivation of the moribund NAFIM should start as a trial run and to see our strengths and weaknesses.

So we started with the entities we can immediately control, which are state public schools. Now we will hope in future to expand the circumference to include private school proprietors.

Not just private school providers but to even engage the private sector. We believe that we can create an environment in which there should be active participation of the private sector, in a public private partnership.

Many people are still not well familiar with the contents of the Roadmap.  As the chairman of the National Roadmap Implementation Task Team, don’t you think there should be more sensitization on it?

Recall that this Roadmap came with the current Minister of Education, Dr Sam Egwu. He engineered and initiated the Roadmap. We never had a Roadmap for the education sector before he came on board. I’m an active participation in the planning and preparation, the processes that led to the national adaptation of the Roadmap. I have been in the education sector for a long while.

But I learnt that his immediate predecessor in office, Dr Aja Nwachukwu was already working on the Roadmap before his removal?

No! What Dr. Egwu said was that he met a number of initiatives on ground, not a Roadmap.

The current minister never met any Roadmap. He crafted the terminology of Roadmap of the Education Sector. There were a number of initiatives on ground. Take for instance, the issue of B. Tech was a proposal initiated two years ago. The idea of upgrading the NBTE to a commission for polytechnics was a proposal engineered two years ago. The Vocational Enterprise Institutions came two years ago.

The issue of Innovative Enterprise Institutions, to provide high skilled training in a professional manner, came two years ago. All these initiatives were there in clusters. What Dr Egwu did was to take account of them and make a coherent summary of them into four focal areas – Access and Equity, Standards and Quality Assurance, Technical and Vocational Education and Training and Funds and Resource Mobilization.

These are the four focal areas the Minister delimited these avalanche of initiatives. So, the Roadmap brought into fore a coherent summary of what is intended to be done, taking into account what has been done, what has not been accomplished and extant issues in tandem with the 7-point Agenda of Mr President and the issue of Vision 20:20-20.

The Roadmap also engrains an innovative feature of implementation. That innovation has to do with starting small and expand later. It provides timelines for attainment. It provides basic strategies of how initiatives will be done and targets to be met.

The whole idea is to select Model sites both for primary schools, junior secondary schools, senior secondary schools and tertiary institutions and put in these resources so that after a couple of years we would have led education completely turned around. So, it is an innovation and that is why I’m passionately involved in it. I’m convinced it can work and that is what has worked elsewhere.

Development is not a one-day affair. I keep on saying since 2005 when I had access to public dissemination of information, you must plan strategy. You must also think of how to do it with systematic improvement.

The Roadmap has the widest degree of ownership from grassroots to the highest level of government. On its systematic implementation, I will tell you the processes that have happened since July 2009. First of all, we needed to get the Federal Executive Council to approve it as a guide to education delivery in Nigeria. The Minister was mandated to provide the strategy of implementation.

That was why it was approved. And so, what was that strategy? There is a need to build an institutional framework for implementation. All international plans must have institutional arrangement.

What is that institutional arrangement?

Thank you very much. What are the roles of various entities? What is the role of the Federal Government? What is the role of the states and Ministries of Education? What is the roles of boards of education at the local, state and federal levels? What is the role of local government chairmen?

What is the role of civil society? What is the basic roles and responsibilities of international development partners? We must put this in a logical frame work and tell people so that there will be no role conflict. Rather, there should be role refinement. It is a complex thing to achieve and we have achieved that. I can now tell you that this is the role of NERDC in the Roadmap.

This is the role of Jigawa State in the Roadmap. And to achieve that institutional arrangement, there was the need to form implementation entities at each level of government. For instance, at the federal level, we have the National Roadmap Implementation Task Team which I happen to be chairing, and which is made up of desk officers from parastatals of the FME in tandem with the Roadmap capacity.

Our duty is to monitor implementation and coordinate implementation nationwide. Every state has a state equivalent of this task team.

Every state Ministry of Education has state Roadmap Implementation Task Team.

But it is like your task team has not started functioning?

I will tell you what we have done. In each parastatal of the FME, we have what we call Roadmap Desk Office, with well defined functions.

We have called roundtable of state desk officers to define platforms, to build up their capacity in coordination at the state level, to define instruments of doing that and how to get reports. Remember that the implementation of the Roadmap is a collective affair.

So, we must agree on the instrument of implementing that responsibility and how to get information. To build the capacity of state operatives wasn’t a mean task. We have done that for 11 states in the country and we are doing it zone by zone. We have two more zones to complete it.

We have done that capacity-building for all the parastatals of education desk offices, including all the Federal Unity Schools.

At the end of this year, we are going to get a report of what aspects of the Roadmap we have been able to accomplish and to what extent. The next stage is to communicate our achievements. So, from next year there will be aggressive communication of what the Roadmap is, how it is  being implementated and how far have we gone.

In other words, I believe we are going to have roll call state by state. These are your responsibilities as regards the implementation of the Roadmap. How far have you gone with these responsibilities? How can we assist you? What are your strengths and weaknesses? We take it that 2009 was a planning period. The signal that came from the 2009 NESCN is that we will like to do more advocacy.

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