By Chris Onuoha
No fewer than 300 participants comprising teachers and school administrators drawn from various schools in Lagos were trained during the Training of Trainers (TOT) program put together by The Fast Forward Project on how to be more innovative, infuse work-readiness and employability skills in a regular day-to-day teaching.
The dissemination event of the project with target for training 1000 secondary school students on employability skills that would give them a head start in life was held at the Sheraton Hotel Ikeja on Wednesday April 4. It was a successful and highly interactive sessions with panel of discussants, question and answer session including presentation of findings to the various partners and beneficiaries in the project that started in Lagos, Rivers and Cross Rivers States in July 2016 and ran until December 2017.
Fast Forward Project, funded by the MacArthur Foundation, the British Council and supported by LEAP Africa is an action research pilot project that tested a work-based learning model for teaching employability skills in public secondary schools in Nigeria. The project aimed at enhancing classroom engagement, preparing students for both post-secondary education and the workplace and encouraging collaboration between schools, students and employers, thereby exposing key stakeholders to the link between educational innovation and improved employability.
One of the highlights of the event involved the internship aspect where the chosen secondary school students embarked on two-week internship training at designated employers. This experience brought about significant transformation in the students’ communication skills, critical thinking, problem solving, values, vision, time management, leadership, confidence level and goal-setting among others.
Dignitaries present at the event are representatives of organizations, partners and stakeholders in the education sector. They include Dr. Tamuno Gogo Jaja, Commissioner for Education, Rivers State; Kenneth Asim Ittah, Executive Secretary, Calabar Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mining and Agriculture; Lucy Pearson, Country Director, British Council Nigeria; Mr. Oladayo Olaide, Deputy Director, MacArthur Foundation, Nigeria; Prof. Oladele Akogun, Country Director DFID; Mr. Solomon Adebayo, Education Specialist, World Bank; Mr. Dabesaki Mac-Ikemenjima, Ford Foundation; Dr. Modupe Adefeso-Olateju, TEP Center; Femi Taiwo ,LEAP Africa; Rene Vermeulen, MDF, West Africa; students and school administrators, amongst others.
The internship phase was an eye-opener and immense beneficial for Bello Farida Oyindamola, a student of Eva Adelaja Senior Girls Secondary Grammar School, Bariga. In her words she revealed, “My internship was at Unilever Nigeria Plc and I learnt a lot from the company where I was made to observe safety rules and regulations. At the factory, I was taught how their various products are manufactured, how they go about daily activities and was included in their activities at different departments. My team learnt new things and we were instructed to think outside the box and were exposed to what we could never have imagined. The internship was fascinating and educative. It improved me individually, my social life and economic life and even my educational life and in all aspects and I think it should be continued.”
Dr. Tamuno Gogo Jaja, Rivers State Commissioner for Education described the Fast Forward project as timely and worthwhile. “I will describe the program as worthwhile and timely considering the time that the educational sector in Nigeria is below expectation and assessment because of the fact if we take a look at the sector, it will be difficult to define what kind of educational system Nigeria is running today. During my time it was 6-5-4, we moved from there to 6-3-3-4 and all of a sudden we heard about the 9-5-4 system and then 1-6-3-3-4 now we are talking about 10-3-4”.
Tamuno spoke further on the state of education sector in Nigeria saying “I think our education sector needs serious attention. It is not enough to travel to Europe and America and return to copy and paste the system you meet there. When our children are on vacation these days, we hear our parents; school administrators and children talk about Summer Lessons! For Christ’s sake, we do not have summer in Nigeria. I believe with the intervention of the British Council into the system, some of our teachers and students will be able to define and rediscover themselves and their skills. I wish to commend the initiators and implore them to extend this project nationwide. Yes, they have taken the pilot state, but I believe for us to make an impact in the system, they have to go beyond the pilot phase.”
During the demonstration session, the evaluator emphasised that the action research project Fast Forward does indeed show that employability and work-readiness skills can be taught to secondary school students in the classroom via innovative teaching practices and work-based learning experiences. The project demonstrates that, exposing teachers to better teaching practices can improve teacher-student engagement thus improving the teaching and learning experience for both students and teachers.