September 18, 2020

COVID-19: 15 States qualify for global funding for education —NEC

Onitsha economic empowerment programme to take off soon

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

As  part of measures to cushion the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the education sector, the National  National Economic Council, NEC, yesterday said 15 states have qualified to benefit from the Global Partnership for Education, GPE, funding for education.

Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, stated this while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the virtual NEC, presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and anchored from the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

“I am very pleased to announce that the Federal Government has put in place some financial incentives to assist states in implementing the education COVID-19 plan.

“Selected states are to benefit from the COVID-19 GPE global partnership for education funding; those that are above the national average from at least two of three criteria.

“The states that have qualified are Abia, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Ebonyi, Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Kano, Nassarawa, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto and Zamfara states.

“These are the states that made two of the three criteria for GPE funding; this is the grant from the World Bank and other donors,” he said.

The governor said the Federal Ministry of Education presented to NEC a broad overview of the education sector and how the education of Nigerian students in the COVID-19 era could continue.

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El-Rufai said the Ministry of Education approved the closure of schools and tertiary institutions on March 19 before a formal lock-down was announced.

He said: “Some actions taken so far to mitigate learning loss among children are the education sector COVID-19 strategy and National Education Sector COVID-19 Response Plan in collaboration with parastatals, development partners, public health experts, and the Nigerian education group.

“The Federal Government also constituted a ministerial task force on COVID-19.  The primary objectives of the COVID-19 education response plan are to ensure that all children continue learning through access to the best remote learning programmes and appropriate for each context to meet the needs of each child, including the most vulnerable.

“ Some may have access to the internet, but the poorest can get their lessons over the radio; some through television.

“So, the whole plethora of platforms was made available so that no one is left behind.”

The Kaduna State Governor said that the federal and state governments were working towards ensuring a safe opening up of the educational system.

The governor said, first, capacity must be built for teachers for ongoing development and deployment of technology teaching, adding that teaching with digital technology  was new and required a lot of training as well as providing technical assistance in selection and delivery of online digital content and offline learning resources among others.

He said: “Some of the measures to arrest the potential growth in the number of out of school children, arising from the situation we had before the pandemic and during the pandemic are as follows:

“Disbursement of the Federal Government of Nigeria, UBE intervention funds to states on equality basis to states.

“This is to enable them to implement tangible state based priority projects, including the building of schools or additional classrooms, renovations, rehabilitations, procurement of furniture and equipment etc with focus on enrolling more pupils or having more flexibility to do shifts.

“The Almajiri integrated Quaranic teaching school programmes to mainstream the Almajiri boys into basic education and eradicate the out-of-school children syndrome in northern Nigeria.

“Open schooling, which is principally aimed at reducing the number of out-of-school children in the country, among others.”

He said that  going forward, there should be a national training programme to equip all university lecturers in delivering blended learning.

The governor said that NEC also recommended accelerating and strengthening the management of an electronic digital identity management system for all Nigerians.

El-Rufai said that such digital identity would aid easy enrolment, retention and completion of learners at all levels as well as curb fraud, forgery and alteration of certificates.

‘’We are pushing the Federal Capital Territory to reduce its cost and that other laboratories in the country do not push up their costs above the Abuja ceiling.

‘’We are working to enlist more private laboratories into the portal and I am sure the cost will come down. Also, the negotiation for the reduction of the costs is done with the state governments and not the PTF, but we are working with the states to ensure that the costs are reduced,” Aliyu explained.