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By Yakub Kamaldeen Aliagan

Digitalization in education is the use of computers, mobile devices, the internet, software applications, and other types of digital technology to teach students of all ages. It is also the use of advanced educational technology to redefine education norms outside the classroom.

It allows education providers and administrators to bridge the gap between digital learning and residential programs, ultimately democratizing access to education.

Before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, digital learning was an option. Many schools have now realized its importance and incorporated technology as a part of their ecosystem via smart classrooms and other IT channels. But for a world that has witnessed the impact of COVID-19, digital learning is the new normal and the only way to continue imparting knowledge to millions of educational aspirants.

It is, therefore, no surprise that the pandemic has impacted learning methods and teaching practices, redrawing the trajectory of education. Technology has become more than an optional choice for early adopters, as it now enables educators to reimagine and redefine learning norms beyond classroom boundaries.

More so, Covid-19 impact on the education sector has been puzzling. On the one hand, the pandemic has thrown academic systems, conventional teaching practices, learning techniques and processes into disarray. On the other hand, it has emerged as an accelerator for digital learning. Research revealed that by mid-April, 2022, a whopping 94% of learners globally were affected by the pandemic. This represents 1.58 billion youth and children enrolled for pre-primary and higher education across 200 countries. While the pandemic has compelled learners to shift away from classrooms in several parts of the globe, this has, in turns, created opportunities for educational technology to make significant inroads within the conventional learning ecosystem.

In Nigeria, researchers and educationists have sleepless nights in devising ways of mitigating the negative effects of the global health crisis on education sector and all sectors of lives. This had prompted the federal government through the Federal Ministry of Education to approve the closure of all learning institutions. This abrupt closure led to the significant disruptions in the education system in Nigeria, including learning modes, access to school related services, parenting routines and crisis management capacities of the federal and state ministry of education.

In response to this education emergency, the federal and state governments and private sector implemented various learning interventions using technology platforms, internet-based tools and traditional media to mitigate the impact of the closure of schools.

In Kwara State, prior to the outbreak of pandemic, there have been ongoing education reforms geared towards addressing educational imbalances at ensuring that children are given chances to live, to be good and productive citizens, useful to themselves and society in general. It is an all-inclusive education system embarked upon by His Excellency, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq-led administration to ensure access to basic quality and education for all, by effectively meeting their diverse needs in a responsive way and that is how Kwara state government develop and design the schools, classrooms, and programs so that all students can learn and participate in learning effectively.

The first education developmental stride taken by the administration of Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq in the first year in office was the comprehensive renovation of seven secondary schools and rehabilitation of blocks of classrooms in thirty-five secondary schools across the three Senatorial districts in the state. This was done in order to create conducive environment for teaching and learning and also to reduce out of school children and encourage enrolment of our future leaders.

Besides, in line with the global trends, the present administration introduced a Mass Media Classes for Basic, Junior and senior secondary school students in the state in order to mitigate the effect of the closure of schools due to the Corona virus pandemic.

By this programme, students that sat for 2019/2020 WAEC, NECO, BECE and Common Entrance examinations have the opportunity to sit back at home and watched or listened to lessons by the teachers on television and radio stations as scheduled. The programme was designed in such a way that the resourceful teachers on different subjects brought on radio to teach Basic classes and senior secondary school. The radio and television classes were designed in such a way that students will be allowed to call for questions and clarifications. The opportunity to continue their learning on visual and audio in order to meet up with the syllabus had greatly increased their confidence and also help them to perform better in their external examinations. The mass media class also extended to other classes apart from basic and exit classes that were earlier covered.

As part of the Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq-led administration’s efforts to reposition the education sector, after the declaration for the reopening of schools by the Federal Government, the present administration continued to device strategies that will mitigate the effect of the covid-19 on educational development and also prepare for future occurrence. Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq-led government engaged in various developmental projects that reduce out of school children, increase the standard of education and ensure that a similar disruption in the future doesn’t inhibit the meaningful impact of teaching in the state. 

Among the strategies designed by the Kwara State Government to actualize the dream of revamping education sector for post Covid-19 was the Kwara Education Futures Summit that was themed “securing and investing in the next generation”. The programme was mapped out towards making high quality education available and accessible for everyone in the state. The outcome of the engagement with public and private sectors, thinkers and education stakeholders in interactive sessions, workshops, talks and exhibitions during the summit have started yielding positive results of standard and quality education delivery that will allow the children to be productive  and useful to self and society in general.

The result-oriented education summit produced mass rehabilitation, renovation and refurbishment of more than 600 schools to accommodate out of school children and also providing a conducive environment for learning and teaching in schools.  

The Governor also distributed instructional materials worth millions of naira to primary and junior secondary schools in the state. During the distribution of the instructional materials, the governor said the gesture is the third of its kind since the inception of his administration to strengthen public basic education system in Kwara state.

In his words, “this underscores our commitment to give solid foundation that will give our children a chance in life, to be good and productive citizens, useful to themselves and society at large.” He further disclosed the provision of multimillion naira instructional materials is to ease access to qualitative basic education and also to enhance teaching and learning”. 

The Chairman of Kwara State Universal Basic Education Board (KWSUBEB), Professor AbdulRaheem Adaramaja acknowledged that, “the gesture was part of the gains of the present administration’s commitment to the development of the basic education through the payment of counterpart funds to Universal Basic Education Commission, Abuja.

Adaramaja commended the good initiative of His Excellency, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq in revamping the education sector for the benefit of our future leaders. He said, “What we are witnessing today is part of the gains of our robust relationship with UBEC in the past few years. It wasn’t like this before the advent of this administration. Kwara State was neglected and nobody thought of us, our classrooms were dilapidated, we had no instructional materials, and teachers were using exercise books as attendance registers.”

The state government did not limit the distribution of instructional materials to basic and junior classes, instructional materials, furniture and standard research laboratories were also provided for senior secondary schools through the Teaching Service Commission. All these gestures were part of government efforts to moderate the effects of Covid-19 on educational development and also reduce out of school children in the state.

Not only that, the government also recruited more than 4,000 qualified and brilliant teachers at SUBEB and Teaching Service Commission level to increase standard of teaching and learning in our schools.  The process for the recruitment was purely on merit and the institutional training was given to the successful ones for effective and efficient performance in the classrooms.

It is equally instructive to note that the Governor took a further step to partner with UNESCO and other organization to embark on rigorous training of teachers for them to meet up with the required standard of impacting quality teachings.

The gesture prompted the Sector Secretary for Social and Human Sciences Section of the National Commission for UNESCO, Mrs Grace Ajayi commended Mallam AbdulRazaq’s initiatives on educational development in the state during her visit to the Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development.

Apart from commending the education reform, infrastructural development, training and retraining of teachers by the present administration she also acknowledged that teachers from Kwara State have the highest number of participants and also performed excellently in various training and workshops organized by the UNESCO for capacity building and effective performance in teaching. 

Without any doubt, Kwara succeeded in raising the bar of education standards in the state through digitization of teaching and learning tagged “KwaraLEARN” as it was adopted during the pandemic so it has come to stay in Kwara state education sector , the development that has recorded dramatic improvements in learning outcomes for public school children across the state. KwaraLEARN programme is accelerating the literacy and numeracy skills of Kwara pupils, it has equally enables them to compete favourably with their peers globally. Basically, the programme is rapidly transforming all government public primary schools using innovative technology, data-driven platforms, high-quality learning materials, effective training and ongoing coaching and support for teachers and learners.

Speaking at the official signing of MoU for the KwaraLEARN programme, the Governor said, “Since inception of this administration, the government had spent heavily on funding basic education in order to launch Kwara back to national reckoning — seven years after the state was blacklisted for the looting of the UBEC funds in 2013 by the former administration.

The Governor added that, “Introduction of KwaraLEARN came after the administration had stabilized the system, adding that the programme will give the Kwara children access to 21st century digital education in a sustainable way.”

While commending the landmark achievements of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq on education development in the state, the honorable Commissioner for Education and Human Capital Development, Hajia Sa’adatu Modibbo Kawu said, “The huge investment committed by the present administration in education sector cannot be overemphasized”, she noted that, “The digital technology projects to schools will definitely complement the earlier investments in infrastructural development, the transparency and competitiveness nature of the recruitment of exceptional teachers to classrooms as well as training and retraining of teachers for effective performance in the class is second to none in the state.”

She therefore implored the stakeholders to embrace KwaraLEARN programme, in order to improve the quality and standard of education in the state, and most importantly, secure the future of our children.

In his quest to sustain the gains of KWARALEARN, the Governor has taken a step further by employing the service of a technical support partner with a record of large scale education transformation successes already recorded in other states in Nigeria. The technical partners are supporting the State Universal Basic Education board to implement KwaraLEARN, this support includes the training of 68 enumerators on baseline assessment to monitor progress in literacy and numeracy, as well as non-learning indicators like teacher instructional and head-teachers in management practices. The baseline assessment examines differences in school management, teacher practice, and pupil growth for firsthand information before the full takeover by KwaraLEARN.

The baseline assessment which was done in the first quarter of this year, is expected to provide rich performance and contextual data that can be used for comparison with subsequent follow-up studies after the introduction of the KwaraLEARN programme as well as allows KwaraLEARN, Kwara SUBEB, and other stakeholders to understand and highlight the progress achieved through the KwaraLEARN programme.

The first phase of the programme has started in 4 local government comprises Ilorin West, Ilorin South, Offa and Baruten local government respectively, with the four weeks training of 3,500 teachers on the use of new digital technology and modern teaching techniques that will enhance effective and efficient teaching and learning and also improve performance of pupils in the class. The selected teachers and head teachers cut across the first four local government selected to pilot KwaraLEARN. 

May, 2022 will be the turning point of reengineering the future of education in Kwara state as KwaraLEARN is set to fully commence in 365 public primary schools selected for the pilot edition of the programme while other four local governments will be added every year to make it 16 local government that will be on board into KwaraLEARN before the end of 2025.

KwaraLEARN initiative is a lifetime investment in education to empower teachers and give public school pupils the best shot at 21st century education with reverberating effects on the future of the state.

To be candid, ahead is a new era of better learning and improved learning outcomes for students across the Kwara State. It is our responsibility to support the present administration for the second term for it to continue this laudable programme in education and others life touching projects and programme the administration has embarked upon. It is believed that with this colossal development, Kwara State will regain its lost glory and also be a pace-setter among her peers in the country.

Certainly, second term is not only an option but a must for the betterment of our future leaders, Kwarans and Nigeria at large.

It is now good here in Kwara State, let us keep it up and support the continuity of selfless and patriotic leader, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq led administration for posterity.

  • Aliagan is the Chief Press Secretary, Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development of Kwara state.
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