Recently, the World Bank commended EdoBEST@Home, a homegrown education sector initiative developed in Edo State and utilised by thousands of pupils across Nigeria.
Citing EdoBEST@Home as an initiative that “ensured education continuity for all using technology and provided support to teachers, students, and their families,” during the period of lockdown, the World Bank released a 6-page report focused on the initiatives and advisory on how to replicate it in other climes.
Because of the success of the initiative, the World Bank was unequivocal in recommending it to other states, countries and territories as a model for remote teaching and learning.
Jaime Saavedra, director, World Bank Education said that he believes Edo State can set a great example for other states in Nigeria and even other countries. That is why Edo is part of the World Bank/UNICEF Accelerator Programme.
But beyond the lessons and accolades that have followed the implementation of EdoBEST@Home, it is clear that the initiative is a product of genuine commitment to educating the Edo Child. It is a comprehensive response to the need of over 250,000 pupils who were inadvertently shut out of their schools by a pandemic that showed up like a flood.
Outside the box thinking
Based on World Bank data, at the peak of the pandemic, 45 countries in the Europe and Central Asia region closed their schools, thereby shutting 185 million students out of the school system.
Additionally, surveys conducted by Human Rights Watch between April and August 2020, with students, parents, teachers, and education officials across Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya among other countries showed that the pandemic could exacerbate previously existing inequalities in access to education which already existed.
Edo State Universal Basic Education Board (Edo SUBEB) led by Dr. Joan Osa Oviawe stood up to the occasion at this point. The major goal was to ensure that the Edo Child was not left behind as the Board had already implemented a more comprehensive programme, EdoBEST, which was already gaining traction and delivering better learning outcomes for children across public schools across the state.
EdoBEST@Home was an initiative born out of a genuine desire to ensure continuity in learning, amidst the closure of schools globally. It was based on a child-centred and scientific approach like the broader EdoBEST program curriculum.
Propelled by the EdoBEST program – a digital transformation basic education program, the EdoBEST@Home provided learning and instructional materials to pupils remotely using technology.
The initiative encompasses five virtual/remote learning platforms which were used to enable pupils access learning and instructional materials: the Edo SUBEB Website, Virtual Learning Classrooms, Educational Digital Storybooks, Interactive Audio Lessons and Mobile Interactive Quizzes.
The EdoBEST@Home initiative was designed in such a way that at a minimum, every child could access four hours of learning a day, Dr. Oviawe said while speaking about EdoBEST@Home. She also noted that even pupils in rural and remote areas with limited network connectivity were given alternative offline learning opportunities.
Therefore, at the peak of implementation, five Virtual/Remote Learning Platforms were in use; 7,204 Virtual Learning Classrooms were created, each catering to a particular class or classes of pupils while over 4,400 mobile lines connected and received information from the SUBEB office.
While in their homes, pupils received multiple hours of daily lessons guides, interactive audio lessons, self-study activity packets, mobile interactive quizzes, and age-appropriate storybooks.
Teachers had the opportunity to virtually support their pupils through classroom-based WhatsApp groups, calls and messages while headteachers monitored and supervised the various platforms to ensure that teachers were actively engaging pupils and learning continued.
After implementation, what?
Because of the strategic nature of EdoBEST@Home, it was adopted by pupils outside the shores of Edo State. Available data suggests that approximately 29% of primary school students in Nigeria used the programme in one form or the other.
At some point, the Edo SUBEB website was so inundated with visits (from within and outside Nigeria) that it went offline temporarily because of traffic. However, the more interesting stories that emerged were those of ordinary pupils and their teachers who were able to access world-class online learning from the hamlets and conurbations scattered across Edo State and beyond.
“When I want to take my lessons, I take my mummy’s phone, go to her WhatsApp to check for my lessons. If they have sent it, I read it, take my book to write down my answers and my mummy helps me send it to my teacher for marking,” Oluwatosin Oyewale, a primary three pupil of Ohobo Primary School, Afuze said. This was the experience of many others.
For parents, the initiative was also helpful. The mother of a pupil at Eguare Primary School in Irrua, noted that: “I thank God for EdoBEST@Home, now my daughter can continue to learn instead of playing all day.” Indeed many pupils scattered across Edo State made a lot of progress drawing from the ingenuity of EdoBEST@Home.
The World Bank highlights four key points to be considered before a programme similar to EdoBEST@Home can be implemented.
Firstly, there should be a proper assessment of device penetration for remote learners. The pupil population should be identified, and they should be reachable through mobile phones. Households that lack access to mobile phones should be provided alternative learning solutions.
Secondly, public-private partnerships (PPP) should be considered as government education boards may lack the resources to fully implement such a programme alone.
Since teachers are key to implementation, a third prerequisite is support to teachers. They are to be equipped with the digital and pedagogical resources required to teach remotely. Remote teaching is new to most teachers, they should therefore be upskilled to enable them to deliver.
Fourthly, measures should be taken to sustain pupils’ engagement by producing interactive content, engaging learning activities, and automated formative assessments. EdoBEST@Home offered interactive audio lessons, digital self-study packets, and interactive quizzes that were all delivered through WhatsApp or text messages.
That EdoBEST@Home was a success is a given. The major lesson from the implementation of the initiative is that concentrated effort at improving educational outcomes pay off in the medium to long run if genuine effort is put in place to execute an initiative.
Additionally, EdoBest@Home is an eye opener that education sector reform is possible and states which are behind on the learning curve can learn from the experiences of others.