COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF A TWO-DAY NATIONAL EDUCATION SUMMIT, HELD AT SANDRALIA HOTEL, SOLOMON LAR WAY, JABI, ABUJA ON THE 1ST AND 2ND OF FEBRUARY 2021

Human Development Initiatives with the support of MacArthur Foundation held a national summit on education with a theme: COVID-19 and the Future of Education in Contemporary Nigeria. The objective was to stimulate a robust national discuss on the future of basic education with a view to driving policy reforms toward achieving SDG 4 by 2030 while keeping COVID-19 in context. The former NUC Chairman Professor Peter Okebukola delivered the keynote address virtually. The Summit had in attendance key stakeholders such as the Executive Chairmen of Lagos, Kaduna, Kano and Enugu SUBEBs, the Permanent Secretary of the Lagos State Ministry of Education; Education Secretaries, Representatives of UNICEF, Civil Society Organizations and Coalitions, Representatives of Persons with Disabilities, Distinguished Academia, Elder Statesmen, the Media, School-Based Management Committee members and representatives of Parents. The Summit covered five critical areas such as policy reforms towards achieving inclusive education and lifelong learning; Information and Communications Technology exploration for continuous teaching and learning beyond pandemic; blocking leakages and promoting transparency and accountability in education governance through open contracting data standards; schools’ resumption and management during pandemic and citizens’ participation in education governance.

DISCUSSION AND OBSERVATIONS:

At the end of the two-day Summit, the following major observations were made:

  1. Policies that ignore the factsthat individuals and families are under severe stress and struggling with disadvantages associated with social, health, emotional and financial turmoil in everyday life will be ineffective and serve only the interests of the upper class while creating further inequalities in the society. This has been the case in Nigeria;
  2. Electricity that often drives modern education (teaching and learning) is erratic in Nigerian schools;
  3. There are infrastructural deficit including poor access to ICT and its enablers for teaching and learning especially in the rural and hard-to-reach communities;
  4. There is lack of political will by government to adequately and efficiently address the issues bedeviling education and sustain good practices;
  5. Low CSO involvement in education planning and governance;
  6. Lack of systems and practices that track emotions, mental and psychological states of pupils and teachers;
  7. Lack of prerequisite ICT skills to use technology for teaching and learning;
  8. Poor implementation of existing curriculum;
  9. Inadequate teaching workforce especially for inclusive education system;
  10. Underfunding of the education sector;
  11. Inadequate research and data especially on children with disabilities for education intervention planning;
  12. Lack of gender and disability responsive public service such as transportation especially for children with disabilities;
  13. Undue political influence in teacher recruitment;
  14. Weak inter-agency collaboration;
  15. Weak needs assessment, monitoring and evaluation framework and practice;
  16. Overbearing bureaucracy and lack of access to adequate data on education especially the fiscal data;
  17. Trust deficit between CSOs and government.

RECOMMENDATIONS

At the end of all deliberations, the forum agreed and made the following recommendations. There is need to:

  1. Support schools in the implementation of the Federal Ministry of Education (FME) Guidelines on Reopening of schools especially through the provision of hand washing materials, face masks and sanitizers and apply sanctionswhen breached. School clinics should be prioritized.
  2. Establish partnership with telecommunications/internet service providers to support ICT infrastructure in schools;
  3. Adopt Open Contracting Data Standards and access to full disclosure of education data for improved transparency, accountability and citizens’ participation in education governance.
  4. Begin a phased implementation of a plan to resource schools for quality online education, including internet service, connectivity tools and solar energy.
  5. Begin phased training programmes for teachers in the delivery of virtual/online education.
  6. Explore the use of radio and online platforms in delivering basic education including in local languages.
  7. Set States and the FCT in competition through ranking of those with best responses to the impact of Covid-19 on basic education.
  8. Fund NGOs to raise public awareness and be part of the response to the impact of Covid-19 on basic education.
  9. Strengthen the Homegrown School Feeding Programme to improve the health, learning outcomes, school enrollment and retention rates when Covid-19 tide is over.
  10. Establish a full-fletched Department of Special and Inclusive Education within State Ministries of Education and SUBEB (where they do not currently exist), headed by a qualified Special Education EXPERT to manage the affairs of all special and inclusive schools. This is because special and Inclusive education has become a major component of the education sector which is too broad for just a unit to handle.
  11. Conduct comprehensive institutional, infrastructural and manpower audit of all schools in all states in Nigeria to determine specific and general needs in order to promote inclusive education service delivery.
  12. Draft a medium and long-term Inclusive Schools Development Plan in line with Inclusive Education policy and other relevant legal frameworks at national and state levels.
  13. Prioritize the implementation of Education Sector Plan in the annual budgets of the Federal, State and Local Governments.
  14. Mobilize support through CSOs, FBOs and CBOs for children with disabilities to facilitate enrollment, retention and completion of Basic Education.
  15. Develop universally accepted (or nationally endorsed) Inclusive Education Standard Operating Procedures (IESOPs) or school-based implementation guides and properly communicate them to all public and private schools, education practitioners and other stakeholders for the purpose of standardizing Inclusive Education practices and procedures at school levels.
  16. Strengthen Quality Assurance Department and other relevant monitoring system in all education MDAs to ensure full implementation of provisions of national and state-level Inclusive Education policies and the proposed Inclusive School Development Plans.
  17. Ensure that the IESOPs or Implementation Guidelines contain sections that help schools, practitioners and stakeholders to respond to challenges of making education accessible and inclusive during emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
  18. Create structures and implement programmes to empowerindividuals and families within communities so that policy makers can hear their voices.
  19. Provide comprehensive infrastructure, such as libraries, technology tools, machines and equipment, general school resources, computer centers, laboratories, sports facilities/playground, toilets with WASH facilities.
  20. Ensure school infrastructure development meet the moral, physical and psychological needs of learners, as well as develop an atmosphere in which children can feel safe and children with disability can become active participants in the teaching and learning process.
  21. Design infrastructure that will enable performance-based progression system, rather than a system whereby all learners spend the same amount of time studying instructional materials.
  22. Adopt and optimize the utilization of cooperative learning strategies, peer tutoring and diagnostic-prescriptive method; this will ensure that Inclusive Education interventions meet the diverse needs of all learners regardless of their cognitive, affective and physical/motor learning and skills requirements.
  23. Increase teachers’ remuneration, regularly train them and other education stakeholders on current Inclusive Education developments and innovations. Federal and State governments may collaborate to establish online resources and/or community of practice to facilitate effective and continuous knowledge sharing and learning.
  24. Integrate the Washington Education Group Indicators on Disabilities into Education Management Information System (EMIS) to enhance the effective assessment of children with disabilities.
  25. Provide opportunities for life-long learning through non-formal education.
  26. Encourage NUC, NCCE, NTI and other regulators of tertiary education to support more universities and colleges of education to provide full-time course programs in special and inclusive education for the purpose of increasing the human resources required for the implementation of Inclusive Education in Nigeria.
  27. Encourage Federal and State education MDAs including UBEC and SUBEBs to do more to facilitate community involvement in the delivery of Inclusive Education through regular community sensitization, inclusion of special teachers and parents of CWDs in SBMCs, etc.
  28. Encourage Federal and State education MDAs including UBEC and SUBEBs to explore the National Social Investment Programs and the social protection policies and programs of the Federal and State governments to provide a more strategic support for indigent parents of Children with Disabilities (CWDs), especially mothers, with a view to ensuring that they are able to keep their children in school.