The National Economic Council (NEC) had adopted measures to curtail the number of out-of-school children in the country.
Rising from a virtual meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in Abuja, on Thursday, the council adopted the measures as part of the strategies to strengthen the education sector in the country and make education available to all children.
Speaking to State House Correspondents after the meeting, the Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai, said the measures were agreed upon by all members of the NEC.
According to him, among the measures adopted were the call for the release of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) intervention funds to all the states equally, mainstreaming the Almajiri education system as well as popularising open schooling, which is designed to combat the out-of-school-children menace.
He added: “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 enable them to implement tangible state-based priority projects, including the building of schools or additional classrooms, renovations, rehabilitation, procurement of furniture and equipment etc with focus on enrolling more pupils or having more flexibility to do shifts.
“The Almajiri Integrated Quranic 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, amongst others.
“I am very pleased to announce that the Federal Government has put in place some financial incentives to assist the 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.”
The Kaduna governor outlined measures to be Implemented going forward including “a national training programme to equip all university lecturers in delivering blended learning, especially the open and distance learning component should be developed by the NUC, National Commission for Colleges of Education, National Board for Technical Education and implemented starting from November 2020. This should be a rolling capacity building programme covering all our tertiary institutions.
“Finally, accelerating and strengthening the management of an electronic digital identity management system for all Nigerians. This will aid easy enrolment, retention and completion of learners at all levels as well as curb and eliminate fraud, forgery and alteration of certificates.”
Speaking on the plans of the government to keep school children in touch with learning during the lockdown, the governor said the Minister of State for Education, briefed the NEC on the Education Sector COVID-19 Strategy and National Education Sector COVID-19 Response Plan in order to save time and help children learn while the schools remained shut countrywide.
He added: “Some actions taken so far to mitigate the learning loss among children by the Fed. Ministry of Education is as follows: 1. Nigeria developed an 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.
“33 out of 36 states and the FCT, including Kaduna, we were the first to roll out e-learning, digital learning platform with a combination of radio and television programme to ensure that our final year students do not lose the entire second and third terms.
“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.
“Education system recovers from school closure and implements the same operations. We hope that the education systems enhance systemic capacity and preparedness response against the pandemic for children’s safety while being a resilience for future shocks. … by federal and state governments to ensure that we have a safe opening up of our educational system.
“So, what are the expected activities from the federal and state governments? First, we need to build the capacity for master teachers and teachers for ongoing development and deployment of technology teaching. This is novel; we are not used to teaching using digital technology. So, we need to do a lot of training. Second, we need to provide technical assistance in the selection and delivery of online digital content and offline learning resources among others”, he said.
NEC also agreed that the federal and states’ governments should keep the need to continue strengthening the health sector while reopening the economy at the of their activities.
Speaking to correspondents on this the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the NEC reassessed the journey in the national response against the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic and made a few notes on the journey so far.
According to him, the NEC agreed that health sector must remain at the heart of every state’s works, adding that it was agreed that the response against the COVID-19 would no longer be just a government’s show, but something that must be owned from the lowest levels of society and be done jointly.
He added: “We agreed on several measures to strengthen the response further; one of this was to set up fixed sample collection sites in all the states; so that going beyond the outbreak response, that there will be fixed sample collection sites where people can go to when they think they have COVID-19, most likely within the hospital premises and have access to testing; this will make it a lot easier for people to walk in and request a test.
“We noted the increase in staff capacity among our healthcare workers on infection prevention and control; the governors were briefed on access to personal protective equipment, reagents commodities and the maintenance of a supply chain to all the states in Nigeria and the governors expressed satisfaction with the work NCDC and the Federal Ministry of Health who have been leading in this regard.
“Of course, we discussed the impact of this epidemic on other healthcare services; at the peak of the outbreak, we saw a reduction to access to other healthcare services—immunisation services, family planning, cancer care, routine health services all went down.
“So, over the last month, we have seen a pick up on this services; we will continue to encourage people to come forward for their health services; doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, lab scientists have all been trained and retrained on how to protect themselves and how to protect their patients.
“We noted a stabilising of the pandemic across the country; this is a good sign; but also we noted that with the reopening of the aviation industry, with the reopening of flights, potential and soon reopening of schools, we will likely have a resurgence of the case; so, we have to be prepared for this and we have to mitigate the impact of this; we cannot lock the economy down again; so, we have to find a way to strengthen the use of the measures that we have; and this how we will work collaboratively with the states to make sure that we are able to do this together.
“This is no longer going to be government-led response; it has to be a response that is led from the bottom-up, from users, from individuals, from organizations in driving the response.
“The Chairman of NEC, the vice president and the Minister of Health who also attended the meeting warned against complacency; we must not look at the curve and think we have come out of this; this virus will remain with us until we have a vaccine and until we have distributed that vaccine across the country; until we get to that situation, we have to keep doing the work that we are doing.
“We all agreed that maintaining health security will remain at the centre of the work at every state; so, every state government agreed that strengthen their states’ epidemiologist teams, strengthen their public health department in order to focus on the response while we reopen the economy.
“So, we have to do both things in parallel; so every member of NEC committed to doing both; one, strengthen the public health response while reopening the economy.”
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