The Federal Government has announced a plan to introduce Open Schooling Programme as a means of providing”accessible and flexible” quality basic education to children and youth in the country.
Executive Secretary of Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Dr Hamid Bobboyi, gave this hint at the meeting of the committee on open schooling programme in Nigeria held on Thursday in Abuja.
He decried the high level of out-of-school children in Nigeria estimated at 10.2 million, saying the meeting was to explore various challenges and best way to kick-start the programme, he said would drastically reduce the number of out-of-school children in the country.
He disclosed that the pilot phase of the programme would be set up in collaboration with the Commonwealth of Learning, Canada, in five states of the federation before the end of the year.
He noted a number of Nigerian children were out of school for different reasons ranging from inadequate educational facilities such as classrooms, poverty, ignorance among others, and that government has been developing various strategies of tackling the challenge.
Bobboyi said this was one of the reasons why the strategy of innovative open schooling is being explored to provide access to many school-age children in the country through the use of technology.
He explained that the innovative open schooling which is an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) based approach being supported by the Commonwealth of Learning, Canada, which has experts in the open schooling model.
He noted that the system is so flexible to the extent that children of farmers or herders as well as youth in rural communities who could not complete their basic education could enrol and complete their school without going to the four walls of the classroom.
He said: “We thought we needed to introduce a strategy that can help us meet the needs of the Nigeria children, wherever they are and for whatever reason that they are not going to school.
“One of those things, which have worked in different parts of the world is the issue of open schooling. Innovative open schooling, not the old system where materials are just sent to people. This is IT-based.
“We now have the kind of facility that can enable you without internet connectivity, because the internet is one of the major constraints in this part of the world, be able to pour a lot of resources in certain gadgets that can help you disseminate this information to pupils and students in the various centres.
“It widens and broadens opportunities and flexibility such that those children who help their parents in farming, in the afternoon when they return, they have the kind of educational facility that would take care of their needs.
“Those who are herders, in the morning, they have to go tending their cattle, and by the time they come back in the afternoon, they have their own programme. The system is flexible,” he said.
He said committee meeting was looking at the training of teachers to be deployed to various parts of the country where the problem of out-of-school children is endemic, development learning resources and success of the programme.
“The whole is idea is to provide quality education for our children wherever they are; whether in the rural or urban areas requiring the use of this particular resources,” he said.
The expert from Commonwealth of Learning, Mr Tony Mays, explained that open schooling is creating opportunities for children and youth who have not completed school to access alternative ways of learning and completing school without going conventional school.
On the success of the programme in rural areas where knowledge of ICT is poor, Mays said one of the things that were developed as a device that would allow access to digital resources without the Internet.
He said many countries of the world with the challenge of out-of-school children, including Mozambique and Gambia are implementing the initiative as the road accessible and flexible quality education for all.