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Accelerating Learning Recovery in Nigeria

Power

Published: 5th Jul, 2024

Author: Innocent Orji

Duration: 5min Read

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), education is a human right, as well as a powerful catalyst capable of reducing poverty, driving development, improving health, and sustaining economic stability in any economy. Its role in driving inclusivity and closing inequalities remains apparent, having significantly delivered huge and consistent returns in terms of income. Despite this, education systems have faced multiple disruptions over time, resulting in learning losses globally, with the COVID-19 pandemic being the most recent.

The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak significantly disrupted learning activities, resulting in in-person schooling being closed for 141 days. At the peak of the outbreak, over 1.6 billion children in 188 countries suffered substantial learning loss, losing between 0.3 and 1.5 years of learning, particularly in low—and middle-income regions where access to remote learning is minimal. 

To date, countries are striving to recover from learning losses incurred as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak by rolling out policies and collaborating with international organisations such as the World Bank and UNESCO to accelerate learning recovery in their education systems. They are keying into interventions such as the RAPID Framework for Learning Recovery and Acceleration to mitigate the impact.

Learning Losses: The Nigerian Case

Nigeria is not left out of this recovery process, though the COVID-19 outbreak has not been the only learning disruption witnessed in Nigeria in recent times. Prior to the outbreak, Nigeria had already battled learning deficits, which was evident in the high rate of learning poverty in the country, coupled with other factors restricting learning efficiency. Factors including inadequate funding, escalating insecurity, low-quality education, and infrastructural decay, among others, are significant contributors to learning losses.

Learning poverty remains a going concern for Nigeria, as 1 in every 5 out-of-school children in the world reside in Nigeria. The escalating insecurity challenges in the northern region of the country have contributed significantly to the 10.5 million out-of-school children and the substantial learning losses being witnessed in Nigeria.  Insecurity, second to the Covid-19 pandemic, remains a significant driver of learning losses in the country, particularly in the northern region, where the activities of bandits and Boko Haram insurgents are dominant, as well as the south-east, where Monday sit-at-home actions imposed by separatist agitations continues to drive learning losses. 

From 2015 to date, an increased number of attacks on schools have been recorded in the northern region, which prompted the closure of over 802 schools, destroyed 497 classrooms, and positioned over 2.8 million children in need of education emergencies, scaling learning losses in that region.  This has eroded both learners' and teachers' confidence, taken a toll on school attendance, and equally led to significant learning losses. This is evidenced by Figures 1 and 2 below.

The above figures show the school attendance rate (primary and secondary) and the regional percentage of out-of-school children. Evidence from Figure 1  shows that the northeast and the northwest rank lowest in terms of primary and secondary attendance. The reason for this is not far-fetched. The activities of Boko Haram insurgents are dominant in the northeast, while the northwest has seen a surge in banditry in recent times. Bandits' methods of attacking schools, which include mass adoption of schoolchildren and forced marriage of adopted female students, among others, have significantly declined both students' and teacher’s confidence. The fear of abduction has made them reluctant to attend school, further surging learning losses in these regions. Meanwhile, Figure 2 shows that the northwest and northeast ranked highest in the number of out-of-school children. Although other factors, such as social beliefs and financial constraints, contribute to these numbers in these regions, insecurity plays a significant role in scaling the numbers. 

Escalating insecurity from 2009 to date has displaced a significant number of people, with many now residing in IDP camps, prompting the federal government to intervene. The Nigerian government, in collaboration with several international non-governmental organisations, has made efforts to establish schooling in these IDP camps. However, such interventions are still challenged by the psychological reality constraining learning. Aside from establishing schools in IDP camps, the government has implemented several other interventions to mitigate learning loss.

Learning Recovery  

As mentioned earlier, Nigeria is committed to accelerating learning recovery, as well as both COVID-19 and insecurity-induced losses. The Nigerian government has embraced interventions to accelerate learning recovery and improve security in the Nigerian school system. Interventions including the Safe School Initiative (SSI), Accelerated Basic Education Programme (ABEP), and the National Policy on Safety, Security and Violence-Free Schools stand out among others.

Safe School Initiative (SSI)

The Nigerian government, in collaboration with the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, announced the Safe School Initiative in May 2014. The objective of this program was to improve the protection and safety of students, teachers and their family members. It also focused on rehabilitating security infrastructure in schools and establishing community-orientated security. In addition, it was keen on transferring students from volatile areas to schools in safe environments and providing complementary trauma counselling for such students. Furthermore, the program aimed at providing education for internally displaced people residing in various IDP camps to mitigate the increasing learning losses in that region. This intervention arguably achieved its objective of reducing learning losses in Nigeria, particularly in the northern region, as over 750 students in the northeast region were moved to boarding schools in other safer states by March 2015.

Accelerated Basic Education Programme (ABEP)

On 23rd June 2022, the federal government, in collaboration with the European Union and Plan International, launched the Accelerated Basic Education Programme (ABEP). This program was targeted at returning out-of-school children back to school. The major objective of the ABEP was to provide alternative educational programmes suitable to meet the needs of overaged, out-of-school children and youths by transferring them to a regular school and enrolling them in vocational centres to create alternative career paths for them. The implementation plans rested on the shoulders of the Educational Research and Development Council and were centred on teachers' training pact, curriculum development, and national policy guidelines. The AEBP has proven to be effective due to the education access it succeeded in providing for out-of-school children, the equity it promoted and the mainstream ability it showed.

National Policy on Safety, Security and Violence-Free Schools 

The federal government announced the National Policy on Safety, Security and Violence-Free Schools in August 2021 as part of efforts to reduce learning losses driven by insecurity in the country. The objectives of this policy include protecting learners and education workers from death and injuries, ensuring educational continuity in the face of expected hazards, safeguarding education sector investments, and strengthening a disaster-resilient citizenry through education.

The aforementioned interventions by the federal government of Nigeria, in collaboration with diverse international organisations, have proven to be significant in mitigating learning losses and accelerating recovery, particularly insecurity-driven learning losses. However, these programmes and initiatives also had their challenges. 

Education is a human right capable of driving shared national economic progress. However, the education system has been disrupted several times, the most recent being the COVID-19 pandemic. For Nigeria, insecurity-driven disruption remains a formidable concern, as it has contributed significantly to the number of out-of-school children and learning losses experienced in the country. 

The northeast and northwest rank the highest in the percentage of out-of-school children and lowest in school attendance by region, with the activities of terrorists and bandits as the reason. However, the federal government has rolled out interventions to mitigate learning losses and foster learning recovery, which include the Safe School Initiative (SSI), the Accelerated Basic Education Programme (ABEP), and the National Policy on Safety, Security and Violence-Free Schools. These interventions were significant in achieving learning recovery but not void of challenges. The federal government needs to increase funding and implement robust monitoring and evaluation to accelerate learning recovery in Nigeria.

References

Centre for The Study of Economies of Africa. (2023). Effectiveness of AEP. CSEA Policy Brief.https://www.gpekix.org/sites/default/files/webform/submit_to_the_library/495/Effectiveness%20of%20AEP%20Policy%20Brief_09MAR2023.pdf

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit. (n.d.). Safe schools initiative. GIZ Blog. https://www.giz.de/en/worldwide/31084.html

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit. (2016). Supporting the Nigerian Safe Schools Initiative (SSI). GIZ Policy Brief. https://www.giz.de/en/downloads/giz2016-en-SSI_Factsheet.pdf

European Union. (2023). EU supports recovery and resilience in Nigeria. European Union Report. https://reliefweb.int/report/nigeria/eu-supports-recovery-and-resilience-nigeria-additional-50-million

Federal Ministry of Education. (2021). National Policy on Safety, Security and Violence-Free Schools with its implementing guidelines. Federal Ministry of Education Policy Report. https://education.gov.ng/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/National-Policy-on-SSVFSN.pdf

Federal Ministry of Education. (2022). Education sector analysis. Nigeria’s Policy Report. https://education.gov.ng/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Education-Sector-Analysis-2021.pdf

National Population Commission. (2019). Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2018. Nigeria’s Report. https://www.dhsprogram.com/pubs/pdf/FR359/FR359.pdf

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (n.d.). Education overview: Nigeria. UNESCO Blog. https://www.unicef.org/nigeria/education

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (n.d.). The right to education. UNESCO Report. https://www.unesco.org/en/right-education#:~=Education%20is%20a%20basic%20human,social%2C%20economic%20and%20cultural%20reasons

Veriv Africa. (2024, April 22nd). Learning poverty: Policy gap and pathways to progress. Veriv Africa Insights. https://www.verivafrica.com/insights/learning-poverty-policy-gap-and-pathways-to-progress

World Bank. (n.d.). Education overview. World Bank Blog. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/education/overview

World Bank. (2022). Accelerating learning recovery: A guidance note for addressing learning losses. World Bank Report. https://thedocs.worldbank.org/en/doc/523b6ac03f2c643f93b9c043d48eddc1-0200022022/related/English-Exec-Summary-Guide-for-Learning-Recovery-and-Acceleration-Final.pdf

World Bank. (n.d.). Learning recovery to acceleration: A global update on country efforts to improve learning and reduce inequalities. World Bank Report. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/education/publication/the-rapid-framework-and-a-guide-for-learning-recovery-and-acceleration

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