- A new basic education programme is using technology to revolutionaries a system that has suffered decay over decades
When teachers arrive state-owned primary school in Yenagoa, Sagbama, Ogbia, or Kolokuma/Opokuma local government areas in Bayelsa state they do not sign in with pen and paper.
They bring out their blue government-issued teacher-tablets, punch a few buttons and in a matter of seconds their exact arrival time is electronically transmitted to a server which can be monitored by basic education sector policy makers in the state capital, Yenagoa.
Their lesson guides for the day are also sent to the teacher-tablets (prior to any school day). As each teacher progresses through the day, it is known remotely, which teachers are actually in class teaching and which teachers are not.
Interestingly, teachers who leave school before closing time can also be identified. This was not possible a few months ago. BayelsaPRIME (Bayelsa Promoting Reform to Improve and Modernise Education) a basic education reform policy which has changed the way teachers and education sector policy makers do their jobs introduced the changes as the government launched the programme to engender more efficient, productive schools.
BayelsaPRIME is an EdTech programme that is using technology to improve access to basic education across Bayelsa state.
Before the state launched the programme, there were at least sixteen distinct challenges ailing the school system.
Teacher absenteeism, irrelevant curriculum, inadequate equipment and materials for teaching and learning and poor administrative skills of teachers weighed heavily on the system. The evidence was poor learning outcomes among children and widespread loss of confidence in state-owned schools. But this is not an exclusive Bayelsa problem.
Beyond state borders
Across states in Nigeria, circa 10.5 million children are not in school according to UNICEF. Despite the free primary education at the disposal of Nigerians, the full benefits do not trickle down. In Bayelsa, unconfirmed figures put the number of out-of-school children at over 200,000. And this is just an aspect of the problem nationally.
Four in 10 children in state-owed primary schools cannot read while eight out 10 are unable to read for comprehension, in a country where children make up a significant portion of the population.
BayelsaPRIME is a rational response to these challenge at the state level. Through the programme, the Bayelsa state government is addressing the issue of out-of-school children, while also ensuring that learning outcomes drastically improve sustainably in the state in the shortest time possible.
What makes BayelsaPRIME different?
Imagine a scenario where previously poorly motivated teachers are retrained, reoriented and equipped with technology to deliver on their mandates as teachers. Imagine a scenario where children in remote, riverine villages have the same quality of lessons as those in the state capital.
Imagine a scenario where all children get the same quality of education irrespective of their backgrounds or the socioeconomic status of their parents. Imagine a scenario where teachers cannot falsify their school arrival or departure times and the government knows the set of teachers who are doing their jobs and those that are not. These are possible through the technology that BayelsaPRIME provides.
In January and February 2023, the first set of over 2,000 teachers and 222 headteachers from the primary school system were retrained for 10 days in reediness for implementation of BayelsaPRIME in their schools.
The period was utilised to train, orient, and equip the teachers with the necessary technical tools, classroom management skills, and pedagogy required to dramatically improve learning outcomes in their schools.
They received 2,439 teacher tablets while their headteachers were equipped with smartphones, power banks, and chargers to facilitate their role in improving learning outcomes in schools. Since their return to the class room, these equipments have help them carry out their new assignments daily.
Apart from the initial training, an ongoing coaching, mentoring, and support is in place for all 222 schools in the programme across the four pilot local government areas to ensure that teachers are effectively implementing the strategies and techniques learnt during the induction training. They are additionally provided continuous refresher trainings to improve the implementation process.
But the most exciting part is with the children. For the first time school is fun. “We were shocked to see that children were at the forefront of getting other children back in school when we resumed,” a teacher at Community Primary School II, Trofani, Sagbama local government area, Amanda Akpogumere said a month after BayelsaPRIME came alive in her school.
The programme introduced a whole new culture in the classroom. Making learning fun for children. They sing when they are board and need motivation. And teachers are no longer frightening to the children, the BayelsaPRIME pedagogy ensures that children are free to speak up during the teaching and learning process and there is direct feedback and reward for excellence.
For teachers, the programme has meant more support from the state government because the teacher tablets have obliterated the drudgery of preparing long lesson notes and supplier proven lesson notes which can be studied before hand in preparation for classes.
For the headteachers, there has been an ease in the way schools are managed. All pupil related records are electronically stored in Apps provided by the reform programme, while data has become the backbone of performance review and evaluation.
On a visit to schools in late March 2023, Chief Victor Okubonanabo, the Executive Secretary of Bayelsa State Universal Basic Education Board (Bayelsa SUBEB), noted that “I am seeing changes in the system. For the fact that we haven’t gone too far, if I can see these changes, it means we will get to a better level in the near future. With BayelsaPRIME, basic education will drastically improve across Bayelsa State.”
Stakeholders within the system attest to the impact technology is playing as government addresses the sixteen weaknesses of the basic education system in Bayelsa state.