By Hassan Zaggi
Despite the COVID-19 lockdown and the consequent closure of schools in the country, school children in Niger state are still learning and staying safe, findings by The AUTHORITY, has revealed.
This is due to the support given to the teachers by community leaders, traditional rulers and parents in the state.
United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF) is supporting the Niger state government in partnership with the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DfID) – Girl Education Project (GEP3) to implement and monitor radio and TV programmes for home-based learning.
Our Correspondent who went round some local government areas in Niger State to assess the level and quality of learning by the children reports that the programme is a huge success as children were sighted in different centres in their neigbourhoods receiving lessons from their teachers.
Our Correspondent reports that children in Mariga and Munya Local Government Areas were well organized with strict observance of physical distance while receiving lessons. Those who are of age where wearing facemasks.
Responding to questions from our Correspondent, the traditional ruler of Beri in Mariga local government, the Dakachin Beri, Malam Ahmadu Tanko, applauded the teachers for their efforts in teaching the children despite the COVID-19 lockdown.
According to him, since beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown few months ago, the traditional institution has been working hard and putting measures in place to ensure that residents of the area allow their children to attend to classes in the neigbourhood near to them.
Represented by the Galadiman Beri, Alhaji Nura Beri, the monarch said: “We are supporting our teachers handling these children 100 per cent.
“Since the beginning of this lockdown as a result of COVID-19, the teachers have been working tirelessly to ensure that our children continue to learn.
“The headmaster goes to all nooks and crannies of the local government to ensure that children gather in designated centres to learn.”
He further noted that the traditional institution is supporting the teachers by ensuring that they get the needed encouragement from the parents and all residents of the area.
“That is why the paramount ruler of Geri has instructed that all residents of the area should give the teachers the support they need to enable them educate our children during this period of COVID-19 lock down.”
Responding to a question on how he was able to persuade residents of the area to allow their children to attend the classes, the royal father said: “We gathered all the parents and guardian of children in this area and inform them that whoever wants to see the progress of this town, he must enroll his children both boys and girls in school. If not, he will be sanctioned.
“We have gone to all the settlements and hamlets and educate parents on the need to enroll their children in school. One of the punitive measures for any parent who refuses to enroll his child or children in school is the seizing of his farm land from him.
The parents, he said, “also got our message and that is why even in this COVID-19 lockdown, you see children coming out to the designated centres to learn.”
The royal father disclosed that his palace has devised a means of monitoring the programme to ensure that the aim is achieved.
“The community is closely monitoring the activities of the teachers in order to encourage them where necessary.
“We hold monthly meetings with residents of the area to assess progress and resolve challenges faced by the teachers,” the monarch said.
He revealed that the traditional institution takes the issue of girl-child education seriously, insisting that, there is no girl that is of school age in the area that does not attend school.
On her part, a women leader in Beri, Hafsat Adamu, applauded the government and UNICEF for facilitating the learning programme despite the COVID-19 lockdown.
According to her: “Most of our people here don’t have access radio, TV and other methods of teaching specified by the authorities, so, to us, using this method is good for us and our children.
“We are happy with what is happening, we give kudos to the teachers for always coming to teach the children. We are seeing remarkable improvement in our children.
Seeing our children gathered in groups in the neigbourhood and being taught gives us joy. As mothers, we are, indeed, grateful to the authorities for putting this together.
“Even in this dangerous period of COVID-19, the teachers do visit us to teach us what to do to protect ourselves and our families.”
Responding to questions from our Correspondent, the Village Head of Hayin Sarkin Noma, in Beri town, Bako Sarkin Noma, said that his people have noticed visibly improvement in their children who attend the school programme.
“There is remarkable improvement in the school lessons our children are getting at home. We are happy seeing our children being taught even when school is not in session.
“When our children come back home after the classes, we notice changes, seeing them practicing what they learnt, it is impressive
“We are calling on the government to do everything possible to ensure that schools resume fully for our children to continue learning so as to make progress.”
Speaking, the Head Teacher, Beri Primary School, Malam Mohammed Sale, commended the leaders of the community for their support in ensuring the success of the learning programme.
On the mode of learning and the aim, he said: “In all the learning centres, the first thing is that the pupils wash their hands with soap and water before commencing the class.
“The aim is to refresh the memory of the children not to forget what they have learnt in school due to the long stay at home as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown.
“Prior to the commencement of the learning programme, I had a meeting with the leaders of the community and parents of the children, sought their consent and support. They bought the idea, hence, you can see large turn out of children in all our learning centres.
“We initially started with one learning centre, but because of the support we got from parents and the stakeholders, we kept expanding. As I speak with you, we have 9 learning centres.”
Whether the objective of organizing the learning programme is achieved, the Head Teacher said: “Our objective of putting together the classes is achieved. This is because the pupils respond to our questions and we can see remarkable improvement in their learning.
“We are encouraged by the support given to us by the parents and leaders of the community.”
Commenting on the areas the programme needs improvement, Mal. Sale said: “We need face masks for our children who are up to the age of using them. We also need learning materials- design and un-design for use by the teachers.
“Some of our teachers find it difficult to go to the learning centres, we will be glad if we can be supported with motorcycles for our teachers. Another issue is stipends. Most of the time I use my resources to encourage the teachers, we need support in this area, too.
“Even though I usually tell the teachers that it is part of our work since the government is paying us salaries, but, not all will be committed in such circumstance.”