By Hassan Zaggi
In an effort to ensure the continuity of learning and children remaining safe during the COVID-19 lockdown, the Niger State Government in partnership with the United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF) has introduced house-hold school for rural children.
The initiative is being supported by the UK Department of International Development (DfID) and implemented by UNICEF.
UNICEF has been supporting some major educational initiatives in Niger states for many years now.
It would be recalled that many states in Nigeria including Niger state have introduced e-learning and the use of radio and television to teach children during the COVID-19 lockdown.
However, children in rural areas whose parents do not have computers, Radio and access to Television, there is the need for a novel approach to ensure they continue to learn during the lockdown.
Responding to questions from our Correspondent, recently, the UNICEF Desk Officer in Munya Local Government Area of Niger State, Yahaya Baba, insisted that supporting children at home is better than e-learning because not all parents have access to radio and television.
“Moreover, the waves are not reaching us here. Especially in Muya Local Government Area, we have difficulty in accessing airwaves. We don’t get FM radio and TV stations, therefore, supporting children at home is the best way to achieve our aim,” he said.
Answering a question on how he has been coordinating the programme in all the neigbourhoods in the local government, the UNICEF Desk Officer said: “I use School Base Management Committees (SBMC) and Head Teachers because I cant go round at a time.
“I have a platform where the head teachers and SBMC do interact, therefore, if there is any massage, I use that platform before I get to them physically.
“When we started, we had to summon the leaders of all the communities, they in turn summoned the residents of their neighbourhoods and enlighten them and also advised the parents to release their children to come out to learn.
“We also sensitise parents on the dangers of COVID-19. We shared handbill to all parents to educate them on how to remain safe.”
Speaking on whether the children are benefiting from the neighborhood classes, Baba disclosed that, from his evaluation, there is remarkable improvement in the performance of the children.
A teacher in Jaifulu Sarkin Powa, Munya LGA, Daniel Galadima, while responding to questions, revealed that he started the home teaching over 3 months ago and that the children have demonstrated remarkable improvement in their learning.
“Even the parents are happy with what we are doing,” he said.
On how he brings the children of the neighbourhood together for the class, he said: “I go round their houses to remind both the parents and the children of the time for classes. I also encourage them to come so that they will learn and not forget what they have learnt in school.
“I teach them individually according to their classes to the level of their understanding. I reach them Studies, English, Maths.”
On his part, the Head Teacher, Beri Primary School in Mariga Local Government Area, Malam Mohammed Sale, disclosed that the aim of the neigbourhood classes 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.
He said that in all the learning centres in the area, “the first thing is that the pupils wash their hands with soap and water before commencing the class.”
He explained that prior to the commencement of the learning programme, he had a meeting with the parents and sought their consent and support.