SUBEB Chairman Wahab Alawiye-King sheds light on Lagos Project Zero reducing out-of-school children

By Cleopatra Eki

Concerned about the plights of out-of children in the country and the need to incorporate them into the education sector, Chairman, Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Mr. Wahab Alawiye-King in this interview with AV1 News tells us about efforts of the state to reduce the number of out-of-school children in Lagos and how the Eko EXCEL project is improving teaching and learning in public primary schools in the state.

AV1 NEWS : What is SUBEB doing about it?

KING: For us in Lagos State, we took the bull by the horn. That is why we designed project zero. Project zero is our attempt to reduce out-of-school and not in school children. “Our approach is to go out there, aggressively working with all relevant stakeholders – the School Based Management Committee, the Parents Forum, other educational-inclined individuals and organizations – to make sure that the menace is actually is reduced to minimum.

What we have done at SUBEB is to collaborate with the private sector, communities and other organizations to support us which they did. ” That was a very successful programme. Governor Babajide Sanwo -Olu has graciously approved the second phase of project zero which we have started. In the first phase, you sought to return all pupils affected by COVID-19 back to school.

AV1 NEWS : What will the second phase of the project cover?

KING: That first phase was designed to address the issues of difficulties pupils had resuming school after COVID. We realised that a substantial amount of our pupil sdid not come back to school as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown. To be honest with you, that programme was effective and successful.(For Phase II) we redesigned it.

Rather than focus on COVID-19 alone, this one is all encompassing in the sense that we have got support from the community. You know schools are part of the community and there is nothing you can do without getting the community involved. What we have done is to identify some organisations that are working with us now to go out there and identify those kids who are willing to go to school but for one reason or the other cannot go. What we are planning to do, is to give them all those little supporting materials – school uniform, school sandals, stockings, writing materials, to encourage them to come to school. How many children are you targeting to bring to school?” I don’t want to lock myself with statistics; we have so many of them out there. Our aim is to do as many as we can.

There have been claims that some children trying to get back to school are asked to pay.”Education in Lagos is free. “Nobody is asking for money to enroll your children in our school. ” The last programme we did actually increased our enrollment, retention and completion rate. We are not focusing on enrollment alone; we are also looking at the retention rate and the transition and completion rate, which have been very interesting and impressive.We have a department that is in charge of social mobilisation whose responsibility is to ensure that everything is done the way it supposed to be done. That is why we are involving the SBMC and the Parents Forum.

They are in charge of every school. These are the people we are using to prevent issue of payment. You are not supposed to pay. Who are they paying to? Who is collecting the money? They should let us know if there is anything happening.What has happened to the children in the viral video holding assembly in murky waters in Makoko?The update is that we have been able to integrate them into our schools – about 136 of them have been integrated into our public primary schools.

The schools have always been there. Because of the aquatic nature of the people in that area, it is difficult for us to bring them out of that place. But we went there when we saw that video, and we talked to them, and they saw reason. That was why they brought some of their wards to our school.

Did you know that centre was not a school? It was not registered as a school in a state; it was an effort of someone to help the community, the vulnerable and less privileged in that community.Along the line, they tried to introduce education, but did not do it the normal way. They were supposed to go to the ministry of education to get some licence, some certification. We have been able to advise and encourage them.In Lagos, we need more schools. Government cannot do it alone.

At the same time, we cannot compromise standard.Has Eko EXCEL (Excellence in Child Education and Learning) achieved the target goal since its introduction two years ago?Well, thank you very much. I can say that the goals have been met in the sense that the programme is specifically designed to transform the basic education sector leveraging on technology. This is the era of educational technology.Edu- tech is the way forward now.

That is what is being used across the world. Nobody envisioned COVID -19 before we introduced EkoEXCEL, which is integration and infusion of technology in running our classrooms.Before we started, we did a baseline assessment. We started with 300 schools, and we were able to do a comparative analysis of those 300 schools, with those who are not under Eko EXCEL and the result was fascinating in the sense that literacy and numeracy have improved and that is the goal of Eko EXCEL.

We want to make that sure that our classrooms become more engaging, more interactive, making the teachers to be more creative, making classroom equitable; equity base on need. You intend to teach the pupils base on their needs. These are some of the things Eco-excel has allowed is to do. I can say the goals have been met.The beneficiaries of Eko EXCEL are already transiting to secondary school.

AV1 NEWS: What are your plans to enhance the project?

KING: We started two years ago. The transition has already started. We are even trying to start Eko EXCEL Lite, which is movement from the primary school, to the junior secondary to test-run the programme. It might not be as large the one we are doing in the primary school but you are moving from one culture to another. In order for our pupils not to suffer culture shock, we need to transit to that level, that is why we are even considering EkoEXCEL Lite for the junior secondary classes too.

We have already started the planning process.There is the challenge of poor teacher quality. What are you doing to address this? The challenges is not peculiar to Lagos State, so many stories have shown that one of the major problems with any education is teacher empowerment, teacher motivation and teachers empowerment in other words, teachers must be trained from time to time. They must be exposed to the current reality, what is acceptable globally, to make them global competitive.

This global competitiveness is one of the impetus that motivated us into adopting that program. Using modern technique to teach in your class, makes your class more engaging. You need to make your class student centered where the student actively participate in what is happening in the classroom. Gone are the days where the teacher is the king in the classroom. 

With this introduction with Eco Excel, the classroom is more interactive, more engaging, personalised in the sense that you will be able to identify those who are lagging behind and you carry them along. It makes classroom more equitable. For we in the labours, every child matters to us. Every pupil counts and as such, our system must be holistic in the sense that every aspect of the learner must also be considered.

You look at all the domains of teaching and learning, the cognitive aspect which has to do with academic intelligence. If you look at the affective domain, it has to do with the emotional and social intelligence and at the same time, you look at the psycho-motor , which has to do with the physical intelligence. And if you combine everything together, you will be able to get a holistic approach in transforming a basic education sector and this is part of what eco-excel has allowed us to do.

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