By Oyindamola Adegboye and Olumide Morolayo, The Education Partnership (TEP) Center July 2020
Similar to other countries, schools in Nigeria have been temporarily shut down following the outbreak of COVID-19. While this presents numerous challenges for an already fragile education system, there is also an opportunity for education innovation to shine and thrive in Nigeria like never before. Within the last four months, the Education Partnership (TEP) Centre, has been observing how education innovations are being deployed and scaled to curb a potential learning slide, from large-scale, low-tech interventions by governments, to smaller scale, high-tech solutions by private stakeholders, to innovative partnerships that adopt a mix of approaches.
As the pandemic persists, stakeholders are devising means to scale their innovations. Among state actors, for instance, the Lagos state government has started an aggressive distribution of 10,000 radio sets to allow learners in underserved communities to partake in the ongoing radio lessons. In Ogun state, the government also launched Ogun DigiClass (an online platform that provides video lessons) and recently included assessments on the platform for students in examination classes.
As part of scaling, institutionalization of COVID-driven distance learning efforts is also occurring. Roducate, a mobile learning application which can be used with minimal data, seems to be the platform of choice for Lagos state. With the aim of reaching 1 million learners, the e-learning software provider partnered with a leading financial institution to deliver access to education to learners across Lagos state. The strategy has three prongs: (1) piloting through direct access to schools and institutions offering education services; (2) technical partnership with a financial institution to design an appealing business model while creating a solution that addresses infrastructural challenges like unstable electricity and high data costs; and (3) scaling by partnering with the state government to reach rural areas and creating an official e-learning platform for all teachers and learners in the state.
In April 2020, TEP Centre launched a nationwide online survey gathering data from 1901 respondents across 32 of Nigeria’s 36 states – including government officials, private sector organizations, teachers, parents and students. Among the survey respondents, 76% of the innovations from the non-state sector did not exist pre-pandemic indicating a high rate of responsiveness. In terms of scaling their ongoing interventions, some private schools indicated expanding their e-learning content to cater for students in lower primary classes and upgrading from audio to video content.
From the efforts of different stakeholders, it is evident that the scaling of education innovations has also allowed countries like Nigeria to demonstrate resilience – evidenced by the speed of responsiveness – in areas where some advanced countries may still be struggling. However, some key issues need to be addressed for the scaling efforts to be effective. Both state and non-state efforts require adequate funding and, as we have seen in recent months, multi-stakeholder partnerships have the potential to drive more sustainable results in education innovation.
Infrastructural issues like electricity, reliable internet access, and availability of mobile learning devices are also important for scaling to be impactful. Additionally, while scaling EdTech is important, key issues like the curriculum and standardized assessments to monitor the impact of scaling efforts, should be prioritized. The emphasis on scaling EdTech must run concurrently with an emphasis on quality education.