dRPC: Mitigating the impact of COVID-19 through direct funding to schools in Nigeria

The Challenge.

Students of Government Technical College Kajuru, Kaduna State, preparing for the NABTEB examinations.

46 million of these out of school children are in Nigeria according to the Nigeria Education in Emergencies Working Group-EiEWG estimates. A recent data from the National Business and Technical Education Board, NABTEB, estimated that 102,000 students have registered to write the examinations this year.

Majority of these students missed 5 months of classes due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus that disrupted school attendance and sent students home with few alternatives to learning. And, after over 5 months without a cogent learning process, authorities in Nigeria called for resumption of examinations putting majority of the students in an ill-prepared situation that poses a challenge to their readiness for the examination which starts from the 21st of September.

In 2019, only 32,000 out of the 102,000 students that wrote NABTEB, representing only 31% rate passed the examination with 5 credits and above, a whopping 69% of the students failed the examination and could not get entry into any tertiary institution in Nigeria. With the impact of COVID-19, experts estimate that only 28% of the students who registered for this year’s examination could pass.

It is in a bid to close this possible catastrophe, according to Aisha Hashim, Project Coordinator of the Youth Empowerment Resilience Response Project, an initiative of the development Research & Projects Centre (dRPC), supported by the Open Society Foundations, that necessitated the invitation of public schools at the Federal and State levels, with students writing NABTEB exams in September – October 2020, to apply for the direct school support for activities intended to improve examination outcomes and improve transition to the world of skill-work in order to mitigate the negative impact of Covid-19 on the school system. Over 100 schools from across the 36 states of the federation applied for the grants of between N300,000 to N1 million.

‘’The grants aimed to support the after-school hours coaching; airtime for online coaching or for students to access recommended websites; purchase of past question papers and answers or textbooks; purchase of Covid-19 protection materials such as hand sanitizers; tables and chairs so that students can be separated. The grant cannot be used for private individual lessons; any activity associated with exam malpractice; or related activities.’’ She said.

The grants also targets schools with large populations of students; schools with a large number of female students; schools in disadvantaged communities or peri-urban or rural areas; with a functioning PTA or Schools Based Management Committee; schools with guidance and counselling programs; and schools with plans to provide follow up support to mentor school leavers will all have an added advantage.

An analysis of the applicant shows that out of the over 102 schools that applied for the grants, 31 schools from Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Niger, Zamfara, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Borno, Kwara, Yobe, Plateau, Bauchi, Ebonyi and Kebbi states were selected based on the criteria set up for beneficiaries of the grants. Between N300,000 and N1 million each was given as award to the schools.

Already, award ceremonies for all the 31 schools that fulfilled the criteria for the intervention fund have been taking place across the country in a bid to ensure adequate coaching ahead of the commencement of the NABTEB examinations from the 21st of this month.

In Enugu State, the award was presented by Dr Stanley Elechukwu. In his speech after receiving the award, the principal of the school, Mr. Ndubuisi Raphael, was elated and could not hide his joy. “I really want to appreciate the effort of dRPC and SSDO in the improvement of quality education and welfare of students during the period of the examination.”

In Kaduna State, Reverend Bitrus of the Interfaith Mediation Centre, Kaduna, who handed over the award to the Principal of Government Technical College Kajuru, described the intervention as a great opportunity to improve examination outcomes for the students whose learning was disrupted by COVID-19 as they prepare to write their final examinations.

‘’This intervention by the dRPC in collaboration with the Open Society Foundation is a welcome development and an opportunity for you to justify the investment done to your education’’ He said.

Principal of the school, Mr Francis Maji described the gesture as the first and only intervention ever received by the school since its establishment. ‘’That we are recognized in this rural set up shows that our efforts are not going unknown’’ He added.

At the Government Technical College Ikotun, Lagos State, the Principal Mr Alayemi Aaron, and the representative Ministry of Education described the intervention as a welcome development capable of improving the performance of the final year student who were interrupted by the COVID 19 pandemic.

In Kwara State, the Principal of Asa Government Secondary School, Mrs Salman Aminat Iyabo said the school have already started using the funds for extra lessons and have bought textbooks and past question papers to ensure students have adequate preparation for the NABTEB examinations.

At the Government Technical College Zaria, the Principal, Mrs Noami Haruna thanked the dRPC and the Open Society Foundations for the award and promised that the gesture will be judiciously used to improve the preparation of the students during the forthcoming NABTEB examinations.

Chairman of the schools’ Parents Teachers Association, PTA, Alhaji Garba Danlami Umar, commended the gesture and called on other philanthropists in Nigeria and abroad to continue to support in mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on education.

At the Government Technical College Soba, Kaduna State, the Principal, Malam Sule Abdu Lawal, said there has never been any of such support from any organization, especially with the outbreak of the pandemic and described the award to the school as timely. Chairman of the schools’ PTA, Alhaji Yakubu Shawai, called on community groups and organizations to emulate the support and institute an annual system that support students and schools in their communities to improve examination outcomes.

According to Hashim, as the 31 beneficiary schools continue to prepare for the September 2020 NABTEB examinations in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is expected that this intervention will support vocational and technical schools across Nigeria to prepare young entrepreneurs school leavers to pass this year’s National Technical Board Examinations with flying colors.

Hassan A Karofi is the Communications Specialist, dRPC, Abuja and can be reached at hassankarofi@gmail.com

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