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Additional Strains of COVID-19 on Education

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early education

By Gregory Kronsten

Education has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19 and the lockdowns imposed in almost all jurisdictions.

We refer to the second instalment in June of COVID-19 impact monitoring, a publication of the National Bureau of Statistics in partnership with the World Bank.

It noted that 35 per cent of households with children of school attending age reported some contact between pupil and teacher, compared with just 19 per cent in April/May. (Schools were closed at the time of both these surveys). Yet the share of households reporting some educational activities was unchanged at 61 per cent.

Government revenue has fallen sharply across Africa, indeed across the world, as a taxable activity has been closed or curtailed as a result of COVID-19. This is true of direct and indirect taxes, levied on domestic business and foreign trade.

Spending cuts have been the predictable consequence of the shortfall. In Uganda, for example, teachers have not been paid since February.

In Tanzania, schools have been reopened, and access restricted to teachers, meaning that extra-curricular activities and contact with the outside world have been frozen.

There is little doubt that most African education systems require major reform. Curricula are designed by academics without input from the private sector and government.

Further, teachers tend to come from a pre-digital generation. At the same time, Google and Apple are looking for tech-savvy young people with soft skills (initiative, creativity and problem solving among others), and do not insist on a university degree.

That said, such companies are not going to soak up the pool of unemployed youths in Africa. When we are told that 30 per cent of the youth in the world will be African in 2050, our initial reaction is to worry rather than dwell upon the opportunity. UNESCO data show that 89 per cent of students in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) do not have access to household computers and 82 per cent lack internet access.

We hear a lot of aspirational ‘edu-tech’ talk from think tanks and private-sector providers that is not grounded in reality. There is a limit to the number of game designers and animators that our new corporate behemoths recruit.

‘Blended and digital learning’ is desirable in itself but is surely not a core requirement in the informal economy. We feel that being tech-savvy does not complete the skillset for would-be employees. Digital does lower the price point certainly but does it reduce it sufficiently for the vast majority of the population?

As ever, there are steps forward to note. In Morocco, we understand that universities are government-funded but that the private sector drives the focus of higher education. Carnegie Mellon University has set up in Kigali in partnership with the Rwandan government and is addressing the shortage of engineering graduates in the region.

Closer to home, Lagos State government is working with social enterprises to provide internships, skills training and basic preparation for youth for employment.

We welcome all these steps and hope that they will be multiplied across the continent. At the same time, all should recognize the huge blow to public resources from COVID-19. Where funding is available, public health will be ahead of education in the queue. The private sector has an important role to play but has to earn a living from its work and is unlikely to get involved in what we will term grassroots education.

Gregory Kronsten is the Head of Macroeconomic and Fixed Income Research at FBNQuest

Education

Anxiety as ASUU Further Extends Strike by Four Weeks

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ASUU Suspends Strike

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has again extended the ongoing strike by four weeks with effect from Monday, August 1, 2022, to give the government enough time to resolve all outstanding issues with the lecturers.

This was disclosed by the president of the union, Mr Emmanuel Osodeke, in a statement on Monday.

The ASUU leader stated that the body conveyed an emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting at the University of Abuja on Sunday.

“Following extensive deliberations and taking cognisance of the government’s past failures to abide by its own timelines in addressing issues raised in the 2020 FGN/ASUU Memorandum of Action (MOA), NEC resolved that the strike be rolled over for four weeks to give the government more time to satisfactorily resolve all the outstanding issues. The roll-over strike action is with effect from 12.01 am on Monday, 1st August 2022,” the statement read.

Specifically, NEC recalled the government’s failure to conclude the process of renegotiating the 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement, deploy the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), pay outstanding arrears of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA), release the agreed sum of money for the revitalization of public universities (Federal and States), address proliferation and governance issues in State Universities, settle promotion arrears, release withheld salaries of academics, and pay outstanding third-party deductions led to the initial declaration of the roll-over strike on 14th February 2022.

The group said it “observed that non-signing of the draft renegotiated 2009 FGN-ASUU Agreement more than one month after it was concluded by Professor Nimi Briggs-led Committee is further tasking the patience of ASUU members nationwide.”

it was further disclosed that the “cumulative indifference by the political class gave vent to a pervasive atmosphere of insecurity which now threatens the seamless provision of educational services in the country. The unceremonious closure of educational institutions in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), following the recent attack on Presidential Guards, betrays a panicky measure to addressing a malignant ailment. Nothing short of a comprehensive overhaul of the security architecture of the country will sustainably address the problem.”

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Education

Oyo Queries Head Teachers for Denying Pupils Access to Exam Halls

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denying pupils access to exam

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Some head teachers in public primary schools in Oyo State have been issued queries by the state government for denying pupils access to examination halls over the failure of their parents to pay some fees described as “illegal.”

The Executive Chairman of the Oyo State Universal Basic Education Board, Mr Nureni Aderemi Adeniran, during a monitoring exercise in Ibadan, said it was wrong for the learners to be denied access to the ongoing Public Primary Schools Unified Examination over fees unrelated to the exam.

It was gathered that some pupils could not write the exam because their parents did not pay some fees imposed by the School-Based Management Committee (SBMC).

Mr Adeniran, who expressed anger over this development, said no child should be discriminated against because of fees as the state government had abolished the collection of any development levy in all schools across the state.

He directed that the affected head teachers, five at the Methodist Basic School (School 1-5), Gan-gansi, to be served queries as a deterrent to others who may be collecting such illegal fees.

“No doubt, SBMCs and PTAs can contribute to the development of their local schools but it must not in any way affect the education of pupils.

“No child should be discriminated against in the state education sector,” the Oyo SUBEB leader said.

He disclosed that some parents had reported to the board that head teachers of the school denied their children access to examination halls for failure to pay the N100 development levy charged by the school’s management and SBMC through a popular radio station in Ibadan.

Mr Adeniran said the administration of Governor Seyi Makinde would not fold its arms and allow saboteurs to ridicule its efforts in mandating free education, adding that the ongoing education reforms of the present administration in the state have yielded huge results that must not be sabotaged.

The SUBEB boss also directed that all learners should be allowed to sit for exams without any form of hindrance, urging teachers in all public schools to adhere strictly to the state government’s policies and directives on education.

Some of the schools visited were IMG, Ibuko Ibadan South East LGA; Ratibi Muslim School, Molete, South-West; IMG Basic School, Idi-Iroko, Molete.

Mr Adeniran, who led a team of officials from SUBEB, also visited Islamic Mission School 1, Bode, Ibadan; Methodist Basic School 1-5, Gan-gansi and Community Primary School, Awotunde, Ona-ara LGA and a host of others.

He said the monitoring exercise continues in the course of the week, which will also be extended to other zones of the State, including Ogbomoso, Oyo, Oke-Ogun and Ibarapa.

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Education

FG Closes FGC Kwali Over Terror Attack Threat

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FGC Kwali

By Adedapo Adesanya

The federal government has ordered the immediate closure of one of its colleges, the Federal Government College (FGC), Kwali located in Kwali Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja over fears of a terror attack.

This was disclosed by Mr Ben Goong, who is the Director of Press and Public Relations at the Federal Ministry of Education, in a statement on Monday in the nation’s capital.

According to him, the Minister of Education, Mr Adamu Adamu, gave the directive in the early hours of July 25 in a bid to prevent any attack on the school.

He said the closure of FGC Kwali became necessary following the security breach on Sheda and Lambata villages in the suburbs of Kwali Area Council.

While Mr Adamu said the timely intervention of security operatives saved the situation, he directed the authorities of the school to make arrangements for final year students to conclude their National Examination Council (NECO) examinations.

The Minister also directed principals of unity colleges across the country to communicate with security agencies within their jurisdictions in a bid to forestall any security breach in the government schools.

Read the full statement below:

Press Release

FG Orders Closure of FGC Kwali, Security Beef-Up In Unity Colleges.

The Federal Ministry of Education has ordered the immediate closure of one of its colleges, the Federal Government College Kwali, located in Kwali Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Education Minister, Adamu Adamu who gave the directive in the early hours of this morning said the closure became necessary following security breach on Sheda and Lambata Villages, suburbs of Kwali Area Council which also threatened FGC Kwali.

According to the Minister, the timely intervention of security Agencies saved the situation.

Adamu Adamu also directed that arrangements should be made for final year students to conclude their NECO examinations.

The Minister has also directed Principals of Unity Colleges across the country to liaise with security Agencies within their jurisdictions in order to forestall any security breach in our schools.

Ben. Bem Goong.

Director Press and Public Relations.

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