Executive Secretary, UBEC, Dr Hamid Bobboyi; Registrar,TRCN, Prof. Josiah Ajiboye; Executive Secretary, NMEC, Prof. Abba Haladu; Education Specialist, Commonwealth of Learning, Tony Mays at a Committee Meeting on Open Schooling Programme in Abuja.

The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) is set to adopt Open Schooling Programme as a strategy to reduce the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria.

Dr Hamid Bobboyi, Executive Secretary, UBEC, disclosed this on the sidelines of a two day Committee Meeting on Open Schooling Programme in Nigeria in Abuja on Thursday.

Bobboyi said the programme was receiving technical support from the Commonwealth of Learning, Canada.

He said Nigeria was faced with real challenges especially in the basic education sector and the commission had to look for the right strategies to address the challenges.

Bobboyi said the number of out-of-school children had been increasing for different reasons, adding that there was also the problem of accessibility of educational facilities, paucity of classrooms among other issues.

“It is for this reason we thought we needed to explore a kind of strategy that can help us meet the needs of Nigerian children wherever they are and for whatever reason they are not going to school.

“One of those things that have worked in different parts of the world has been the issue of open schooling, innovative open schooling, not the one where you have people just sending text materials.

“We call it innovative because it is IT-based; you have the kind of facilities that can enable you to without internet connectivity draw a lot of resources on to certain gadgets.

“This can then help you disseminate this information and help access those students and pupils attending and registered at these centres.

“For instance children who have to go to the farm or herders who have to tend cattle in the mornings will have those facilities that will meet their educational needs when they return in the afternoon.”

He expressed the hope that the pilot programme which would start with five states, would begin before the end of the year, adding that it would be scaled up after it had successfully worked in the selected states.

Bobboyi said the Commonwealth of Learning had piloted the project in several countries with similar needs and the commission thought it could benefit from its technical expertise.

“It (Commonwealth of Learning) is offering Nigeria its own support and resources and ours is to effectively see how we integrate it into our system to make it work,” he stated.

Bobboyi earlier in his address, called on all stakeholders in the basic education sector to adopt strategies and ensure their implementation in moving the sector forward.

“We have to ensure the quality of education we desire for our children is achieved in our life time.

“And we must all cooperate and coordinate to ensure our journey to move basic education is done together,” he added.

Tony Mays, Education Specialist, Commonwealth of Learning, said open schooling was creating opportunities for children and youths who had not completed schooling to access alternative ways of learning.

He also said it was assisting the children to complete schooling without being tied to bricks and textbooks.

Mays said not completing schooling could lead to the person being marginalised, adding that marginalised people were easily radicalised.

He said open schooling would help open up opportunities for learning and careers in the future, adding that it was good for society to have people who were active and constructive members of society.

According to him, open schooling helps us complement what exists.

Mays said a little device had been developed which had access to digital resources without internet and could be accessed on mobile phones, tablet or an old laptop.

“What we are thinking of doing there is not only creating access to resources that maybe a little more stimulating than print.

“But it is also a way of developing the kind of digital skills the teachers and learners need for employment in the 21st century.”

Prof. Josiah Ajiboye, Registrar Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), said the issue of out-of-school children was a big challenge and the open schooling programme would help reduce the number.

Ajiboye added that teacher training was critical for the open schooling programme as he assured that the council was committed to it and would key into it.

Prof. Abba Haladu, Executive Secretary, National Commission for Mass literacy, Adult and Non- Formal Education (NMEC), said 38 per cent of Nigerians were illiterate and something urgently needed to be done to address it.

According to him, it is not only about out-of-school children but adults who need to become literate to contribute to national development.

“The population needs to keep on learning to meet up with the world and we need open schooling for that.”

Committee members included staff of UBEC, TRCN, NMEC, Nigeria Teachers institute and Ministry of Education.