This News was culled from This Day News Publication of May 12, 2021
As schools struggle to recover lost ground and regularize their academic calendars after the disruption caused by COVID-19, Uchechukwu Nnaike highlights the initiatives by Data Science Nigeria, and other bodies to provide access to online learning for all children, so as to fill the void created by the prolonged schools closure
Education witnessed an unprecedented disruption across the world for the better part of 2020, as schools were shut for more than six months to check the spread of COVID-19, which ravaged the world.
However, learning did not come to a
complete stop in advanced countries as it did in most developing countries like Nigeria.
According to 2020 data from UNESCO, nearly 40 million primary and secondary students in Nigeria were affected by the school closures, including those in internally displaced camps. For many of these school children, particularly those in disadvantaged rural communities, learning came to a complete halt.
The closure of schools ushered educators into the era of new normal, teachers quickly adapted to the use of technology; they used devises at their disposal to ensure that learning never stops for their students, but not for children in remote areas who could not afford the devises, who didn’t have electricity and have no access to data to take advantage of the online learning.
In fact, many of them reside in distant communities where fast 4G networks, which the prominent platforms recommend for smooth usage, is largely inaccessible.
For some who have the devises, constant purchase of data became a problem, as many parents lost their sources of income and could not afford data. So, most students missed out of the online intervention.
To eliminate these barriers and provide free, online and unlimited learning access to more than 100 million Nigerian youths, Data Science Nigeria, in collaboration with MasterCard Foundation recently launched a first of its kind audio e-learning platform (www.learnathome.radio) to provide curriculum-based educational aid and resources for pupils and students from primary one to senior secondary three (SS3).
Some unique features of the platform include that it functions in line with the national mobile phone penetration and basic feature phone requirements. It can be activated on mobile phones operating on the EDGE or 2G network and low data.
The organisation also partnered MTN, one of the youth-friendly service providers to provide free access to the platform. With this, it said children in rural and remote communities can learn from the highest quality teachers at their own pace and prepare for important examinations with the best resources and educational aids developed based on the approved curriculum
The platform is a continuum of Data Science Nigeria’s successful ‘Learn at Home’ initiative, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, that provided learning to millions of Nigerian pupils amid the COVID-19 disruptive restrictions.
Already, more than four million students have joined audio classes with USSD/SMS support, where they receive educational materials on key subjects, based on the Nigerian Educational Research and Development (NERDC) curriculum for primary and secondary school students.
On the platform, pupils and students from primary one to senior secondary three (SS3) will gain access to a special examination readiness series that include a collection of solved past questions in WAEC, NECO, BECE and Common Entrance from 2009 to 2020. Expert teachers have been engaged to provide answers and explanations to the past questions in a step-by-step and easy-to-understand format, with complementary live classes that enable each student to learn at a preferred pace irrespective of location and socio-economic conditions.