“The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts”- C.S Lewis
While conceiving the opening paragraph of this article, there was the typical urge to start quoting the amount of out-of-school children in Nigeria, which will obviously result in reinstating the obvious. However, it is public knowledge to pundits and citizens alike that without placing figures on it, one in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria. It’s even more heart wrecking to find out that only 61 percent of 6-11 year-olds regularly attend primary school and only 35.6 percent of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education.
However, for us as a country, It’s been all rhetoric and less action, as we keep taking 50 steps forward and 55 backwards in this regard, with no steady increase being recorded over time. This operates to say that, in the conscious zeal to reduce the numbers of out of school children in the country, the techniques and mechanisms employed have to change. There is a conspicuous need to have an intentional cum practical way of transitioning our largely uneducated children population into lovers of the classroom. Often times, the government at all levels, especially in states with the highest incidence of out-of -school children just erect schools, furnish same and expect these children, some of who have not been exposed to any means of education in their life to just attend! This reason and some others culminated in the failure of the Tsangaya (Almajiri) schools built by the Federal Government in 2010, a project which reportedly gulped billions of Naira with no reported tangible result(s).
FlexiSAF Foundation, an Abuja based Non Governmental Organization with the mandate to reduce the staggering numbers of out-of school children in Nigeria, introduced a system of transitioning these kids from a ‘safe school’ kind of setting, where they learn the very core educational basics ranging from Literacy, Numeracy, and computational thinking to the practical teaching of life skills, before eventually transitioning them into the formal school setting. They call it the ACCELERATED LEARNING MODEL commonly referred to as ‘AccLearn’.
The rehabilitative effect of AccLearn has seen these kids revolve from coy, unlettered puerile ones, into very refined lovers of education, who have been exposed to the endless possibilities embedded in learning.
The AccLearn program which was pioneered in Rugga community, a rustic settlement in Wuye Area of the FCT, started with about 50 indigent kids who were identified, profiled, and kitted with relevant schooling needs and taught by seasoned children-friendly instructors, who were carefully screened and chosen. The AccLearn model encountered some expected itches at the onset, but with the passion of the officials of the foundation the program soldiered on, and by the middle of this year, the first set of children in the AccLearn space will be transitioning into formal school systems. The result based curriculum, been used in the AccLearn space has been lauded by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) as sustainable and workable. Quite expectedly, the foundation expects to scale the AccLearn model in cities like Kano, Yola and other states with high numbers of out-of-school children.
The visit of the British Broadcasting Service.BBC (Hausa), to the AccLearn space and the buy in of the United States Embassy, have bolstered the early education drill that AccLearn wishes to enforce. Through the ‘bottles for books’ initiative, the U.S embassy is sponsoring 3 out of the identified children in the AccLearn Space, with the promise to do more as the foundation scales its impact in this regard.
With adequate support from relevant stakeholders,government agencies, and concerned state governments, the AccLearn mode of reducing the rate of out-of -school children, through impacting these targeted demography with the relevant early education needs, isn’t just a productively novel one; It is one that guarantees huge positive returns if properly scaled up. Through this, these youngsters will not only love to sit in the classroom and study, but they will aspire to be change makers and Nation builders in their own right. As Confucius has rightly opined; ‘Education breeds confidence,confidence breeds hope and hope breeds peace’.