Since its inception, teachers’ professional development has been at the centre of the EdoBEST basic education reform.
Between April 28 and May 9, 2022, when state-owned primary and junior secondary schools in Edo were on Easter holiday, four basic education sector professional development exercises occurred across the state.
Between April 5 and 8, headteachers, principals, education secretaries, school heads and other school leaders attended a three-day summit in Benin aimed at upskilling them on the job. On April 27, another set of school leaders was trained in their various local government areas, with a few virtual presentations disseminated centrally from Benin.
Three days before resumption, Quality Assurance Officers (QAOs) and Learning and Development Officers in the state’s three senatorial districts met to undergo a training that now enables them to prepare for an impending audit and plan for school resumption.
The training came on the heels of two pronouncements that show that Governor Godwin Obaseki is ahead in the basic education sector reform curve.
While speaking to a group of engineers on April 13, 2022, Dr. Hamid Bobboyi, Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), expressed concerns over poor learning outcomes in basic education in Nigeria.
Bobboyi blamed the state of basic education on a few factors, including a lack of regular professional training programmes for teachers and low remuneration.
Four days earlier, Dr. Geofferry Njoku, UNICEF’s Communications Specialist, declared that ‘”it is about time we focused on learning for children through teacher training, changing the curriculum and changing the quality of education.”
Njoku spoke at a media dialogue event on foundational literacy and numeracy. Among other things, UNICEF noted that Nigeria is going through learning poverty, where 70 per cent of 10-year-olds who are in school cannot understand a simple sentence or perform basic numeracy tasks.
As far back as 2018 in Edo, Obaseki addressed these emerging national challenges through EdoBEST. After the programme’s launch in primary schools, as many as 11,000 teachers were trained to enable them to deliver lessons better with the help of technology. Some personnel in the school system were even sent abroad to gain knowledge relevant to 21st-century education system management. No effort has been spared to ensure that pupils in state-owned primary and junior secondary schools achieve superior learning outcomes.
In November 2021, junior secondary schools were officially handed over to the Mrs. Ozavize Salami-led Edo State Universal Basic Education Board (Edo SUBEB) for better management and administration. By February 2022, the EdoBEST programme had been successfully extended to 232 junior secondary schools and 148 primary schools considered hard-to-reach and riverine schools, neglected by successive state reforms before the Obaseki era.
The focus of the governor on teachers’ professional development is understandable. At a recent graduation ceremony for EdoBEST training inductees in Benin City, the governor noted that “no society develops without teachers. Teachers are at the heart of the EdoBEST reform.”
“You are very important to us,” he told teachers in February 2022 as they concluded their EdoBEST induction training. “We are ready to go to any length to get resources to train you because you are the ones driving the reform,” he said amidst applause from teachers.
To this end, the basic education system has been impacted positively.
Principals who were part of the EdoBEST Induction training in February attested to the impact of the training.
“This training has been beautiful and awesome. My expectation has been met because this is a new dawn in the history of education in Edo State,” one of them said. “This training will help us manage the school better, especially for a school like mine which is large. With the knowledge I have gathered here means technology is coming in instead of analogue, and the things we didn’t even know before we have been taught here.”
She added, “With these tablets provided by the government, it will be much easier to manage the school because, for instance, attendance, we don’t have to do it manually, we just have to click, and the records are taken. And teaching is going to be very effective. You don’t have to monitor the teachers running up and down. You can stand at one point and monitor the teachers.”
Another EdoBEST induction trainee, Ms. Confidence Ojale Osayende, noted that “during the training, we have been told that no child is dull. All children should be motivated toward learning. The classroom is not just for the top-performing pupils. It is also for the average pupils who should be encouraged to reach their full potential.”
In recognition of its innovation and emphasis on improving learning outcomes among pupils, EdoBEST is the only subnational programme that is part of the World Bank Accelerator Programme.