By Gift Olivia Samuel, The Sight News
ABUJA: In its continued quest to ensure that the rate of out-of-school children in Nigeria drops to the barest minimum, FlexiSAF Foundation— an educational foundation headquartered in Abuja— has finalized and wrapped up its signature Accelerated Learning Project (AccLearn).
The Accelerated Learning project of the foundation with the mandate to ensure that every child has access to quality and sound education, is an innovative model that works in a very dynamic way to create safe space(s) in target communities.
One of such communities is the Rugga community in Wuye District Abuja, where over 40 out-of-school children between the ages of 6 to 11 years have benefited from the AccLearn project and are ready to transit to formal schools.
The AccLearn pre-transition event which took place in the community on Tuesday, had children who hitherto could not identify the alphabets and numbers, thrill guests with their presentations which showcased the impact of the project.
“I was proud to hear our children speaking legibly [sic] in English, and the way they have been composing themselves is really a joy to see. This shows that we have made a lot of progress”, said the co-founder, FlexiSAF Foundation, Engr Ahmad Sallihjo Ahmad in a goodwill message.
Ahmad revealed plans to provide solar home systems to power the mobile classroom in the community, as well as some neighboring houses.
In her welcome address, the Executive Director, FlexiSAF Foundation, Amina Abubakar, explained that the Foundation which started out to enrol children back to school, realized that there were some kinds of children that are very unique and needed to be met in their communities.
“Because of the problems we have in this country, like distance to schools and insecurity, many parents do not release their children to go to school”, she said. “So, accelerated learning meets them in their communities, it helps the community to buy into the project like you can see mothers and others here”.
She further disclosed that the Foundation assigned roles to parents, empowered and trained the mothers on skills to provide snacks given to the kids, and engaged the services of well trained staff to teach the children basic numeracy, literacy, life skills and computational thinking for digital literacy.
Usman, who noted that FlexiSAF has been in the community for three years, emphasized the need for collaborative efforts to take more children back to school, adding that education cannot wait for anyone.
“We started with 50 children but dropped to 40 due to some challenges. I encourage the private sector to be doing something like this because, the lack of access to education and grooming future leaders is a huge pandemic. So, we need to curtail it”, she pointed out.
For the Chief Executive of Connected Development (CODE), Hamzat Lawal, who was represented by Mukhtar Modibbo, education is a fundamental human right which every child should have, stating also that the partnership with FlexiSAF has led to a decrease in the number of out-of -school children in Nigeria, of which the Rugga Community is not left out.
Also speaking, Iliyasu Hussaini, the Principal Quality Assurance Officer, of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), saddled with the responsibility of providing education to all children, said the FlexiSAF Foundation project is in line with the Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) project of the World Bank which is under his unit in the Commission.
According to him, “The Federal Government through the World Bank obtained $611 million to bring back out-of-school children, so based on that mandate, we were invited to come and witness what is going on here because, under that programme, we have accelerated learning as we just witnessed here. We can have either six months or nine months of accelerated learning”, he said.
He, however, noted that the Rugga Community lacks a formal school which could pose a challenge to transitioning the children, adding that to avoid the children going back to hawk after the accelerated learning, UBEC will collaborate with FlexiSAF to provide a primary school in the community, so that enrolment will begin.
“FlexiSAF needs support from the government and other partners because they are doing a good job”, he concluded.
Giving an overview of the AccLearn project, the Program Officer, FlexiSAF Foundation, Nelson Egbunu, while pointing out that the children never had any engagement with schools before the AccLearn project, stated that Montessori approach to teaching which involved learning with letter sounds was deployed, thereby making it easier for the children to read by blending letter sounds to form words.
In his words, “We had the three years early age curriculum compressed into 12 months. The children were taught from a robust curriculum that embodies teachings like, Numeracy, Life Skills, jolly phonics and computational thinking. This exposed them to a lot of topics like etiquette and being responsible. They were also introduced to concepts like algorithms, evaluation and so on.
“The beneficiaries are to transit to formal schooling systems after the duration of the project and their learning will continue”, he said.
The leader of the community, also known as the Mai Anguwa, Adamu Ahmadu who commended FlexiSAF for helping the community to educate the children, also appreciated them for their commitment to the cause which he said, has improved the education of the children, helped the community and the nation at large.
Parents as well as the beneficiaries were full of praises and thanked FlexiSAF profusely for the opportunity to learn.