Honourable Wahab Alawiye-King is a former two-term member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, during which he was the Chairman of the House Committee on Education.
When he was appointed the Executive Chairman of the Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (LASUBEB), many see his appointment as putting the round peg in the round hole and the former Lawmaker has not disappoint since assuming office.
In this interview with The Gazelle News.com’s DARE OJELADE and NURUDEEN YISA, he speaks on his experience in office so far particularly during the Covid-19 Lockdown.
(Q): Sir, It’s over a year that you have been the Executive Chairman of the Lagos State Primary Basic Education Board (LASUBEB), what has been your experience so far?
(A): Well, we give glory to God. To me it is more like home coming in the sense that this is very familiar to me. I was the Chairman of the Lagos State House of Assembly Committee on Education for many years and that has afforded me the opportunity of getting to know this agency before I became the chairman of the Board.
Leveraging on that, I quickly spring into action to ensure that the mandate of the board which is providing relevant, free, compulsory and exclusive basic education in the state is fully accomplished. That has been the journey so far.
(Q): Coming onto this new terrain, what were the major challenges you faced when you came in?
(A): Well, like I have said, it is more like a home coming for me, and for me any challenge can be turned into an opportunity. So even if there are challenges, they are surmountable challenges. I have been familiar with the running and operation of the Board before now, that gave me the opportunity to understand and comprehend the working of the Board immediately I assumed office.
Of course I have lieutenants, that is Board members, who are equally worthy and determined to make a difference in the Board. Most importantly, we met on ground civil servants who are equally determined and ready to serve, all those put together, really assisted us in moving the Board forward.
Our mission, when we came on board, is to leave no child behind in getting basic education in the state and to make the Board better than we met it. We repositioned the Board by giving every member a portfolio to manage. That has really assisted us in terms of effectiveness and gave us right direction of running an efficient Board.
(Q): One of the major programmes of this administration championed by this Board is the EKOEXCEL programme, what are the reasons behind it, what have you achieve so far with it?
(A): EKOEXCEL is a phenomena in the sense that it was designed, conceived, fully implemented and funded by the state government.
It is designed to change traditional ways of doing things in our classrooms. It is designed to inculcate the right set of values in our pupils. It is a complete transformation of the way we do things in the classrooms. It attempts to digitalise the system that runs the operation of the board and implement digitalisation in the art of teaching and learning in our primary schools.
EKOEXCEL is an infusion of technology into our classrooms. We want to make our teachers globally competitive. We have come to realise that the best way to go is to continue to empower our teachers through capacity building and man power development, that is why we have introduced EKOEXCEL. This is basically leveraging on technology to improve the quality, the standard of teaching and learning outcomes in our classrooms.
(Q): With the commencement of the EKOEXCEL programme has what have you put in place to monitor the teachers and the pupils on adhering strictly to the objectives of the programme?
(A): We have a multilayer monitoring approach: aside from the agency doing the monitoring and evaluation, we have some NGOs equally monitoring what we are doing. And we have started by setting out an objective to make sure that at the end of each setting, we should be able to measure what we are doing, and rather than using the summative approach of assessment, we use day by day monitoring style to ensure that we are getting value for money. Performance monitoring that is all that we are doing, to see that learning and teaching outcome in our class rooms are improving.
(Q): The coronavirus period was a truly challenging period, especially for education in Lagos state, how has your Board managed to control the spread in Lagos public primary schools?
(A): The state government was very proactive and anticipatory when the pandemic came around; Mr Governor directed that all schools should be closed. In spite of that, we realise that learning must continue in our school one way or the other, what we did was to leverage on our interactive radio programme that we have been running before now, the programme has been on for like 15-16 years in the state. We used that to compliment and supplement learning in our schools. So we quickly leverage on that to ensure there is no learning loss during this period. We equally introduced classroom in your home, which is a television programme specially designed for the upper class pupils who are preparing for external examination. It was very successful based on the feedback we are getting; we expanded the program to capture the lower primary classes. And we have a special segment that is designed for our special need pupil.
Aside from that we have ‘EKOEXCEL At Home’, a programme we use to make sure that EKOEXCEL is running. You can visit the website, Facebook and still have daily lessons, notes, quizzes for pupils and teachers. We want to engage the pupils so that any form of learning loss will not occur during the lockdown. So, we were actively involved during that period to make sure that learning continue while schools are closed.
(Q): I can still remember that you did the free food programme…
(A): Yes, before now we have the National Home Grown School Feeding programme.
But during the lockdown, it became the Modified Home Grown School Feeding programme. So rather than feeding them during school hours, we took the food to their homes; rather than giving them cooked food, we gave them dry foods during this period. We have pre-identified and pre-determined the entire pupil that will get the take home ration. We took it to the centre nearest locations to them for onward distribution to them at their various homes.
(Q): In brief, how has the pandemic affected the operation of this Board?
(A): Like in every other sector, the pandemic has created distraction and distruption in the activities of the Board. We are all aware of the mass hysteria that the pandemic has generated across the globe.
It has generated a socio-economic imbalance in Nigeria, but as a government we must continue to give assurances to our people. That is why Mr governor from time to time come around to allay the fear and assuage all the worries of our people to ensure that we are in control. As we all know that Lagos is the epicentre of the pandemic and as such, we must be on top of the pandemic. The pandemic is here, it’s a new normal, as at such we must learn how to live with it and by it, at the same time we must learn how to adopt and adapt to the new normal. It’s a new reality, as such we must prepare for the challenges ahead. As for us, we have adopted the blending learning approach in our classrooms to combat the challenges.
Post covid-19, we have developed a methodology that combines the old style with new techniques to form a better and effective way of teaching and learning. So, in Lagos SUBEB what we are doing now is blending and integrative learning approaches. That is using the traditional classroom method alongside with digitalisation anchored on the use of computer to augment the learning and teaching methods put in place during the period.
In order to abide by the safety protocol, we are adopting phased resumption as well as staggered learning which means the all the pupils will not come to school every day.
This is just to make sure that we abide by the safety protocol put in place by the government. So, in order for us to bridge learning during those periods, we must use technology to augment it. So that’s why we introduced the blending learning approach into our schools.
(Q): Do you agree that the improvement in technology and digitalisation is the positive effect of the Coronavirus pandemic?
(A): Yes, that is why we must give it to the state government, because we did not envisage Covid-19 before introducing EKOEXCEL, which is an attempt to infuse technology into our classrooms to improve learning and teaching in our schools. So we have been using technology in our classrooms before the emergence of coronavirus.
With the outbreak of the pandemic, we quickly built on EKOEXCEL to ensure that we are able to use technology positively to dampen the negative effect of Covid-19. That is a plus for us in Lagos state.
(Q): Now, Mr chairman, what is the future like for Lagos SUBEB?
(A): Well, we have just one goal, and that goal is to improve the standard of education in our state, and in order for us to do that we need partnership, we need collaboration. Education like every other sector, requires collaboration, and we have realised that the state government alone cannot do it, that is why we have open up a space for the private sector to come on board, but not at the detriment of our standard and quality.
However, at the same time they must come on board as our partners to run and to improve the basic education sector in particular. Education sector like others is an ecosystem, partnership efforts are needed for you to succeed. So, we are seeking collaborations from relevant stakeholders; these collaborations must be constructive, productive, impactful and mutually beneficial to all. That is the way to go. We are equally appealing to members of the public to take ownership of the schools within their communities. Schools are part of the community and as such, they must take ownership of such schools. Government alone cannot do it. It takes a whole village to raise just one child, and at such it must be a tripodal approach: the government, parents and the community must all be involved. So, collaborative effort is the way to go in the improvement of basic education in the state.
(Q): What are the challenges faced by LASUBEB as it strive to provide quality basic education for pupils in Lagos State?
(A): Limited resources, very limited. As a government, administrators and leaders, you must be able to do three major things: priotise, improvise and optimise. If you are able to do those three things successfully, you will be able to get away with many things. If you prioritise, it means you know what to do at the right time and the quantum of what to be done; when you optimise, you get the best of the best; and when you improvise, giving any circumstance that you find yourself, can you still survive. If you can manage these three factors, you will be able to move forward. At LASUBEB we use scientific approach, in the sense that we do scenario analysis of every decision. In doing such analysis, you look at the turning point of each scenario. These are the things we are doing to forge ahead in LASUBEB. We turn our challenges to opportunities here.
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