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Empowering dropouts in Lagos through Comprehensive Schools Programme

By Kehinde Olatunji
07 April 2022   |   4:07 am
Lots of factors are responsible for high rate of out-of-school children, which is put at between 10 and 14 million in Nigeria.

Lots of factors are responsible for high rate of out-of-school children, which is put at between 10 and 14 million in Nigeria. However, not all out-of-school children were never in school, many dropped out due to challenges beyond them, mostly financial. What is the fate of these children, with lots of untapped potentials?

Stakeholders in the sector have lamented that such situation requires urgent intervention, especially in a nation that ‘hypes’ its children as the future.

Spurred by this concern and acting on the possibilities that the situation could be salvaged, experts have canvassed strategic measures to address the challenges.

The Lagos State government, through the state’s Comprehensive schools programme was set up by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to bridge the gap and ensure that a good number of out-of-school children are empowered.

Chairman, Lagos Comprehensive Schools Planning Committee, Peter Bankole, noted that there are many levels of measuring intelligence and how people learn.

Bankole described the Lagos State Comprehensive Schools Programme as a model that considers all children as capable of learning and also recognises that children are not gifted in dealing with academic stuff.

The Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Education, Abayomi Abolaji, added that, “each child has his or her own area of strength, and every child should be given opportunity to thrive.”

The Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Folashade Adefisayo, on her part, believes the programme would provide would-be dropouts an offer they shouldn’t refuse. She said, “Instead of going into low quality training, stay with us and we will give you first-class training and skills in vocational trade.”

There are five technical colleges in the state already, but they are not located in Badagry, Ikeja, Epe, Ikorodu and Lagos Island. In case these areas are not easily accessible to would-be students, the state government has created space for the programme in already-existing secondary schools, so that students can be in schools near their homes while learning a craft they love.

Abolaji added that the programme is incorporated into the formal academic structure and offers training such as those in the technical colleges.

“When they complete their time in senior secondary school, they either go on to the university or polytechnic, gain an employment or remain as entrepreneurs and put to practice what they learnt in our Comprehensive Secondary Schools.”

He added that the programme comprises a two-pronged approach of general academic education, and vocational training in fields such as: animal husbandry, fashion designing, software development and theatre arts, among others.

Abolaji said the programme has a vision to help students, who may not attain olympian heights in academics to pave their way through life by equipping them with trade skills. “We are raising children who will be truly useful to themselves, their immediate families and the communities where they find themselves.”

Co-Founder, Teach for Nigeria and Human Capital/Social Impact Specialist, who is also a member of the curriculum committee on the programme, Nike Akerele-De Souza, said, “Centrally, we are looking at preparing the students around employability skills. We are also looking at life skills around leadership, personal development, financial literacy and others beyond the core subject matter.”

Simi Nwogugu, curriculum committee member, believes that the programme has come to stay because of the support system built in and around it.

“We have partners who are coming together to fund and support it in different ways because they believe in the vision and the people around it,” she said, “When you have all these elements coming together, there is no way that it will not succeed.” she added.

A member of the programme’s infrastructure committee, Andy Jibunoh stressed that it is important that the schools and skills are planned in such a way that they are located for the purpose of the community to have easy access to learn these skills. “An example is Epe, which is known for its fishing and hence, the fishery training being done there,” he said.

On her part, Chairman, Curriculum Sub-Committee for Lagos Comprehensive Schools, Ayopeju Njideaka, said it is important to move from the informal apprenticeship that existed and provide the same services in a controlled environment.

Bankole hinted that the programme projects on expanding to 50 schools by September 2022 with an objective of reducing the dropout rate from 90 per cent to less than 10 per cent in five years.

“We want to ensure Lagos State becomes the state of choice when it comes to employability and support for students going through the programme,” Bankole stated.

He added that the programme would ensure what public-private partnership is fully enhanced for the general benefit of the state.

According to him, 12 schools spread across Lagos’ six Education Districts (two schools per district) have been earmarked for the programme’s pilot phase, with their location playing a significant role in the programme’s model.