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UNICEF urges investment in education to address literacy gaps

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• Advocates use of technology to meet COVID-19 realities

United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has urged government at all levels to invest in the education sector in order to galvanise all-round development in the country and sub-Saharan Africa. 

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The UNICEF Education Specialist, Akure Field Office, Mr. Murtala Mohammed, said the coronavirus pandemic has further worsened the existing literacy problems among pupils and youths.

He lamented that government, over the years, has failed in budget investment by only concentrating on infrastructure while abandoning the other three key indices of system strengthening, service delivery, and capacity building.

“Government is only building and not working for the education sector to go places; we have to go beyond this as the other three parts are more important while the capacity building is key.”

The education specialist disclosed that UNICEF had partnered with state governments in the southwest on remote learning to ensure that the sector does not suffer neglect. 

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He noted that the special intervention by UNICEF since March, when schools were shut due to the coronavirus pandemic has helped to ensure that pupils were not left out in teaching and learning processes.

He said the international literacy day 2020 was an opportunity to review the different approaches to literacy teaching and learning, with special focus on technological innovations for maximum results. 

He identified high level of illiteracy among parents as a major challenge militating against remote learning, explaining that literate parents help their wards to utilise distance learning opportunities. 

Mohammed, who equally appealed to the government to strengthen literacy centres for active family involvement, said effective teachers’ monitoring and mentoring policies would help the sector. 

He tasked the government on subsidising education, access to literacy materials, remote monitoring and supplementary budget at state levels to focus on COVID-19 response. 

The UNICEF specialist urged the government to thoroughly implement its education policy on mother tongue, assuring that the blended learning approach of classroom and remote learning would take care of literacy gaps during this period.

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