In the framework of Education International (EI)’s Global Campaign against commercialization and privatization of education, the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), in collaboration with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), held two virtual advocacy meetings recently.
The main objectives of the first virtual meeting held on the 4th of August were: (a) to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education, as well as the need for appropriate recovery measures to minimize its impact and, (b) to build consensus of stakeholders towards a safe reopening of schools. To implement those objectives, the president of NUT, Dr. Nasir Idris asked teachers to observe the WHO COVID-19 protocols and assured them that the union gives utmost importance to their wellbeing. The meeting was, attended by many speakers from government representatives, NUT leadership, National Parents Teachers Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN), members of the civil society, as well as representatives of the EI Africa Regional Office.
Among them, Mr. Karibu Aliyu, the National Moderator of Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All (CSACEFA), encouraged all stakeholders to work together to ensure that the plans to have online learning leave no student behind. The General Secretary of NUT, Dr. Mike Ike Ene also mentioned that NUT is working to ensure that teachers’ views are considered in the government school reopening plans. During the meeting, Madam Lucy Barimbui, EI’s regional coordinator, shared with participants the EI Africa guidelines on school reopening and urged NUT to participate in the EI Africa COVID-19 survey which was ongoing.
The second virtual meeting which was a follow up of activities on the Global campaign against commercialization and privatization of education gathered over 100 participants from NUT administrative units. The objectives of the meeting, which took place on the 25th of August were: (a) to discuss issues concerning commercialization and privatization of Education amidst COVID-19, and (b) to reflect on training of professional teachers for effective use of Technology in Education.
During the meeting, the Chief Regional Coordinator (CRC) of Education International Africa Region, Dr. Dennis Sinyolo, highlighted that education is key to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and it is a fundamental human right and a public good. He called on NUT to remain proactive in defending both the profession and education in general. The CRC then commended FES for the collaboration and said he was optimistic that the campaign against privatization would impede attempts to sneak policies that result in inequalities in Nigeria.
In his remarks, the National President of NUT, Dr. Nasir Idris, expressed concern over the issue of commercialization and privatization of education and its impact on the right of every child to education as well as the lack of appreciation of the role of teachers in tackling new challenges, trends and developments in education. He moreover stated that the distance or online learning programmes introduced by State Governments and non-State actors in the context of COVID-19 failed to meet the needs of some students in rural areas.
Other speakers from Nigeria also confirmed that the online learning introduced during the COVID-19 crisis was challenging to teachers due to the lack of training on the technologies of online teaching and learning, and was difficult to access in terms of affordability, adaptability, and consistency.
EI regional coordinator, Ms Lucy Barimbui, took the opportunity to share the EI research on commercialisation and privatisation of education in the era of COVID-19. NUT and civil society organisations in Nigeria were asked to be proactive in checking on possible policies being devised in relation to e-learning, to ensure that students are not disadvantaged, and that the role of the classroom teacher remains at the centre stage of quality education.
Participants to the two virtual meetings made an appeal to the Government of Nigeria to fully implement the WHO COVID-19 protocols and guidelines, to provide psychological support to teachers and students and to avail adequate funding to ensure safe reopening of schools.
The Union also urged the government to regulate and monitor the operations of private education providers, and to guarantee the provision of an inclusive and equitable quality education to every child in Nigeria.