The Athenian philosopher, mathematician, and political thinker, Plato once posited that “the direction in which education starts a man will determine his future in life”. Since societies are an aggregation of the quality of individuals, it is safe to rephrase the Greek savant in drawing the conclusion that “education will determine the future” of any society as no society has ever developed beyond the quality of the minds that make it up.
Modern-day Edo state, the home of the over 6 centuries old BiniKingdom made history as one of the most sophisticated African societies, complete with streets, street lighting, and even went on to establish diplomatic relations with Portugal, at a time many African societies were still backward. Such a level of sophistication that produced monumental innovations and artworks that were way ahead of their time could only have been a product of a functional system of organizing and transmitting knowledge among the citizens.
It is a travesty of catastrophic proportions that despite such the rich history of blazing trails and being at the forefront of knowledge acquisition, transmission, and application in Africa, “the heartbeat of the nation”, has in recent years been reduced to a haven of crime and violence, despite having a vibrant youthful population that is bursting with dynamic creative energy and intelligence. Edo state had in recent times failed to harness her history and vibrancy to build a core of productive youths who would power the economy of the state, but has rather become a fertile ground for all manner of social vices and violent crimes.
It was within this rather bleak atmosphere that Governor GodwinNogheghase Obaseki took the reins of governance of Edo state in the year 2016. Being a thoroughbred professional, with local and international development experience in the private sector and multilateral institutions, GovernorObaseki set about tackling the issue of our youth not being able to fulfill their potentials with surgical precision. The Governor would deploy a two-pronged strategic approach on that front, through the Skills DevelopmentProgram (Edo Jobs), which is targeted at preparing youth for jobs, and EdoBasic Education Sector Transformation (Edo BEST), which is aimed at revamping the educational system from the very root, to ensure that the products coming out of the system are employable. The program was a comprehensive one that incorporated a holistic approach with key mile markers around 5 pillars of governance, teacher development, and instructional design, community partnerships; infrastructure, and the support and development of the Local Education Authority.
Seeing that educational outcomes are driven primarily by the quality of teaching and the learning atmosphere Edo BEST commenced with the training of all the teachers in the state. Edo BEST was a bold and ambitious program that, to those not familiar with Governor Obaseki’s data-based approach to project conception and execution, bore the hallmarks of the usual Nigerian government schemes that are full of plenty smoke with little fire. Edo BESThowever has exceeded the expectations of the naysayers while delivering success on a scale and at a speed never before seen in Africa.
In two years of its existence, Edo BEST has been able to seamlessly retain about twelve thousand teachers in the state and equipped them technically and technologically under the Support Teachers to Achieve Results(STAR) component of Edo BEST. So far more than 11thousand School-Based Management Committee members have been trained across the state, while thousands of textbooks have been issued to pupils in the state. The state government has also provided 7million textbooks and instructional materials distributed to schools and pupils and 334 primary schools are under renovation or being reconstructed. The program has also led to the creation of a centralized database of all pupils in Edo state, which has aided the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), in disseminating instructional materials during the Covid19 induced suspension of schools all over Nigeria.
The unprecedented success and transparency in the entire processes of Edo BEST have not gone unnoticed notwithstanding the usual quiet style of governor Obaseki, as it has attracted accolades both local and international. Six months into the implementation of the program the United States Agency for International Development invited Edo SUBEB Chairman to participate and present the keynote during its 8th Education Alliance Symposium. The Edo the delegation would also visit the World Bank and International finance corporation, where fruitful discussions were had on program support for implementation.
It takes courage and a laser-sharp focus on future sustainability for a government official to invest in education, and an even higher dose of these qualities to do so at the primary level. Governor Godwin Obaseki has left no one in doubt as to his laser-sharp focus on developing the human capacity of the Edo people, making investments, and putting power around flywheels that will keep Edo running over the long term as the world transitions from crude oil and relies more on human capital. In a clime where government officials take pride in sinking taxpayer’s funds in white elephant projects, without any basis in the economic viability of public benefit, Governor Obaseki has distinguished himself and taken the road less traveled, beating a path for future leaders of the state to follow.
No doubt Edo BEST has proven to be a resounding success and other Nigerian states ought to, as a matter of urgency, look into this model and replicate it to position Nigeria as a dominant force in the evolving fourth industrial revolution. The universal basic Education Commission must study the Edo template and adopt it as the standard all over Nigeria for changing the fortunes of education in Nigeria.