Racheal (not real name) is a 12 year old girl who lives in an urban area of one of the Southwest States in Nigeria but cannot read. She tried to keep it a secret because it embarrassed her until she was specifically asked to read a portion of the Bible in her children’s church.
Amid tears, she blurted out that she was not taught how to read at school. It is no longer news that the global learning crises have worsened. Out-of-School children have risen astronomically with learning poverty equally aggravated. A March 2022 Press Release by UNICEF captures that 23 countries are yet to full open schools while the number of school drop-outs have surged (https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/23-countries-yet-fully-reopen-schools-education-risks-becoming-greatest-divider). At the moment, education and what it should espouse are all under siege.
In a bid to address this development, the World Bank in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), UNICEF and UNESCO, came up with a report to address learning losses incidental to the Covid-19 pandemic. The June 2022 report which encapsulates The RAPID Framework spells out policy actions to help “RECOVER and ACCELERATE” learning particularly in the elementary and secondary levels of education. Specifically, RAPID stands for: Reaching every child and keeping them in school; Assessing learning levels regularly, Prioritizing teaching of the Fundamentals; Increasing the efficiency of instruction including the use of catch-up learning and Developing psychosocial health and well-being. It is anticipated that with the RAPID Framework’s intervention, future learning losses can be mitigated while lost learning can be recouped. The RAPID Framework is envisaged to be malleable enough to fit into different learning needs’ situations depending on how it is adopted or adapted. More about the RAPID Framework can be found via https://lnkd.in/eHzNrwJU
The RAPID Framework intervention is indeed a breath of fresh air within the present educational doldrums albeit, some germane issues still need to be addressed by its propositions. First, the area of advocating that every child be reached and made to attend school does not necessarily mean a significant amount of lost learning will be recouped or future learning losses mitigated, considering that “schools” and what they offer, differ across communities, regions and countries. For instance, in countries where education is not prioritized enough, scenarios of its gross under-funding, inadequate monitoring, increased dilapidation of structures, preponderance of under-qualified teachers, shortages of teachers and high levels of malpractices among others, will play out. Schools with these predicaments cannot even plan for or deliver qualitative education not to mention, venturing the gap of its recovery. In the end, the mass exodus of children back to these schools will not only defeat the cause promoted by the RAPID Framework but will also make learners worse off educationally.
Second, involving families in their children’s education as equally advocated by the RAPID Framework is very critical however, their levels of involvement need to expand and rapidly too. Seeing that parents, caregivers and community members are indeed central actors in their children and wards’ education has made it even more imperative to engage them beyond the informative and relationship levels. This need is further heightened with increasing poverty and insecurity pervading countries globally. Therefore, the recommended levels of family and communal engagement in children’s education may not be spirited enough for the RAPID Framework hit the ground running and as such need to be reviewed.
Third, assessing learning levels regularly using system and classroom-levels’ approaches is very important for data generation about learners albeit it can be fraught with inefficiencies and inconsistencies. This is particularly true when there is a systemic collapse of educational institutions and structures. An evidence of this collapse is the preponderance of overworked, unskilled, unmotivated and unsupervised teachers who are incapable of assessments in terms of timing, content, volume and approach. Besides, when educational systems do not really prioritize education, system-level assessment activities may not readily accomplish its objectives. It is only rational to troubleshoot a problem when there is some form of commitment and resources to address it. However, in the absence of both or either, system-level assessments will not yield the desired outcomes. Besides, in the wake of regional fragmentation, nepotism and tribalism, among others, there may be no plans to pursue sustainability of the process.
In the same vein, classroom-level assessments may not yield diagnostic, formative or summative results if class teachers remain unmotivated, are consistently not availed a platform for self-expression and collaboration and not given improved work conditions. Eventually, the likelihood of these teachers committing to regular assessment exercises will become lower by the day. This is further corroborated by a 2022 research titled “Teachers’ Pay in Africa: Evidence from 15 Countries” which reveals that dissatisfied teachers will spend less time in classrooms. This trend evidently clashes with the RAPID Framework’s requirements for more classroom time needed for regular assessments. In warped situations as these, a lot of improper assessments will permeate the school system, giving a phony picture of reality.
Fourth, prioritizing teaching the fundamentals is another important key to recouping and retaining lost learning. Just like the RAPID framework advocates, literacy, numeracy, digital and socio-emotional skills are mandatory for learning foundational content and subsequent lessons. However, there may be constraints in achieving these skills. For instance, where teachers themselves lack these skills, there is no way they can pass it across to learners. A case in point which dates far back as 2012, is a World Bank Blog titled “Africa’s Learning Crisis” which exposes the level of teaching crises in Sub-Saharan Africa with a meager 11% of teachers having working knowledge of English as a language of instruction. Furthermore, with learning aids like textbooks becoming increasingly unaffordable or unavailable, both teachers and learners may not achieve or build upon the literacy, numeracy, digital and socio-emotional skills, they need.
Fifth, increasing the efficiency of instruction through catch-up learning cannot be overemphasized albeit, it is imperative that persisting issues pertaining to shortages of qualified teachers, high rates of teachers’ turnover and reduced teachers’ commitment be addressed adequately and speedily. Seeing that teachers function as conduits in this process by connecting the educational system to learners and vice-versa, the subject of efficient instructional delivery cannot even be broached without these matters being attended to. Conversely, issues that pertain to learners, such as the need for increased/extended school time should be cautiously, sensitively and gradually blended into the school system till it becomes fully embraced by all. While this should be achieved within a reasonable time-frame, it is necessary for the maximum participation of learners in the process.
Sixth, the area of developing psychological health and wellbeing for teachers and learners has always been confronted by poverty which has now been aggravated by global inflation and related factors. Poverty in the guise of job insecurity and insufficient pay for teachers, unemployment and under-employment for parents and insufficient funding for schools among others, has exacerbated mental health issues, within and outside the school system. If poverty and other related factors remain unaddressed at micro and macro levels, psychosocial wellness will remain unattainable for both teachers and learners. This can impede the success of the RAPID Framework and push more children into educational poverty.
Obviously, the RAPID Framework as an evidence-based strategy needs urgent implementation across the global school system with requisite government support. However, current realities show that the critical inputs needed for its take-off and sustainability may not be immediately attainable or prioritized. Nevertheless, it is still important to explore what can be achieved irrespective of limits or paucity of policies among others, to salvage the educational future of children, globally. Teachers remain the obvious fulcrum on which all educational interventions are hinged and as such, more inclusiveness, respect and support must be given to them. Teaching should also be made more attractive to garner more interest in the profession including volunteering. Teachers should also be made to benefit from School Intervention Programmes as much as learners.
Other options that can help drive the implementation of the RAPID Framework include increasing adults/parents’ literacy and numeracy which directly attenuates educational poverty in children; encouraging donations of hand-me-down textbooks, notebooks and other teaching/learning materials and pushing for more educational innovations with the RAPID Framework’s propositions as objectives, among others. More awareness should be given to the RAPID Framework using media tools, religious and community leaders and schools’ networks. Besides, approaching the Framework from the perspective of each educational stakeholder in the areas of “WHO” and “WHAT” can be done, should help boost its momentum. Also, incorporating a “Reward plus Accountability” system across the board, may help with mass adoption or adaptation of the RAPID Framework, faster than expected.
Shield of Innocence Initiative
Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria.