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USING AGILE TO TRIUMPH IN EDUCATION AND COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT IN EKITI STATE

Ekiti State Governor, Biodun Oyebanji, at inception of his administration, declared free and compulsory education at both primary and secondary school levels in the State. This remarkable move has helped in raising school enrolment in the State to one of the highest in the country.

Governor Oyebanji also pledged the readiness of his government to forge a strong and invincible partnerships with intending private investors to strengthen education, assuring that the war against Illiteracy and school dropout will be total under his administration.

To sustain the past glory recorded by the state in the education sector, Oyebanji’s government furthermore, paid a huge sum of N6.2 billion as counterpart funding to benefit from the Universal Basic Education fund and deployed another sum of N400 million to offset debts owed contractors handling projects at the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB).

The Governor stressed his administration’s commitment to placing education of the youth population on premium priority to position them well to overcome challenges, be successful and contribute to the development of the State.

It is on record that Ekiti State is the first subnational in Nigeria to launch the Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment, (AGILE) project at the State level in April, 2023 when the wife of the State Governor, Dr. Olayemi Oyebanji officially launched the project in Ado-Ekiti.

The World Bank assisted programme which comprises of 18 States in the country was targeted at improving secondary education opportunities for adolescent girls aged between 10 and 20.

The programme is not only timely but works in tandem with the commitment of Governor Oyebanji to the provision of qualitative education at all levels as enshrined under the Human Capital Development Agenda of the six pillars of the administration.

The Governor had repeatedly stressed his believe that “ideas rule the World and the only way you can get idea is through knowledge, while the only means to acquire knowledge, is through education. We therefore decided to prioritize access to quality education because we also know that the quality, relevance and functionality of education are very important”.

Since the launch, Ekiti AGILE has transcended the primary aim of enhancing school enrolment, assisting economically disadvantaged students, promoting academic achievements and reducing the number of out-of-school children in the State to becoming a life-changing project.

With a sum of $25million allocated to the State, out of which an amount of $21,425,729.79 was assessed and $19,927,325.94 disbursed till date, a new life that substantially boosted conducive teaching and learning environment has been injected into the education sector through AGILE with colossal overhaul of infrastructure in 203 public schools in the State through School’s Improvement Grants classified into small, medium and massive categories.

The impact has been remarkably substantial, with 613 toilets, 923 classrooms, 31 school perimeter fences, 59 boreholes completed while 2,470 teaching and learning materials including charts, maps, graphs, posters, textbooks, educational software, lab equipment and 4,012 pieces of furniture procured which calumniated in 16.9 percentage increase in enrolment from 111,546 to 130,357 in public secondary schools in the State.

The remarkable achievements recorded by AGILE programme in Ekiti can be attributed to the commitment of the State Government and diligence of the Project implementation Unit (PIU) as well as the project management approach that breaks the project into phases of planning, executing and evaluating with emphasizes on continuous collaboration and improvement with the objective of obtaining benefits throughout the process rather than only at the end exhibiting central values and behaviours of trust, flexibility, empowerment and collaboration.

Managing AGILE projects also involves constant collaboration and working in iteration with the aim of continuous improvement on each project throughout its lifecycle and adapts to changes quickly.

However, AGILE’s impact extends far beyond physical infrastructure, in an environment where there is no limit to barriers in getting access to education, form are already, out free of charge, for the Second Chance Education Programme tagged ‘Ekiti State Girls’ Finishing School’.

The programme was designed to provide another opportunity to integrate adolescent girls between the ages of 10-20 that did not finish schooling for various reasons including Living with Disabilities, domestic violence, gender-based violence (GBV), early marriage and pregnancy but are willing to re-enroll to complete their education.

It offers opportunity to re-enter into formal education with necessary support to continue and complete beneficiaries’ academic journey with Vocational education and entrepreneurship training provided to equip the girls with skills needed to pursue employment opportunities or start their own businesses, thereby fostering economic independence.

The programme, also designed to provide value-based education in basic numeracy and literacy, along with psychosocial support services such as group and individual counseling, expressive therapy, and sexual reproductive rights education, is aimed at reducing vulnerability of girls to gender-based violence, early marriage and other harmful practices by providing them with education and opportunities.

The target is to ensure that adolescent has the opportunity to thrive, regardless of their background or circumstances.

In a world where gender-based violence (GBV) remains a pervasive threat, Ekiti AGILE stands as a staunch advocate for change, challenging outdated norms and fostering a culture of respect and equality. Through targeted interventions and awareness campaigns, AGILE confronts the scourge of GBV head-on, empowering students to stand up, speak out, and demand a better future for themselves and their communities. Recently, the Project organized a GBV-prohibition engagement with male students and teachers across the three senatorial districts to make them accountable and stand against school Gender-Based Violence. Remarkably, AGILE has facilitated safe space sessions in schools, with over 10,011 girls benefiting from this initiative.

Currently, 2,808 indigent students are benefiting from the first unit of the conditional cash transfer program with the second cohort underway by providing crucial support to those in need, ensuring that financial barriers do not hinder their education.

AGILE also recognizes that technology is a powerful tool for transformation in this predominantly digital age, and has therefore facilitated the provision of digital facilities in public secondary schools, including 2,600 laptops, 60 smart-boards, 92 internet facilities, 68 external hard drives, 76 photocopy machines, and 139 solar inverter power systems. These digital devices have revolutionized teaching and learning, providing students with access to a world of knowledge and opportunities.

The government of Governor Biodun Oyebanji, with the support of the World Bank-assisted AGILE project has successfully empowered school-age children to dream, discover, and soar to new heights, nurturing the seeds of possibility, and building a brighter future for generations to come.

It has reshaped destinies. Kudos.

Tunji Ajayi
A retired Civil Servant writes from Ado Ekiti

Posted in Ekiti State News Bulletin
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