Int’l Day of Education: How EKOEXCEL’s impact extends beyond the classroom

January 24, 2024

As the world unites under the 2024 International Day of Education, with its  theme, “Learning for Lasting Peace,” one bold initiative stands out – Lagos State’s EKOEXCEL program. In just four years, EKOEXCEL has transcended the realm of mere educational reform to become a luminous beacon of hope, demonstrating how education can not only close learning gaps and empower children, but also cultivate the values and skills necessary for building a world where peace prevails.

Bridging the Divide: Transforming Lives, One Classroom at a Time

Before the introduction of EKOEXCEL, the Lagos education system faced challenges to fully unlock the potential of all its children due to inconsistencies in quality and accessibility. This resulted in untapped talent and unfulfilled dreams. But EKOEXCEL, launched in 2019, changed that narrative. By closing staggering learning gaps, particularly in foundational literacy and numeracy, the program ignited a transformative spark within Lagos’ children. These weren’t simply statistics; they were individual lives ignited with newfound confidence and a thirst for knowledge.

As UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay aptly stated, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” EKOEXCEL’s focus on closing gaps aligns perfectly with this philosophy, creating a level playing field and empowering children to reach their full potential.

This sentiment resonates with Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, who emphasizes, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” EKOEXCEL equips Lagos’ children with this “passport,” fostering not just academic progress but also the ability to dream bigger and believe in their own potential.

Statistics speak volumes, and EKOEXCEL’s achievements are nothing short of phenomenal:

Over 13,000 teachers are now equipped with tablets and empowered with 21st-century teaching skills, transforming classrooms into vibrant hubs of learning.

More than 500,000 students no longer face the barrier of limited resources, thanks to the program’s provision of over 100 million learning materials since inception.

Learning outcomes have skyrocketed, with students making substantial leaps in reading fluency and foundational numeracy, closing the learning gap at an astounding rate and making the top three in national examinations. This surge in performance isn’t just impressive; it signifies a shift from low-income country levels to those of upper-middle-income nations like Mexico, a testament to the program’s ability to uplift even the most disadvantaged communities.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, a steadfast champion of education, echoes this sentiment: “Our Eko Excel Initiative (‘Leave No Child Behind’)… has trained over 18,000 teachers and equipped them with teaching tablets and the skills needed to provide high-quality education… while also equipping over 500,000 pupils with personal e-learning devices and textbooks.” His unwavering commitment is further evidenced by the allocation of brand-new vehicles to deserving teachers, a powerful token of appreciation that fuels dedication and inspires excellence.

Technology as a Bridge, Equity as the Foundation:

EKOEXCEL doesn’t simply provide resources; it leverages technology to empower both teachers and students. Recognizing the time-consuming nature of marking, the program introduced the innovative Let’s Mark App, allowing teachers to swiftly and accurately process multiple-choice exams through a scan-and-mark system. This aligns perfectly with UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ assertion that “Technology is a powerful tool that can help us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 4 on education.” By freeing teachers from mundane tasks, EKOEXCEL allows them to devote more time to personalized interaction and deeper learning.

Teacher tutoring with EKOEXCEL tab

Technology further bridges the digital divide through technology interventions like dedicated head teacher smartphones and teacher tablets – ensuring everyone has a seat at the table, regardless of background or circumstance. This dedication to equity resonates with former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who stated, “Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” EKOEXCEL embodies this ideal, placing the power of learning within reach of all.

Furthermore, Lagos State Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Mr Jamiu Alli-Balogun, recently charged teachers, at a capacity building exercise, to adapt to the changing educational landscape as pupils were becoming more active in the learning process.

‘’As we all know, our classrooms have become vibrant hubs of knowledge and innovation, where students are not merely passive recipients of information, but active participants in their own learning journeys.

‘’As educators, it is our responsibility to equip them with the tools they need to navigate this complex world and succeed in an ever-changing society,’’ he said.

Learning for Lasting Peace: Cultivating Values for a Harmonious World

EKOEXCEL’s impact extends beyond academic results. Recognizing that education plays a critical role in building peaceful societies, the program seamlessly integrates peace-building values into its curriculum. Children learn about conflict resolution, tolerance, and respect for diversity, preparing them to navigate differences and build bridges within their communities. This focus on empathy and social-emotional learning equips them to become responsible citizens who value dialogue and understanding over conflict, aligning perfectly with the International Day of Education theme.

Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, eloquently captures the essence of EKOEXCEL’s approach when she states, “Education is not just about acquiring knowledge; it’s about building a better future for all. It’s about creating a world where everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential and contribute to a more peaceful and sustainable world.” EKOEXCEL’s commitment to nurturing values like peace, tolerance, and empathy aligns perfectly with this vision, preparing Lagos’ children to become not just educated individuals, but responsible global citizens who actively contribute to building a more harmonious world.

The Situational Room: A Real-Time Beacon of Progress

EKOEXCEL Situation Room

To further strengthen its impact and ensure continuous improvement, the Lagos State Government, in partnership with NewGlobe education services, EKOEXCEL’s technical partner, established a groundbreaking “Situational Room” at the Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (LASUBEB). This state-of-the-art facility, commissioned by the Hon. Commissioner for Education, acts as a real-time, 360-degree monitor of all 1013 EKOEXCEL classrooms across the state.

EKOEXCEL is built on data; through EKOEXCEL Government leaders can see what is happening in every classroom, school and area in real time via a software called Spotlight, making the entire school system transparent.

The EKOEXCEL situation room is the first of its kind in Nigeria as a government partnership programme, offering a round-the-clock dedicated school monitoring control center.

The Situation Room embodies the spirit of “Learning for Lasting Peace” by fostering a culture of collaboration and collective responsibility. It allows stakeholders to work together in real-time, identifying challenges and celebrating successes, creating a unified front in the pursuit of educational excellence.

A Model for the World: EKOEXCEL’s Legacy of Hope

EKOEXCEL’s success story isn’t just a local triumph; it’s a beacon of hope for education systems worldwide. The program’s achievements, from closing learning gaps to fostering peace-building values, offer a compelling model for other nations seeking to transform their own educational landscapes. As Malala Yousafzai reminds us, “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” EKOEXCEL embodies this spirit, proving that with unwavering commitment, innovative solutions, and a focus on both academic excellence and peace-building values, we can indeed create a brighter future for all.

From Lagos to the world, EKOEXCEL’s transformative journey continues, illuminating the path towards a more equitable, peaceful, and sustainable future for every child. It is a testament to the power of education to empower individuals, bridge divides, and cultivate the values necessary for a world where peace reigns supreme.

This article appeared originally on Business Insights, January 24, 2024