In a bid to ensure that the children and teachers in rural communities are not continuously exposed to the risk of COVID-19, the Foundation for Rural Education and Empowerment — FREE (formerly known as Future Bank Initiative Africa) has trained up to 200 children and eight teachers on COVID-19 protocols in order to keep them safe at school during this period.
The founder of the FREE Foundation is Iyanuoluwa Olalowo, a postgraduate student of Early Childhood Education at the University of Ibadan, who received his degree in Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED). This outstanding organisation thought of what their contributions towards the curtailment of the deadly virus would be and came up with this initiative to contribute to the enlightening of students and teachers on COVID-19 protocols.
He disclosed that the mission and vision of the organisation are to ensure that every child in extremely rural and marginalised communities have access to affordable quality education in their communities and also to educate them to be functional citizens by preparing a platform for qualitative learning as well as empowering rural communities through education.
While speaking with Olalowo, he explained that the aim and objective behind organising this initiative are to teach the students and teachers how to keep themselves abreast of the guidelines laid down by NCDC to thwart the spread of the virus in school.
“However, we’ve so far reached out to rural communities closest to Ibadan city aiming to carry out more when other states reopen schools In all of these places, we provided face masks to the children and their teachers, we also enlightened them on the COVID-19 pandemic, how it spreads and how to prevent it.
“We took the teachers as well as the pupils through some hand-washing practises as we believe that safe health is a pathway to promising education,” he explained.
He further asserted that since the advent of COVID-19, the foundation has been working tirelessly to ensure that children in rural communities are not being distanced from education in emergencies and to keep them abreast of how to keep them safe in school.
He said: “Most children in rural schools couldn’t access online classrooms, some had no opportunity to access televised classes while even some couldn’t power their radio for Interactive Radio Instructions which were all good ways to bring education to them.
“Although there are assertions that children may be asymptomatic with regards to COVID-19, considering also that the school is another home for children made us embark on providing safety materials to children and teachers in the extreme rural schools of Ibadan, Oyo State through our ‘SafeAtSchool’ Project.”
He divulged how they sourced for the fund to carry out their project pointing out they have opened to donations through their different Education Support Structure – which is one of the platforms for generating funds from donors with no political or government-induced affiliation such as individuals, groups, corporate bodies as well as the internally generated funds.
He, nevertheless, advised the students and teachers to take responsibility by watching after another especially the children in school to abide by the COVID-19 protocols.
He also noted that teacher’s skill at this time should display more of socio-economic intelligence that will help them to build a resilient environment for the pupils and similarly the consistent re-orientation and sensitization program on the state of COVID-19 should be put at the forefront in schools including rural areas.
“Lastly, on the part of the government, the truth is, the pandemic has opened up more of the infrastructural needs yet to be in place in our schools, this alone will make it close to impossible for some schools to observe physical distancing rules in schools as the pupils’ population may be too many than available desks and chairs with which children can make their sitting arrangement one child per seat,” he urged.
Mrs Ajigbesin, the headmaster of Salvation Army Primary school, Ajibade, lauded the efforts of the organizers of this initiative and urge them to extend it to other states after the total reopening of schools across the states in Nigeria.
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