COVID-19: Blueprint to save education in W/Africa underway – ECOWAS Parliament

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A blueprint that will ensure education in West Africa is not disrupted by any further pandemics is being designed as members of the ECOWAS Parliament converge on Lome, Togo for a delocalised meeting.

The parliamentarians are drawn from the Joint Committee on Education, Science and Technology -Telecommunication and Information Technology and the committee on Political Affairs, Peace and Security as well as Committee on Infrastructure.

The parliamentarians along with other experts are expected to chart a new course for the sub-region in handling pandemics with regards to education in West Africa.

The move is premised on the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted about 94 per cent of education world over, with nearly 1.6 billion people affected across all continents.

For the parliament, the goal is to develop Information Communications Technology (ICT)-based solutions to distance learning so that West Africans can learn remotely without being in one physical location.

Speaking with newsmen shortly after the opening of the meeting, Parliament’s Speaker Sidie Mohamed Tunis said that the recommendations that arose from the meeting would not be COVID-19 specific but applicable to any future pandemic.

“We have had the greatest disruption with COVID in the education sector; there is still a possibility that we will have other pandemics in the future.

“So, for us as a region, we believe it is about time we begin to plan ahead, it is not just about now, it is for any future pandemic, so that if we have any issues like COVID-19, we will be in a better passion to ensure that education systems are not disrupted,” he said.

The Speaker stressed that this was not going to be an ‘on paper recommendation’, but one that would go through the commission to the highest decision making body of the sub-region.

He said that the issue of getting recommendations of parliament implemented had been topical, but assured that the recommendations from the meeting would not suffer a similar fate of lack of implementation.

“The question of getting the executive to implement our recommendations has been a subject for discussion for the past few months, because most times you have meetings like this, people come here and talk but no action.

“I want to assure you that it is now going to be different, whatever recommendations we are going to have here will be sent to the commission and Parliament will give support to the Commission to ensure that those recommendations reach the highest level in the sub-region,” he said.

Alluding to the fact that internet penetration would be needed to drive the Blueprint which would be based on Information Communication Technology (ICT), the Speaker added that some of the experts present would be advising it on ways to ensure internet penetration and affordability.

He said that the focus of parliament was to ensure that all the over 300 million community citizens it represented were impacted by their recommendations, even as it strived to promote an ECOWAS of People rather than an ECOWAS of states.

“Parliament represents over 300 million people and our responsibility in this respect is to make sure that we have experts to advise us on the way forward in dealing with such situations.

“How do we support our people to ensure we have internet penetration all the way down to the people. That is why we have a seminar like this.

“At the end of the meeting, we will have recommendations based on what the experts are going to tell us.

“We are going to gather all these information and adopt them for implementation,” he said.

Earlier, the Togolese Minister of Digital Economy and Digital Transformation, Cina Lawson insisted that quality education was very essential to youths, noting that such education in West Africa faced daunting challenges.

She identified infrastructure deficit including lack of classrooms, lack of power supply and inadequate number of teachers among others as part of the challenges.

According to her, the proposed deployment of ICT for distance learning can solve some of the challenges, but however, pointed out that also requires huge investment in infrastructure, especially internet connectivity in rural areas.

For the Speaker of Togo’s National Assembly, Hon. Yawa Djigbodi Tsegan, said that ensuring that education was not disrupted was very important to the youths of West Africa and the development of the sub-region.

While welcoming the delegation, she charged parliaments in all member states to move away from their strict traditional roles and position themselves to proffer solutions to our respective governments.

She commended the Speaker for bringing together the meeting of parliamentarians and experts, reiterating that West Africa still had infrastructural challenges in effectively deploying E-learning. (NAN)

– Nov. 18, 2020 @ 14:35 GMT |

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