AN EVALUATION OF THE USE OF RADIO DISTANCE LEARNING STRATEGY IN NOMADIC EDUCATION IN NORTH-WESTERN NIGERIA
1.1 Background of Study
The future of any society lies squarely in her ability to develop a functional educational system that gives all citizens equal right to education. One can describe a society as developed, developing or underdeveloped simply by looking at the functionality of her educational institutions or policies. If these institutions are designed to work, and are seen to be working, it, therefore, means that human development in such a society is guaranteed.
Since human development connotes a situation where people appreciate in value, have control over their political and economic destiny, and above all, make meaningful contributions within and outside their communities, it, therefore, means that any effort put up to educate them cannot be regarded as wasteful (Inayatallah, 1976, cited in Okenwa, 2002, p.7). More so, studies have shown that for anything to be called development, it must be holistic – involving all the groups in the society. Okenwa (2002, P.7) insists that, “development demands the involvement of everyone within the system, at least having something to contribute”. If this is done, the problem of „preferred‟ or „ignored network‟ will be eliminated. This is a pointer to the fact that no group should be preferred over another in the course of bringing development to the people if the development planners actually want to eliminate dysfunctional elements (ignored network). In fact, no group of people in any society is as worthless as not to have anything, no matter how small, to contribute. Therefore, development of any kind calls for everyone to participate (Okenwa, 2000, p.25). Tahir and Umar (2000, p.40) calls the „ignored network‟ the disadvantaged group(s).
The case of ignored network or disadvantaged group was the sorry story of nomads in Nigeria before 1989. Nomads, who are seen as people without any permanent place of domicile were before the establishment of National Commission for Nomadic Education (NCNE), excluded from the scheme of things in Nigeria because of their inability to have formal education. Nomads are seen by many as those without access to good food, clean water, health care, clothes, or even shelter. Aderinoye, Ojokheta and Ololede (2007, p.9) see nomads as “those who do not have access to education; who do not understand their socio-cultural predicament and lack the basic literacy skills”. These challenges made it difficult for nomads to contribute to national development despite the fact that they have the potentials to provide the country with food and meat in the event of food crisis.
The National Commission for Nomadic Education was, therefore, established to among other things, create wider opportunities for an estimated 9.3 million nomads (6.6 per cent of Nigerians) to acquire literacy skills. Specifically, NCNE was mandated by General Ibrahim B. Babangida‟s Decree 41 of 12 December, 1989 to:
Formulate policy and issue guidelines in all matters relating to nomadic education in Nigeria; implement guidelines and ensure geographical spread of nomadic education activities and target for the nomadic people who cross state boundaries; establish schools in the settlements carved out for nomadic people (Decree 41, 1989). The then federal military government of General Babangida (retired) realized that unless a special educational provision was made for the nomads, they would have no access to formal education and, thus established the Commission in line with the National Policy on Education (NPE) developed in 1987 (Umeh, 2011, p.2). NPE was equally developed to provide education for nomadic pastoralists mostly found in the northern parts of Nigeria, the itinerant fishermen and the migrant farmers found in the costal-riverine areas of Benue, Plateau, and some southern states.
To deliver on these mandates, the Commission (NCNE) designed a number of strategies. These strategies include, the On-Site schools, the Shift System, Schools with Alternative Intakes, Mobile schools, Radio Distance Learning (Radio Listening Groups and Interactive Radio Listening Groups) and Islamiya (Islamic) schools (Buti, 1998, p.1). In the early 1990s, the Mobile Schools which had to do with a system where foldable classrooms and mobile teachers were used to teach the nomads wherever they were was the most popular. This was because of the advantages it had over the Regular school or On-Site school system where “semi sedentary nomadic groups” are taught at a particular location (in classes) (Buti, 1998, p.2).
However, so many years after these strategies were adopted, the Commission came to the understanding that some of its set objectives had not been realized owing to the fact that many nomads were still unreached because of their dispersed locations and nomadic nature. It, therefore, came to the conclusion in 1996 that except other cost-effective strategies were experimented, there would be no increase in the level of nomads‟ access to basic formal education. With empirical evidence that nomads are captives to radio, the Commission designed and developed Radio Distance Learning (RDL) strategy that accommodates two approaches – Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) and Radio Listening Groups (RLG) (Tahir & Muhammad, 1998, cited in Tahir and Umar 2000, p.44). IRI approach is used to educate the children of the nomads, while RLG is for the adult nomads. However, the interest of the researcher is on RLG which is the adult component of the RDL. RLG is often referred to by the Commission as the main RDL. In this study, therefore, RLG and RDL are used interchangeably depending on the context. In general, Radio Distance Learning strategy is powered by radio.
“The Radio Distance Learning scheme or strategy is an interactive radio-based distance learning system supplemented by print and other audio-visual media” (Tahir & Umar, 2000, P.44). According to Tahir and Umar (2000):
It is premised on the need to among other things, exploit the education potentials of radio in extending more learning opportunities to the nomads, and overcome the problem impeding the effective implementation of the National Education Programme and the attainment of its objectives (p.43).
According to Ngwu (2010,p.28) “research have shown that more than 86 per cent of nomads are captives to radio as they are seen with radio sets hung on their shoulders”. The scheme, expert say, if well implemented, can have many advantages over other strategies since all the states in Nigeria have radio stations (Ndolo, 2005, p.68).
The Radio Distance Learning strategy is just like the normal class sessions where teachers come to teach different subjects. The only difference is that the teachers are on air (radio) while the students (nomads) are in different locations. The strategy demands that the nomads who are interested in education, group themselves into Radio Listening Groups (RLG.) or Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) classes. When this is done, the closest branch of the Commission will issue the group a certificate indicating that they have been integrated into the programme. A group leader is, thereafter, chosen among the students to provide leadership. In the case of IRI, a teacher or a facilitator is assigned to each class. The groups and the classes can now be issued a register, timetable and other learning materials.
It should, however, be noted that the RLG approach is designed to complement other strategies and provide a platform for the hard-to reach-nomads to be convinced to send their children and young wives to school and enrol into the full adult classes. So one can liken the RLG to the pre-primary school system where kids are prepared for the main primary education. This arrangement is important because the nomads need to participate in this less time-consuming approach (RLG) before making up their minds for the other senior classes in the Mobile or Regular systems. This strategy is important because of the conservative nature of the nomads. Their conservativeness is seen in their refusal to accept a mixed centre for male and female. They see it as haram (abomination) and against the teachings of Prophet Mohammed. This made the Commission to have separate male and female centres.
The key areas of the radio classes or sessions which come in the form of a magazine programme in the RLG include:
- Listening and community development
- Listening to nomadic education programme,
- Radio listening and learning.
- Nomads send your children to school, etc.
These areas provide the nomads (mostly adults) the opportunity to acquire basic education and equally encourage them to send their children to the On-Site schools, IRI or other schools. However, as wonderful as this strategy appears, observers have come to question the effectiveness of the RGL/RDL scheme in educating the nomads. Unfortunately, no serious academic or empirical study has been commissioned to evaluate the effectiveness or otherwise of this new- method of giving the Nigerian nomads some dosage of special education.
1.2 Statement of Problem
The Radio Distance Learning scheme of the National Commission for Nomadic Education was developed and experimented in 1996 because of the inability of other strategies like the On-site school, Regular scheme, Islamiya (Islamic) schools, Mobile School, and other schemes to completely achieve the set mandates of the Commission. This strategy was designed to widen nomads‟ access to qualitative basic education wherever they are.
The first programme of the RDL scheme tagged, „Don Makiyaya a Ruga’ (For the nomads in their homesteads) was broadcast to a selected group of nomads on the 22nd of August 1996 through the AM band of Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) Kaduna. Since then, the programme has spread to other parts of the country. Other programmes like, Al-shay al-ray, Fraskram Malum Sha’, Beta Living, Ko Laramni Njamu Meden, Al-Hiyal Anta and Ingantacclyar Rayuwa have equally been developed and broadcast to the nomadic students, especially those in the adult component. In 2010, the Commission came up with claims that it has repositioned the adult component of the RDL strategy (RLG) for greater access and efficiency. According to the Commission, the grouping of RLG students into listening groups brought the needed innovation (Muhammad & Abbo, 2010, p.7). As laudable as this new initiative appears, it has, however, been called to question by professional teachers and communication scholars. Observers are of the view that the new strategy (the grouping) is a „mere show of presence‟ and relevance; that it is still difficult to effectively teach the nomads through this strategy because of their nomadic or roaming nature. Some others believe that it remains the best approach of reaching the nomads who live in difficult terrains. The bogging question, therefore, is, fifteen (15) years after the strategy was developed and eighteen (18) months after it purportedly became better, to what extent has the strategy improved teaching and learning for the nomads?
This study, therefore, sought to evaluate the use of the „improved‟ RDL strategy in nomadic education in the North Western geo-political zone of Nigeria with a view to advancing teaching and learning for these nomads, and possibly recommending ways to make the strategy better.
1.3 Objectives of Study
The broad goal of this study was to evaluate the use of the improved RDL strategy in nomadic education in the North Western geo-political zone of Nigeria. Specifically, the study sought:
- To ascertain the frequency with which nomadic RDL students expose themselves to the improved radio classes.
- To determine whether the timing of the improved radio classes affects nomadic RDL students‟ participation in the programme
- To find out whether the feedback technique of the improved Radio Distance Learning (RDL) strategy is effective.
- To examine whether the culture of the nomads influences their participation in the improved RDL programme.
- To ascertain whether the knowledge level of the nomadic RDL students has increased as a result of their participation in the RDL programme.
1.4 Research Questions
In line with the objectives of this study, the researcher asked the following research questions:
- What is the frequency of exposure of nomadic RDL students to the improved radio classes?
- To what extent does the timing of the radio classes affect the participation of nomadic RDL students?
- How effective is the feedback technique of the improved RDL strategy?
- What influence does the culture of the nomads have on their participation in the improved RDL programme?
- How has the knowledge level of the nomads increased as a result of their participation in the improved RDL programme?
From the research questions above and review made, the researcher raised the following hypotheses:
Hi: The culture of the nomads influences their participation in the improved RDL programme.
Ho: The culture of the nomads does not influence their participation in the improved RDL programme
Hi: The knowledge level of the nomads has increased as a result of their participation in the improved RDL programme.
Ho: The knowledge level of the nomads has not increased as a result of their participation in the improved RDL programme.
1.6 Significance of Study
Critical analyses of studies carried out in this area revealed that a majority of them are descriptions of perceived happenings in nomadic education, especially in the Southern part of the country. There seems to be dearth of literatures in this area, especially on the improved Radio Distance Learning Scheme. This research work will, therefore, advance knowledge in this area. The academic community will use this work as reference point in teaching and in the execution of similar studies.
The outcome of this study has revealed the effectiveness of the improved Radio Distance Learning scheme of NCNE. Development scholars and anyone interested in educational research will, through the outcome of this study, know the true position of the RDL programme. Professional bodies like United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and United Nations Department for International Development (DFID), who are core partners of the NCNE, will find the outcome of this study very useful in terms of impact assessment of their investments and interventions in special education.
Finally, this study served as a platform to test the postulations of the two theories used in this study.
1.7 Scope and Limitations of Study
This study covered the assessment of the improved Radio Distance Learning strategy of the National Commission for Nomadic Education (NCNE) in nomadic education in North-Western Nigeria. The study focused on all the radio listening groups/centres in the zone which housed 1,224 RDL students.
One of the limitations of this study was the dearth of material on Radio Distance Learning strategy of NCNE. The researcher was, therefore, confronted with the challenge of sourcing empirical literatures in this area.
The poor security situation in the northern part of the country posed a serious challenge to the researcher as he was unable to go to the learning centres in the Ruga (nomads‟ homestead) for fear of possible attack. He could have been mistaken for a hoodlum by the ever security-conscious-nomads who have been attacked severally in the past by hoodlums. The researcher had serious difficulties liaising with the Commission to allow him follow the facilitators (teachers) to the centres. The researcher‟s prowess in Hausa language and his long stay in these states helped him to convince both the Commission and the nomads.
The inability of majority of the nomads to read and write in English also posed a problem. To this end, the researcher had to translate his questionnaire in Hausa language.
1.8 Definition of Terms
For the purpose of clarity, key variables were defined operationally.
Evaluation: This means to assess the nature of something, someone or situation. Here, evaluation means to make an in-depth assessment of the use of the improved Radio Distance Learning strategy in educating the adult nomads in North-West Nigeria. Nomads: Nomads are seen as a group of people who do not have a permanent place of domicile because of their culture and occupation. In this study, nomads are group of people who, due to their occupation of cattle rearing migrate from one place to another. They are mostly found in the northern part of Nigeria among the Fulani community (Fulbes). They are also called the pastoralists.
Nomadic Education: This means a system of learning through the radio to educate the nomads in the North-West zone on how to survive in a contemporary society and to send their children and young wives to school.
Improved Radio Distance Learning Strategy: This is a learning strategy developed by the National Commission for Nomadic Education in 1996 to teach adult nomadic pastoralists via the radio. It was said to have been repositioned in 2010.
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