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More than 4,010 teachers in Osun State have so far benefitted from a special re-training programme packaged by an Israeli firm, Skill 'G' Nigeria Ltd, for science and mathematics teachers in the state.

The re-training programme, fully funded by the state government, is aimed at enhancing the quality of teachers and the performance of pupils, especially in maths and other science subjects.

One of the beneficiaries of the re-training exercise, a secondary school teacher at the Baptist Primary School, Ikire, Pastor Sola Adeboye, attending the programme for the first time, affirms the benefits of the programme.

'It is a blessing to all the teachers and pupils in the state. The standard of education will surely improve because we have been exposed to so many new things and have also learnt new ways of imparting knowledge to our pupils,'' he told our correspondent at the end of his training session on Friday.

Another teacher, Mrs. Caroline Akijogbe, of the Comprehensive High School, Osogbo, also a first-time attendee, expressed joy and satisfaction as she shared her experience with her colleagues at the passing -out ceremony. 'I came in here at the beginning of the week as a teacher who could barely understand the use of the different micro-science kits in our school but I am now a well-informed teacher. I can proudly say that I am now exposed to modern ways of teaching and nothing can compare to this experience. It will definitely have a positive impact on my pupils,'' she said.

The state government brings together at least 100 science and maths teachers from all the local government areas in the state to its resource centre and trains them on modern methods of teaching every week. The centre is well-equipped with modern learning materials and relevant literature on all kinds of science subjects. Most of the literature are imported materials.

During the one week training, the teachers are taught how to use the 78 lab-less kits or micro science kits in the state's 350 secondary schools and 229 junior schools. Primary school teachers are not left out of the re-training exercise. For primary schools, there are kits that can aid quick understanding of simple additions, subtraction and divisions.

In addition to the science kits in its secondary schools, there are 28 science and 22 mathematics kits for primary school pupils.

The state government's target, according to the director of the centre, Alhaji A.A Haminu, is to train all the 4,728 science teachers in public schools in the first phase of the project. Adeboye and Akijogbe were part of the 47th set of teachers so far trained since the programme started a year and two weeks ago. Haminu said the aim of the project was to impove on the quality of the teachers both technically and educationally. 'It is a train-the trainer workshop. They have the manuals and the notes and they are free to return to the centre anytime to seek further clarification. The science kits are just to expose the teachers to modern teaching methods to enhance their pupils' assimilation. They are not replacing the usual laboratories in these schools.'

The teachers are trained by instructors, who are all indigenes of the state, employed by Skill 'G' Nig. Ltd, an Israeli firm that is in partnership with the state government on the project.

Spokesperson for the state governor, Mr. Lasisi Olagunju, said the initiative was part of 'Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola No Child Should be Left Behind' project. He told our correspondent that the state government was determined to provide standard and qualitative education and make its public schools more competitive.

Apart from boosting science education, the state through its Board for Technical and Vocational Education, is also working on re-defining technical education. Towards this end, it has decided to renovate all its nine technical colleges.

This move, according to Skill 'G', is borne out of the need to respond to Nigeria's industry and economy through technology and science education.

The Academic Director of Amal Group, which supervises Skill 'G', Mr. Amir Hendel-Inbal, believes what is happening in Osun State is a revolution, 'I strongly believe that other states in Nigeria will soon follow the state model,' he said.

The Amal Group is Israeli equivalent of the National Business and Technical Education Board. It oversees the management of 103 technical schools in Israel. It is handling the academic aspect of the project which includes capacity building.

The group, Hendel-Inbal observed, had always looked one step ahead in developing and keeping its courses up-to-date in the most needed technology fields to the corresponding market.

The Regional Coordinator of Skill 'G', Mr. Julius Ayo- Bada, said by the time the firm finished its contract in the first quarter of 2011, technical education would have become more attractive to pupils in the state in particular and in the country in general.

'This is a logical way of boosting the standard of education in the state. By the time we finish renovating the technical colleges; entrance examinations to the colleges will be competitive. We need more awareness on the importance of technology education,' Ayo-Bada said.

Skill 'G' is taking selected teachers through three stages of training that is expected to last for six months. The training will start on December 1. Ayo-Bada said leading Israeli technical teachers would train local instructors in the state and also give them pedagogic support.

Though the Israeli trainers will base their programme on the existing school curriculum in the state, it will find a way of upgrading and modernising the curriculum

'We will assist the state government in recruiting instructors for all its technical colleges. The state is trying to build education institutes that are suitable for teenagers, institutions that will be leading technological training centres. We believe graduates of the technical colleges will be competitive after completing their studies here and they can proceed to either the university or the polytechnic for further studies,'' he said.

Programmes currently being run in the technical colleges include Business Studies, Fabrication and Welding, Fitting and Machinery, Block Laying and Concreting. Graduates either obtain the National Technical Certificate after their studies or the National Business Certificate.

Apart from JSS 3 graduates who can apply for admission, Ayo-Bada said polytechnic and university graduates and others could enrol in any of the colleges to gain practical experience.

He said the state would assist graduates of the colleges with soft loans to start their own businesses. According to him, the state House of Assembly is already working on a bill that will make this possible.

The Chairman, Osun State Board for Technical and Vocation Education, Prof. Olu Aina, said 34 workshops, fully equipped with cutting edge tools and machinery, would be put in place in all its technical colleges located in Osogbo, Ile-Ife, Iwo, Ijebu-Ijesha, Inisha, Otan Ayagbaju, Osu, Ara and Gbongan.

He said the board would collaborate with Skill 'G' to take technical vocational education in the state to a new level.

To do this, he said 34 trade areas had been upgraded to produce technicians at master craft level which is a step above the national norm, thus making the state's offerings internationally-competitive.

As part of its contract, Skill 'G' in agreement with the board, has commissioned the writing and publication of textbooks and teachers' guide in the 34 trade areas.

Aina said the board would introduce a new pedagogical approach to the delivery of the curricula that would make pupils find their own solutions by asking the right questions.

To achieve this, he said, henceforth, only suitable and interested candidates with appropriate aptitude would be admitted to technical colleges to make products confident and highly skilled.

As a corollary to making them confident upon graduation, he said, 'We have decided to introduce entrepreneurial studies and make it compulsory for all pupils of our technical colleges.'

He added that the board would create a data base for the graduates of the state's technical colleges and follow up their upward mobility on the job as well as in other studies. 'This will enable us to continuously improve on our service delivery.'

The technical colleges, according to Aina, will run two shifts from the 2011 academic year. 'While the morning session will be for the regular pupils, the afternoon shift will be for adults who would like to acquire a skill; the afternoon session will be fee-paying. Income thus generated will be used to sustain the project,' he explained