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 There’s Need To Enhance English Language Proficiency In Nigerian Teachers, Says British Council’s Onyemerela

He said the end goal is better learning outcomes for students.

 British Council’s Director of Programmes (Nigeria), Chikodi Onyemerela, has said that there is a need for Nigerian teachers to enhance proficiency in the speaking of English Language.

Onyemerela made this statement in an interview with ARISE NEWS on Thursday while he spoke on the Strengthen English Language Proficiency (STEP) programme that is currently being implemented in five  Northern Nigerian States – Kaduna, Kano, Jigawa, Zamfara and Katsina – in order to improve the spoken English of teachers.

The director of programmes said, “If you are proficient in the use of the language, (English) there is, you know, every evidence that you can be able to deliver other subjects effectively, and then you get the desired outcome.”

Speaking on the impact that the programme currently has, Onyemerela said that the programme had proved so effective that the Universal Basic Education Commission had scaled up the program to reach all the states of Nigeria. 

He said, “In terms of impact, you know, because of how effective the programme is, the Strengthen Teachers’ English Proficiency, STEP for short, we did 3,000 teachers initially. And in all fairness, the Kaduna state government investigated the nature of the programme and saw how effective it is on the teachers that went through it and decided to scale it up and funded an additional 6,000, making it a total of 9,000 in Kaduna state.

“The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) saw the effectiveness of the STEP programme and obviously the importance of effective use of English for teachers and its implication on the learning outcome, and decided to now scale up the STEP programme across the entire country- 36 states and the FCT.  Just a week plus ago, we were in Lagos to flag it off. Four master trainers per state of the country- a total of 150. And these master trainers now go ahead and deliver the training across all the states in the country.”

Onyemerela then said that while this program was widely appreciated by the teachers and the government, the main cause and end goal for the program was to ensure better learning outcome from the students, saying, “The teachers’ appreciated it, the government appreciated it, and then the ultimate, in all fairness let’s be clear about this. This is the teachers but evidence abounds that you get the teachers right, you get the students right. So, this is about the students, in as much that yes, our entry point is the teachers, but our ultimate is for learning outcome from the students.”

When asked how teachers were selected to participate in the programme, Onyemerela said, “We go through the government and they do the nomination. And in all fairness, there has been an even distribution from what we see. Both people in urban and then people in the rural areas.” 

However, he spoke on the challenges that were currently being faced by the council in the implementation of this programme, saying, “Most programmes, both capacity building and implementation has element of digital, you know digital utilization, mainstreaming, dissemination and all of that. And as a matter of fact, our English portfolio has 3 strands. STEP is only one, the next is what we call STRIDE, then the other, SPRINT. 

The challenge of continuing the next level in the programme requires the use of digital tools and when we are talking about digital tools, mainly computers, mobile phones and the internet, and when you talk about the internet, you know what I mean in terms of how internet integration into the rural economies are. In essence, it will be difficult for rural teachers to access the internet and the cost of data. And so, internet and cost of data, to complete the whole cycle of the programme continues to remain a challenge. And this is what stakeholders, both at government level and at institutional level, should help with.”

When asked what the success of the STEP programme will look like to him, Onyemerela said that the success for the programme is “multi-pronged.” He said, “We are saying that on transition to English medium, the effective transition and use of English language for the senior use of Education, be it Junior Secondary to Senior Secondary and then obviously to university, and then again for you talking to me in English language, we are saying effective use of it is success for us. 

“It’s also success for us in the fact that if our children can communicate effectively in this international language, their chances of international mobility is increased. Their chances of securing international jobs is also increased because they have effective command of this language. And success for us will also obviously be from the point of view of our initial target beneficiary which are the teachers. And it is for teachers to now be confident, you know, to be able to communicate effectively.”

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi