Folasade (not her real name), a junior secondary school student, is glad of the opportunity to go through an online course on the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Law. She can use her mobile device either at home or at school. She feels uncomfortable when boys and girls in her school bully and beat other students. According to her, some of the girls are sexually harassed, and even when they report to their teachers, it does not stop the violation of the students.
Temitope (not his real name), a pupil in primary school, says boys and girls always play roughly in class. Sometimes, some of the boys and girls pick on others, and harass them until they start crying. This does not make school fun for him, and he does not want to go to school sometimes. He said he noticed that some of the boys and girls they picked on are quiet, withdrawn and they do not make friends easily. Temitope is thrilled about the VAPP law online learning platform. He wants to know how he can stop other kids from aggressive behaviours towards others. And even avoid playing with such rough boys and girls because he does not like how they make other children feel.
The initiative to use technology within the classroom environment has recently improved with the COVID-19 outbreak. Like governments in other states, Ondo State Government in south-west Nigeria made efforts to adopt remote learning in the wake of the pandemic. The learning environment is now more dynamic than ever. Schools are adopting a hybrid learning system to teach children and make the learning experience better than it was 20 years ago. However, Ondo State has not used such a platform to sensitise adolescents on the available laws and policies that directly affect them in the state.
Through the Global Equality Project (GEP), WFD is supporting the Ondo State Government to implement the VAPP law which was passed and assented in 2021. The intervention will deploy an online learning platform to teach students in both primary and secondary schools on the provisions of the law. This is in addition to the content of child protection and safeguarding policy, which will be enacted and adopted by all private and public schools in the state.
The online learning platform when finally developed will have a child friendly course for pupils aged 5-10 years. They will learn how to identify and avoid any form of violation, as well as identify potential perpetrators. A version of the course will also target adolescents. The course will not only teach them how to avoid and identify potential violators but also build their capacity to sensitise their peers about Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). Because no two students learn the same way, the learning platform will be self-paced, and will accommodate different categories of young learners. This is particularly important for students with special needs. The platform will optimise inclusive accessibility features that will make learning seamless for children with disabilities.
The online learning platform will allow educators to remove the physical barriers of the classroom. It offers students a way to connect the provisions of the VAPP law with the real world, leading to a richer and better understanding of the law.
Mrs. Fisayo Olasoji, a school proprietor in one of the private secondary schools in Ondo state, is looking forward to teaching adolescents about the VAPP law through the online course. She contrasted it with secondary education in her days as a student,
“There was no access to information on sexual and gender-based violence. What was obtainable was what was taught during basic science and biology classes which left no room to widen the scope of knowledge. With the introduction of this learning platform, students will be able to learn about government policies and even contribute to developing some of these policies as it directly affects all the students.”
She is also looking forward to working with parents to use the learning platform to enlighten the students. This is on the provision of the law and how to avoid any incidence of Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). She advised that for pupils in primary school: well-designed illustrations and graphics will help them understand the topic better.
With the deployment of the online learning platform, it is now easy to teach at least 7,000 teachers and 500,000 students in both primary and secondary schools on VAPP law. All learners will also get a certificate after completing the course. This would not have been possible if the trainings were conducted in-person. Finally, the platform will provide the opportunity for teachers – and especially students – to have a unique learning experience. One that goes beyond the scope of normal school curriculum. As a result, broadening their knowledge in other areas that can help them to grow as independent, wholesome adults.
Sola Folayan is the WFD Programme Manager in Nigeria