• Sunday, May 19, 2024
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The internet as a veritable tool for knowledge acquisition

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The former vice chancellor of the University of Lagos, Tolu Odugbemi, made a promise to the university community to provide students and staff on campus access to broadband internet facility. This was as far back as about four years ago. Three years and nothing was forthcoming on the promised project, but we kept our fingers crossed, knowing that politics is played in the ivory towers as well. We anticipated the day when we would be able to browse the internet from the comfort of our rooms and lecture halls. Finally, it became a dream come true in 2012. The university management, headed by the late Babatunde Sofoluwe, delivered on its promise by making the broadband service accessible to its final year and postgraduate students as well as the staff members. This constituted a little above one-quarter of the university population. It is, however, a commendable start and a sign of better things to come. This goes to say that students can access the service from the comfort of their rooms by simply logging in with their matriculation numbers and personalised passwords, while staff can do just the same from their offices.

It is no news that the internet is one of the greatest innovations of all time. Since its development by the United States Military Department, it has been a powerful tool for fast, efficient and cheap exchange of information between people and institutions in different parts of the world. There are several dozens of online courses, many of them offered free of charge, which students can take advantage of and gain international certifications in. In fact, this writer is currently an online student of the Harvard University free online school. You get to obtain a branded certificate on completion of your modules, tests, assignments, projects and examinations as you would in the usual real world institutions. However, to meet up with class and tests schedules, such a student must have access to ample internet service in order to download course lecture materials (if he cannot go through them real time online), turn in assignments in record time, et al. With the availability of internet service, he can do all these without any glitches. This also applies to students in universities and higher institutions other than the University of Lagos.

It is preposterous for the leadership class of the Ministry of Education and the National University Commission to expect our graduates to be anywhere near the advancement level of other countries when they pay lip service to the provision of vital and pivotal facilities. We want Nigerian graduates to be able to compete favourably with those from other universities as well as be globally relevant but the paraphernalia of quality education are denied them. A student colleague of mine recently represented Nigeria at a Global Agricultural Research event in Uruguay. While there, Olawale Ojo shared this with me on the Facebook social medium platform: “Uruguay has gone as far as having wireless internet service on their public buses. I wonder when Nigeria will get there.”

In some parts of the world, access to internet service has been enshrined in their constitution as part of their citizens’ fundamental human rights. This means as a citizen in such country, I have a right to sue my landlord or school management if I do not get internet service for my use. Moreover, I posit that any nation or educational system which does not highly prioritise the provision of internet facility to its learning class is only digging its grave. Sooner than we think, we would be doing almost all our human activities on the virtual space. Now we shop online, buy online, pay bills online, write exams online and get degrees online, amongst so many other things. Information technology is fast taking over from the archaic method of carrying out activities and this reality must be awakened to by our leaders. If an average Nigerian undergraduate is not information technology empowered, he would no doubt be a misfit for the workforce.

In Western countries, this awareness has been on for a long time now, which is why their youths have been the brains behind both web-based and non-web-based innovations. A handy paradigm is Mark Zuckerberg, the inventor of the largest social media platform, Facebook. He was a Harvard undergraduate when he created the platform and had abundant provision of the internet for his try-outs and test-running before he came up with the finished brand. How many local talents back at home have had to die of frustration simply because our leaders do not provide the enabling environment for fostering creativity and innovativeness?

 

JOSHUA OYENIYI

Oyeniyi is the first Nigerian student protege of American writer and speaker, Willie Jolley

 

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