In today’s world, digital technology, scientific breakthroughs, and engineering feats continue to facilitate the development of nations around the world, so investing in good education and ensuring standard educational infrastructure should be a top priority for any progressive society.
These include libraries, equipment, and laboratories. Laboratories are the heartbeat of practical learning. They foster creativity, innovation, and critical thinking which bridges the gap between theoretical knowledge and real-world application. But are Nigerian students receiving the quality and quantity of experiential learning they need to compete on the global stage?
The current state
Over the years, Nigeria has seen a notable increase in the number of educational institutions established. However, the quantity of institutions does not equate to the quality provided. Many schools, particularly in the public sector, are plagued with challenges ranging from outdated lab equipment to the absence of functional laboratories.
Many institutions grapple with outdated or dilapidated infrastructure which hinders the delivery of cutting-edge experiential learning. The lack of modern equipment in labs means students miss out on hands-on experiences with advanced technology. Experiential learning is not just about having the equipment but integrating it into the curriculum effectively. So while some Nigerian schools excel in this integration, others struggle to align lab experiences with theoretical learning.
While some private institutions in Nigeria boast state-of-the-art laboratories, most public schools lag. This disparity creates a chasm between students who can afford to learn at schools with the best facilities and those who don’t. Consequently, we have a system where only a fraction of students get a chance at true experiential learning, while the majority are left grappling with outdated materials or pure theoretical knowledge.
Economically, this issue creates a ripple effect as it affects students and, subsequently, the nation’s development. A workforce that is not well-grounded in practical skills will struggle in a world driven by innovation. This will affect major sectors such as health, IT, and agriculture, among many others and stifle the country’s growth and ability to compete internationally.
Government Intervention: There’s a need for increased government budget allocation towards revamping educational facilities in federal and state schools.
Private Sector Partnership: Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) can play a significant role. Companies can sponsor labs or donate equipment in exchange for branding or tax breaks. They can also promote laboratory-based learning by establishing scholarships or grants specifically tailored for students who excel in practical courses, pushing more schools to prioritise experiential learning.
Engage the Diaspora: Nigerian professionals abroad can offer support, both in terms of funds and expertise, to help uplift the standard of labs in their alma maters or local schools. This can also be achieved by engaging in collaborative research. By linking Nigerian schools with professionals in the diaspora, students could gain remote access to better facilities and mentorship.
Continuous Training for Facilitators: Regular workshops and training sessions for lab facilitators can ensure they remain updated with the latest in their fields, ensuring they impart the students with the latest trends and facts relevant to their fields.
Adopting Modern Techniques: Virtual labs and online simulations can supplement physical labs, especially in places where resources are limited. This could work through the deployment of mobile labs; labs set up in vehicles that rotate between schools, serving multiple institutions with one set of resources.
For Nigeria to cement its place as the giant of Africa, investments in educational facilities are non-negotiable. With the right emphasis and investment, Nigerian students can enjoy an enriched, hands-on learning experience that sets them up for success in their respective fields.