The true future of Nigeria is its youth, particularly if they are given robust intellectual, physical and spiritual formation. Ideas generated from their knowledge and machines they design, make or tinker with, are far more important to Nigeria’s progress than the vast natural resources buried underneath Nigeria.
To varying degrees, in the north, south, east and west of Nigeria, this wealth of Nigeria is being neglected. Lured by the promise of quick money, a willing army of cultists, militants, kidnappers and terrorists is being groomed.
Thankfully, some state governors are exploring various ways to educate their growing school-age population.
Take Rauf Aregbesola, governor of Osun State. Opon Imo, Tablet of Knowledge, is a device the government of Osun State plans to distribute free to 150,000 secondary school students in its public schools is a commendable novelty.
Opon Imo is loaded with textbooks, tutorials, tests and Tetris. Part of its innovativeness lies in the use of technology to democratise and complement education. The device will not only get students to learn outside of the class the procurement costs it will save can be allocated elsewhere.
Such a device offers several advantages, coupled with the latest technology it has been ‘tropicalised’ it is designed to tackle local learning problems with modern technology. For instance, the device is solar powered and students can learn at their own pace.
This approach: harnessing technology to allow students to learn at their own rate and away from the school was pioneered by Khan Academy, a not-for-profit organisation based in the US. Students with a computer and internet access can connect to Khan Academy’s library of videos, interactive challenges and assessments with real-time reports on their performance. But unlike the US, most Nigerians first access to the internet will be through a handheld device: a smartphone or a tablet. Opon Imo, thus exemplifies thinking global and acting local.
Digital media is changing what and how people learn; an informal knowledge society is emerging. Nigerians may not be found with books but their mobile phones are always handy. They are engaged, sharing and chatting on social networks, scrolling, staring, at the screen or earphones plugged in, listening to music or the radio.
Learning is no longer dependent on teacher, time, location and situation. The role of teachers, too, will change. A UNESCO paper: Education and skills for inclusive and sustainable development beyond 2015 notes that teachers will change from “dispensers of information and knowledge to facilitators and enablers of learning.”
Work-based learning, vocational skills (learning by doing at the school and at work), internships and apprenticeship are gaining popularity worldwide. Even so, literacy and numeracy are the bedrock of this process of life-long learning.
Though literacy and numeracy matter, the methods of learning are changing. Development in education in this digital age must equip people with adequate media literacy and requisite skills.
Perhaps, Opon Imo, because of its digital format, will better anticipate change. Flexible and diversified educational policies like Opon Imo allow for easy adaptation to the demand for new skills. As new skills are identified curricula and tests can be revised and updated to match skill demands and supply.