As of the last Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, MICS 6, Nigeria has children and adolescents aged 7-14 years, only 27 percent have foundational reading skills and 25 percent have foundational skills. Yet, opportunities continue to emerge through digital learning to improve digital literacy and reduce learning deficiency among Nigerian children.
The key to this remains digital learning. In Nigeria, children’s learning and educational milestones should be planned, and provided for using various methods, including digital platforms, to improve learning in order to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4, which aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote learning opportunities for all.
If getting digital learning was measured as non-compulsory, and not necessarily going to make or mar educational systems, that awareness changed drastically when COVID-19 broke out in 2020, that the reality of technology and digital learning to navigate children’s learning space was important to any educational system of the future. Not like this was completely new, but the reality knockout that much of the world prepared for at the time.
There has been rapid growth in education technology platforms and demand for skills and career opportunities Building an education technology with SDG 4 requires intentional efforts and collaboration across stakeholders and areas of work. The importance of digital learning has been advocated in different ways as opportunities continue to abound. However, solutions by these various agencies have designed their platforms to close the learning poverty and deficiency gap enabling continuous access to quality education.
One such platform is Nigeria Learning Passport, an online e-learning platform with mobile and offline capabilities that enables continuous access to quality education. It is highly flexible and adaptable, allowing states to easily and quickly adopt the platform as their learning management systems or use it to complement existing digital learning efforts.
The platform has been developed with a unique suite of online and offline functions that cater for deployment in places with poor connectivity – often locations where children find themselves unable to access quality digital education, tools and content.
“We have a huge number of out-of-school children and some who are in the school system are finding it difficult to understand what they are learning. This platform will help them listen, watch, learn and understand better what they are being taught in the classroom.
“It is a complementary platform used to boost the normal traditional learning system which we are using to reduce and address such issues, especially in places like Makoko and other suburbs,” said Adejare Afolabi, director, Policy/Planning/Research and Statistics, Ministry of Education, at a two-day media dialogue on Digital Learning Platforms, organised by the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Lagos State, in collaboration with UNICEF.
According to Afolabi, the state government had deployed NLP, an audio-visual system to complement the traditional learning method and with support from UNICEF, the state government had trained 3,000 facilitators and provided tablets for children, especially those living in hard-to-reach communities, increasing the user’s to 23,000 in the state.
“We are leveraging on the existing NLP, even teachers are incorporated in the system, as they have the opportunity on this platform to teach students by protecting the contents because children these days learn faster with audiovisual materials,” he explained.
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Another digital learning platform that is harnessing and providing an avenue for the youths to be technically inclined is Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, LSETF, a consortium committed to addressing these issues in various capacities, providing relevant support to entrepreneurs to create tangible jobs across the state.
Facilitate individuals’ employability through upskilling and job placement.
Facilitating enhancement of the operating and market conditions of MSMEs in Lagos State and driving innovation technology development with the goal of making Lagos State the technology hub of the continent.
Lagos State is the most populous State in Nigeria, with an estimated population of 21 million persons, with 64 percent making up the working-age. Lagos State is also the commercial capital of Nigeria and is home to 20 percent of MSMEs in the country. Lagos State also has a current unemployment rate of 14.6 percent and with a large portion of these mostly youths.
“With these untapped enormous demographic potentials, the State government through LSETF aims to engage in digital grassroots programmes to create wealth, especially for the youth, said Taiye Tunkarimu, head of communications, Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, LSETF, speaking, on the overview of “Youth Employment, Skilling, and Upskilling in Nigeria.”
According to her, 9 in 10 beneficiaries supported by the LSETF recorded increased capital since receiving training/funding. 72 percent of small business owners who benefited from the LSETF loans reported a positive impact on their business growth and personal life and 70 percent of the beneficiaries hired at least one person.
“We have done a digital grassroots programme with UNICEF, and we were able to train market people on how they can use the digital platform to promote their business, make gain and expand their customer base.
“We enable job and wealth creation in Lagos State through access to finance, access to infrastructure, vocational skills training, access to market as well as business support.
“UNICEF is our partner, and we have done a couple of training and engagements with them, including the digital literacy programme to train people at the grassroots.
“The training was on WhatsApp business, after which they were empowered with phones to promote their business and enhance their customer relations, all of this we did with UNICEF support,” she said.
Also Youth Agency Market Place, YOMA is another digital learning platform that has been increasingly helping young people to build and transform their futures with opportunities to grow, impact and thrive.
In 2020, young individuals were three times as likely to be unemployed as adults (ILO 2020). Many are not only facing a challenging present but also, an uncertain future. To meet the changing demands of the labour market, young people will need to be equipped with a set of skills and competencies to compete globally and locally, as well as have access to local and global job markets.
The concept of Yoma was developed by young Africans as a holistic approach to address skills development and employment challenges and increase youth agency across the globe.
According to Joannes Yimbesalu, programme specialist for UNICEF, YOMA, this platform is an ecosystem solution that links young people with opportunities, provided by a range of partners, such as private enterprises, social impact organisations and future employers.
“Using ethical and privacy-preserving machine learning algorithms, AI and psychometric tools, yoma identifies, nurtures and connects hidden talents and provides them with individualised learning-to-earning pathways. Throughout youth’s yoma journey they are able to develop market-relevant skills, build their portfolios and ultimately find employment.
“87 percent of Yoma users globally are Nigerian youth adding that, the digital platform gives them the opportunity to participate in learning, skilling, and social impact task and as they engage with these opportunities, they earn tokens which they can use to redeem on the Yoma marketplace for data and airtime and access to premium courses.
He stated that UNICEF is partnering with the government and private sector to give young people the capacity to build and transform their futures and be productive citizens
“We are passionate about young people and giving them the platform across Africa to be employable, and the key thing is promoting opportunities for these people.
“We need to create this awareness more to promote the opportunity, including in the rural communities, to enable them to be aware and access the opportunities for employment.
“One of the key things is about targeting the most marginalized, and the focus is working with key stakeholders and the media to ensure that no child is left behind,” he added.
Learning from other global educational systems and digital learning platforms, improving learning is critical to reducing out-of-school children in Nigeria, which is currently estimated by UNICEF, has increased from 10.5 million to 18.5 million in 2022 – that means, there are millions of good reasons to step up investment in education.
The support of key government stakeholders is critical to ensuring that the digital learning model becomes the standard for the majority of schools across Nigeria. However, more funding is required for such interventions to be integrated with other ongoing programmes done by these agencies. The platforms like Nigeria Learning Passport (NLP), Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) and Youth Agency Market Place (Yoma) demonstrated the importance of digital learning through technology in increasing access to good learning skills.
The benefits of these agencies’ interventions should be sustained and replicated more across states in Nigeria. meanwhile, the objective of the digital learning training according to Blessing Ejiofor, communication officer, UNICEF, stated that the programme is organized to spur the media to support advocacy on digital learning solutions for children and young people with a focus on bridging the digital divide, especially for girls and those in underserved and hard-to-reach communities.