• Friday, July 19, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigerian varsities leverage service learning to bridge students’ skills gap

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With the global talent market becoming more flexible and technologically driven, educationists have said it was time Nigerian tertiary institutions embraced service learning to upskill students before sending them to the labour market.

According to Nubi Achebo, director of academic planning at the Nigerian University of Technology and Management (NUTM), Lagos, “Service learning is a form of experiential learning where students apply academic knowledge and critical thinking skills to address genuine societal challenges.”

Achebo explained that service learning was an educational approach where a student learns theories in the classroom and at the same time volunteers with local companies or social services while engaging in reflection activities to deepen their understanding of classroom teaching.

College volunteering helps students cognitively by enhancing their knowledge, growing from new experiences, and developing and improving interpersonal communication skills as well.

Students gain new work-related skills through community service, a better sense of social responsibility, and make a positive impact on their community.

Smason Adams, the 2023 best-graduating student of Pan-Atlantic University (PAU), Lagos, throwing his support to making service learning part of Nigeria’s tertiary institutions’ curriculum, said it was an ideal approach to skills acquisition if well managed.

“Service learning is going to be key to bridging the skill gap among students. However, it’s more of how it is managed.

“If it’s effectively managed and planned, it brings about holistic education. Working in industries is more of practical application; hence the idea of service learning helps inculcate creative and sustainable ways to proffer solutions to challenges,” he said.

Sharing his experience while in school, he said; “I joined a voluntary community service club, we went to local government areas, identify problems there, and proffer solutions to such problems.”

He reiterated that service learning develops teamwork and leadership. “If you are going to proffer solutions to a problem, it is going to require networking, polling ideas together towards a common goal,” he noted.

In a similar vein, Achebo explained that in the context of NUTM’s students, it involves collaborative projects with local communities to address specific challenges.

“For example, students might develop software solutions for local businesses, create educational technology tools for schools, or work on projects related to community development.

This not only enhances students’ technical abilities but also fosters a sense of social responsibility and engagement with the local community.

Overall, service learning in computer science programmes for the NUTM students bridges the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application, preparing students to contribute meaningfully to their communities.”