The continued halt in academic activities due to insurgency in Nigeria’s North-East geopolitical zone is unmasking Nigeria’s technological deficiencies, specifically in the area of electronic learning, experts have said.
Scores of Nigerians have been killed in wanton acts of violence, including bomb attacks, kidnapping, and random shootings, been perpetuated by insurgents, across the North East region.
An independent assessment conducted by the Coalition of Civil Society Groups (CCSG) has determined that over 194,664 students have been forced to stay out of school due to insecurity.
Etuk Bassey Williams, president, CCSG, said that the shutdown of academic activities in the North East region will cause Nigeria to fail in meeting its 2015 benchmarks for primary school enrolment with less than 80 percent enrolment of school-aged children. Industry experts are of the view that by making use of e-learning platforms, these children could have access to quality and efficient education at home.
According to them, the country’s poor showing in the area of e-learning is due to faulty policy formulation, underdeveloped broadband infrastructure, low Personal Computer (PC) and device penetration, which constitutes significant drawbacks to the nationwide adoption of critical online services, such as e-schools, virtual classrooms, and information portals, amongst others.
E-learning however refers to the use of electronic media, educational technology and Information Communication Technology (ICT) in education. It also includes numerous types of media, which deliver text, audio, images, animation, and streamed video, and includes applications and processes such as audio or video tape, satellite television (TV), and computer-based learning, as well as local intranet/extranet and web-based learning.
With schools across the country expected to resume sessions after the New Year celebration, many children in the North-East, will remain at home with no hope of a better future.
Some education and technology experts have proposed the adoption of online education programmes in school curriculum as a viable tool in educating home-bound students especially in Nigeria’s troubled North East region.
An industry analyst who pleaded anonymity told BusinessDay yesterday that such novel proposals by the nation’s leading education and Information Communications Technology (ICT) practitioners are falling on deaf ears as the ministers of education and communications technology seem indifferent to the current educational crisis engulfing the country.
“We need to create electronic schools, and electronic learning (e-learning) platforms and effective strategies for these children. Government needs to bring teachers at all levels and technology experts together to brainstorm on how best to build tools based on technology to aid learning in crisis-ridden areas,” said Chris Uwaje, former president, Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), in an interview with BusinessDay.
Nigeria is facing one of the world’s worst learning crises and desperately needs to rethink education, according to industry experts. In October, Dipo Fashina, former president of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), declared Nigeria’s education system to be highly dysfunctional and in urgent need of transformation. “Education is the major thing that promotes being at the height of development and we are not there yet,” Fashina added.
As a result of rapid population growth, there are now more than 10 million out of school children in the country—one in five of the global total. Besides, being enrolled in Nigerian school does not guarantee access to decent education either.
This is down to lack of books and poorly trained teachers. The United Nations (UN) says that Nigeria needs almost 400,000 new teachers by next year, in order to achieve universal primary education. Experts say such requirements are huge, adding that traditional methods will be ineffective.
ICT makes it easier to reach students than traditional teaching methods. Nigeria’s telecoms industry has continued to record significant milestones after the successful liberalisation and deregulation of the sector in 2001.
The telecoms sector witnessed a quantum leap in the number of mobile subscribers from less than 500,000 active lines in year 2000 to 130 million active lines in 2014. On the contrary, the nation is still struggling to make the same impact in the area of broadband with Nigeria expected to end the year with an 8 percent penetration.
“Educational institutions are making use of increased penetration of broadband access to push learning beyond the confines of physical classrooms”, said Eugene Juwah, executive vice chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), in a report.
Titi Omo-Ettu, managing partner, Telecoms Answers Associates, says there is the need for ubiquitous broadband Internet access to make e-learning practicable and sustainable.
The field of online education platforms – once the exclusively preserve of large universities in the United States and Europe – has been opened up to African-inspired versions. Beni American University is Nigeria’s first online learning university, developed by Gossy Ukanwoke, a young entrepreneur with programmes specifically geared towards entrepreneurship and executive-level management.
MTN’s mAcademy is another online learning application, developed by South African operator, which has been rolled out in several African countries offering popular courses like Information Technology (IT), banking, and teaching, many of which are offered free or at the low cost of N100.00 per week.
The mAcademy platform, according to the company, has been endorsed by the West African Examination Council (WAEC). It is an example of a model which shows how online learning tools can be employed towards educating home-bound students in Nigeria’s North-East region even at the present time.