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#SaveEducationInNigeria: Group Seeks to Revamp Education Through Technology

By: Aishat Babatunde

When some time last year a youth-driven campaign was launched on the internet, some doubting Thomases could only vituperate and see it as another social media rant like they did the Not-too-young-to-run campaign. But this time around, its goal is not tilted towards the youths’ involvement in politics, rather a call of duty to salvage the seemingly irredeemable Nigerian educational system. Thus, this movement was labelled #SaveEducationInNigeria. Its evolution started when a then fresh law graduate, Oredola Ibrahim and a few colleagues – all with problem-solving skills – from the Premiere University, the University of Ibadan, envisaged that if the rot in the stem of development in the educational sector was not carefully taken care of, we could be sure that development would not seep through the root of the system. That is to say, it would remain to be like the rot-infested plant during harvest period which is a farmer’s bane.

It is no gainsaying that Nigeria (a sleeping giantess) in recent years, has seemingly drifted from her state of slumber to what some have critically observed as ‘coma’ in the management of her affairs, especially in the area of education. This is evident in her 2018 budget as 7% was allocated to education as against the 26% recommended by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as the budgetary benchmark for nations of the world. This could be said to surmount to the falling standard of education in the country as it continues to debilitate the educational sector and there seems no hope of a beam at the end of the tunnel.

In a pre-lecture release, Oredola Ibrahim, the convener of the #SaveEducationInNigeria Campaign, had lamented: “a 2017 report recently published by the National Bureau of Statistics has it that over 45.61 million people are either unemployed or underemployed. While over 1.8 million young people enter the job market every year from our various educational institutions, different reports have concluded that about 80% of these are sadly unemployable. No doubt, lack of quality education is one of the major factors responsible for the current employment crisis rocking the nation. And nothing makes it more ridiculous than to see a government that proposed to allocate a meagre 7.04% out of a total budgeted amount of ₦8.612 trillion 2018 budget to come out to state that it would declare a state of emergency in the education sector by April without unveiling any strategic plans to implement such.

 

“Amidst all these systemic errors and policy misadventures, it is evident that the state and various actors in the education sector are yet to fully embrace the opportunities technology has to offer in salvaging the nation’s education system from the mess it has been plunged into as a result of bad leadership and policies. However, we believe technology has an important role to play in getting us out of this mess and most especially in learning connection and in making the system homely for the coming generation of digital natives – the iGeneration.

 

“We believe technology can be a force multiplier for school learning by providing alternatives sources of help to classroom education. We believe it can further help bridge the huge gap between tutors and learners through emailing and online learning collaboration platforms. While many university administrators has turned ‘poor government funding’ to an anthem they passionately sing as an excuse for the way our learning institutions have turned out to be, technology can help us save a lot of money by giving us cheaper alternatives like emailing, electronic textbooks and soft documents instead of printed documents and course materials; virtual libraries instead of huge library building that are expensive to maintain;  virtual professional development seminars and conferences instead of wasting resources on overseas’ travelling all in the name of staff development among many other effective alternatives. And we might even be able to reduce save a great portion of the ₦1.5 trillion we spend on education tourism annually,” he added.

He concluded that “to save our education through technology requires commitment and synchronization of efforts from all stak

eholders in the sector – government officials, school administrators, students, parents, technologists, edupreneurs, activists, reporters and so on. That is why the #SEIN campaign is launching the mini-lecture series as a platform where all these group of people can come together to discuss, share and implement ideas that employ technology in making our education more fit for purpose”.

Luckily, the group in its avowed commitment to change the status quo of the educational system came up with a sensitisation programme aside the online campaign for stakeholders in the sector, especially the youth in making bold steps and measures to help rejig the lost educational glory the country was once boastful of in the ‘60s.

 

The D-day was on a beautiful Tuesday, 27th of March, 2018 occasioned at the Nation Builders Centre, Pope John Paul II Building, University of Ibadan.  The day was radiantly flushed in delight of the timely torrential downpours. And as if in a league with the jinx-breaking event, the grass was greener.  Young minds with ardent fulcra for dear country etched on their faces gathered to garner enough problem-solving tactics to tackle the monstrous challenges the system is laden with. The challenges, like the monster created by the eponymous character in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, seem to be self-indicted. This implies they are created by those in control of the sector.

 

The lead presenter of the occasion, Mr. Habeeb Kolade, an alumnus of both the University of Ibadan and African Leadership Academy who is currently the Growth Manager of Insight Africa – a company that designs and creates innovative learning resources that help prepare African students for an exceptional career in science, technology and engineering – intimated the audience with the event’s theme: Saving Nigeria’s Education Through Technology. He sought to know from the audience the position of the country’s educational system in terms of ‘teacher remuneration, policies, access, funding, infrastructure, curriculum, teaching methods, and standard of education’ as these are yardsticks for an internationally recognised quality education.

“There has to be a lot of refining the education to help with our current challenges in the country because if someone is leaving a university, there should be some place he has to go after school; but because they are not learning for the environment or the environment they are learning for is out-dated. Then, there will become an issue between the town and the gown.

“What we have to do is to first identify and understand what exactly is our problem; and persistence because things have been the way they are for a long time, we can’t just come one day to change everything; it requires hard-work and money. Whether technology-inclined or basic issue, there is a lot to be done,” he explained.

He hinted the audience on the raison d’etre and significance of the sensitisation programme, stating that “the quality of the educational system has a direct impact on the quality of jobs that are available to Nigerian youths. They will eventually settle for jobs that are below their academic qualifications or pursue entirely differently career paths that require less professional expertise”.

He highlighted its importance as an eye-opener in areas of leadership, innovation, jobs and productivity.

“When a larger percentage of the labour force is under-skilled, the level of productivity of the labour force significantly drops and the economy barely reaches its full potential. Compared with US$19.68/hr in South Africa and US$29.34/hr in Turkey, the average productivity of a worker in Nigeria (US$3.24/hr) is very low. Nigeria needs to invest in quality education and skills acquisition training for undergraduates, so as to increase the value they add to their new employers and to the economy at large,” he expressed.

He suggested technology to be relevant to the educational system in terms of innovation which creates hybrid solution; scale of operation; sustainable development; functionality; capital intensity; price-performance; low adoption processes among few others.

 

Another speaker at the event, Mr Oluwaseun Adepoju, the Founder of TECHmIT, bemoaned the current state of the educational system as nothing to write home about. He frowned at the same old methods lecturers of tertiary institutions employ in the teaching process. He advocated a ‘self-based’ pattern of education where self-discovery preponderates the mass-produced education we have in Nigeria.

“Nigeria’s education is in a state of stupor, not of reality. Now, self-discovery is the new bachelor’s degree, self-development the new Masters’ degree.”

He proffered that there was a “need to change our value system before even considering technology because what buoys technology – electricity – we don’t even have yet.”

Taking the example of Germany and its nationalistic view, Mr Adeola Adelabu, the Speaker of Oyo State Youth Assembly, explained that the Germans have been able to develop by adopting the internal dependency concept. He also asked that youths present start imbibing the culture of independence and nationalistic view of development. According to him, to fully develop, we need to reach a point of complexity where we oppose degenerative systems.

Upon being asked about the problems with the educational system in Nigeria, the CEO, ePower, Mr Gbenga Ogunbowale said with vibrancy, “there are several things wrong with the educational system in Nigeria. First, most of the people who are key stakeholders and decision makers in the educational system are people who have been outside the country and have seen the way things are done outside the country. But consciously or consciously, they have decided to not innovate.

“There is a conspiracy by the elites to keep the Nigerian youth dull and impoverished. Another problem is the fact that it is archaic. Some of the curricula were written 20 or 30 years ago. We don’t bring in new technologies or innovations into the classroom. Then, the educational system in Nigeria teaches people to seek for jobs and not create jobs; and unfortunately, we are churning out unemployable graduates. I have had first-hand experience with people who want to work at e-power who have distinction or first class but cannot express themselves.”

He harped on personalised learning, limitless option, affordability, comfortability, expression as solutions.  For it not to be a lip service, he admonished that “if only we could take more action than making empty promises, we would be on our way to where we want to get to. Can we just stop talking and take action already?”

 

On language improvement as a tool for saving education in Nigeria, Mr Saheed Oladele – the CEO of Erudite Millennium and the Founder of Save My African Language – posited that through some technological tools, education be rendered in mother tongues with visuals to explain explicitly concepts in all subjects.

He noted that though there might not be currently enough materials in the mother tongues to form new vocabularies that would explain the concepts in all subjects.

“We don’t have currently but we can make it happen. And those that can make it happen are here in U.I, Unilag, UNN. It is just about government engaging those people. They will be the ones to train those who will train the next generations of trainers. We are not going to get it once, it will be a gradual process,” he enthused.

He also posited that technology has to be applied in every sector. Sighting the example of communication, he said that the teaching of oral English has to be practical and that learning will be easier when we become practical with it.

When asked if Nigeria is ready to join developed countries such as Finland, Netherland, Singapore in advancing her educational system technologically, the three speakers shared likeable views on it. Mr Oladele said Nigeria “does not seem ready for that but we just have to encourage people and make it happen. Nigeria is ready if we really want to do it. Our government has different priorities”.

 

Meanwhile, an attendee who also is the current President of the Union of Campus Journalists, University of Ibadan, Mr John Akinteye lauded the initiative behind the programme. In his words, “it was enriching. It has exposed the rot of our educational system. Technology could help but the changes cannot happen overnight; it has to be gradual. It may not even happen at all if people do not embrace technology.”

In a post event interview, Mr. Adeoye David – a post graduate student of the University of Ibadan and one of the organisers of the event – appreciated both the speakers and audience for their presence and contributions at the event. While he is also of the opinion that there is a lot to be done in the task of salvaging Nigeria’s education, he expressed that it will take time to get it right. According to him, “We know this is a great task. We know it will take us a lot of time and resources to be successful with this campaign but we are ready to give it a shot.  Not because we are jobless but because we don’t want to be cursed by the coming generation as we are angry with the older generation that brought us to this mess. As a movement, we will keep this platform open for discussion just as we will be embarking on various projects to walk the talk. We are hereby calling on stakeholders and the general community to work with us in making Nigeria’s education decent and desirable.”

The event also featured a roundtable discussion with panellists who were mostly ex-students of the school. The curtain of the programme was drawn at 4 pm with a photo-taking session coming last for the day.

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