According to UNESCO, everyone, children, youth and adults alike, is entitled to basic education. So why are over 65 million Nigerians illiterate? And why do we have millions clamouring in vain to get into tertiary institutions yearly? The issues abound, but so are the opportunities. Perhaps, therefore, the question should be – how can Nigeria tackle the high level of illiteracy and work towards ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all?
On Thursday, May 4, 2017, Nigeria’s first ever policy forum on E-learning took place at the Oriental Hotel, Lagos. The objective of the event was to discuss the future of E-learning in higher institutions in Nigeria with the theme, Developing cross-sectional partnerships to promote E-learning in Nigerian HEIs. The forum was organised by Olawoyin Awosika School of Innovation Studies (OASIS), in collaboration with Afrigrants Resources Limited, Sterling Bank and UNICAF.
It was well attended by both public and private stakeholders in the educational sector, including Thelma Ekiyor, CEO of Afrigrants Resources, Abubakar Suleiman, executive director and chief financial officer at Sterling Bank, and a representative of the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, in the person of Lanre Osibona, the senior special assistant to the president on ICT.
Giving the welcome address, Professor Abiola Awosika, CEO of OASIS, implored all stakeholders present to bolster education by embracing technology. “Everyone must come along to this new age of working and learning, to create the right environment for human development, by putting progressive policies in place and constantly innovating,” she said. “If we continue to leave our youths out there without an anchor, without an education, we are asking for trouble.”
Abubakar Suleiman echoed the sentiments of Prof. Awosika. “This country will not exist in its current form unless we do something very dramatic about education. And this is not just about tertiary education or the certificate. We need to think about digital education and the value it creates across all levels of education,” he said. He further explained that those without access to education are the foundation for the crisis of the future that we face. “We have no basis to exist if the society that we are in becomes dysfunctional and a basis for a crisis that we cannot manage.”
Delivering the speech of the vice president, Mr. Osibona explained that technology and education are quite important to the government. “Technology is a big focus for this government. We understand its benefits and impact on job creation and information sharing. It is something we take so much interest in, and focus on.”
Excerpts from the speech of Vice President Osinbajo
“I’m delighted to be amongst you this morning to discuss and proffer solutions to the challenges in the educational sector. It is laudable that the average Nigerian family desires the highest level of education for their wards, resulting in unprecedented numbers of Nigerians seeking entry into institutions of higher learning.
However, many of these dreams are held up, if not outrightly rendered impossible simply because the spaces are just not there. The situation is not improved by merely accrediting more institutions or construction of more physical facilities as these are only short-term solutions and will prove insufficient in the future. So, now we must ask ourselves the hard question; how do we resolve this issue in a sustainable manner?
Globalisation and technology mixed together are redefining the perimeters of knowledge and potentials of humanity while offering our world new impetus and formidable agency for rapid transformation. Science and technology, for example, has re-dimensioned educational curriculum in a way that has delivered exponential transformation before our very eyes around the globe.
The most important aspect of E-learning is the opportunity it provides the learner to access quality education at their convenience, and from any location. Following on this, we, the stakeholders can attest that it is necessary for education in Nigeria to explore holistically how to use technology to enhance access, quality, and affordability.
The infrastructural requirement and capital-intensive nature of deploying it, and the disruptive changes it will cause in any institution deploying it, requires educators, policymakers, the private sector, and the students to come together to deliberate on how a conducive quality environment can be created for innovation in e-learning to thrive in Nigeria. And how our institutions can effectively adapt to technology to suit its effective curriculum.
Referencing the theme of this policy forum, developing cross-sectional partnerships to promote E-learning in Nigerian higher education institutions, it is clear that the government alone cannot transform higher education to meet the needs and aspiration of Nigerians; it must be collaborative.
Our initial contributions in the education sector were inherited from colonial times, but it is evident that we must chart our own course in education. The focus of education should be on the subject and lessons that encourage critical thinking and creativity. Therefore, it is worthy to mention that the government has taken steps in this path as part of the ongoing social investment program, the N-power project.
I commend the involvement of Sterling Bank in this forum and note that it is vital for the private sector to view investing in higher education with the same temerity as providing financial and social dividends. Social investments in education invest in both the individual and the well-being of the nation. I will implore more private sector participants to take an active interest in advancing higher education.
Today, the acquisition of wealth, power, or educational attainment, or influence is marked with success. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except that we are no longer concerned with the process and means of attaining success. As educators and policy makers, it is our obligation to set the moral and ethical standards that will define this new period that we are in; standards that emphasise integrity of the means by which success is attained, and what it means to be successful.”
Seeing technology’s significant influence in our daily lives, it only makes sense that we embrace it as a tool to improve education in the country. E-learning offers very exciting possibilities and has great potential for improving the population’s access to education. As Prof. Awosika explained during her speech on strengthening systems and structures for E-learning deployment in Nigeria, what it means is using technology to:
- Upskill teachers and graduates
- Equip critical government agencies for increased efficiency
- Create new ways of doing things that will enable Nigerians to innovate and leapfrog to the fourth industrial revolution, and
- Find creative ways of funding this digital development.
Although E-learning has its own challenges, it is expected that with more conversations and collaborative efforts like the E-learning policy forum, E-learning will proliferate Nigeria’s education sector in the coming years.
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