By Tunde Uchegbuo
The demand for safe and convenient experience in financial transactions globally led to the revolution in financial technology, which has irreversibly changed delivery of financial services through cutting-edge technologies.
Today, people can engage in all manner of financial transactions across the globe on a digital device without physically being present.
Another visible impact of information technology is in the education sector is the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognizes that technological advances have made it possible to study at distance.
The UNESCO position was corroborated by the Forbes Technology Council which agrees that technology is being used in different ways to enhance access and availability of education across the globe.
Recent polls reveals that 75% of educators believe that digital content will replace textbooks by the year 2026. Today, there are different platforms through which more people are accessing education outside the traditional classroom environment.
Education and training in different skills can now be delivered through digital resources using Classroom Management Systems in a process known as e-learning. With a CMS and a web browser, students can log in from anywhere in the world to access lecture materials and also interact with one another.
Universities and training institutions have options to choose from, but the different CMS platforms share similar features that enables lectures to be delivered live, and in real time like in a traditional classrooms regardless of the learner’s location. The teacher can equally grade students’ participation, and administer assignments and tests.
Nowadays, people are leveraging on cutting-edge technologies to acquire education online even in the comfort of their homes. As a result, Nigeria’s decision to leverage on digital technologies to expand access to education to its citizens is a welcome development, even though it is a decision of circumstance.
The Minister’s directive to vice-chancellors and heads of other tertiary institutions to activate their virtual learning environment to enable their students to continue their studies through digital devices has opened the Pandora’s box of failures in Nigeria.
First, the minister’s revelation that the federal government is speaking with the World Bank and UNICEF on how to create platforms for virtual learning exposes how far behind Nigeria is in the application of information technology in a world driven by digital revolution.
Second, the directive to the Universal Basic Education Commission to work out modalities on how primary school pupils and secondary students could learn by using radio and television stations makes the proposed switch to E-learning ridiculous, and further shows how disconnect the Minister is with the death of infrastructure in Nigeria.
Professor Akinfeleye, department of mass communication University of Lagos, and a member of World Journalism Education Council, spoke in reaction to the directive by the education minister directing universities and other tertiary institutions to commence virtual learning.
”The planned switch to E-learning is a sweet talk that cannot be implemented now. The directive cannot hold sway owing to lack of necessary infrastructure”, he emphasized.
For a country that is still engulfed in electricity generation and distribution crisis, and little or total lack of ICT infrastructure at all the levels of its public schools; high cost of electricity and internet services at the rate they are currently charged by the telecommunication service providers will surely be serious hurdles to surmount.
The identified problems should be tackled first, since they are the vehicles on which the E-learning programme will run on.
To worsen matters, the government is proposing to cut over 50 billion Naira from the 2020 budget to the ailing education sector because of the Coronavirus pandemic, but left the allocations to the National Assemblies, the Presidency and the school feeding programme untouched.
Worse still, how digitally compliant are the lecturers that will develop and deliver the content when many of them still take their results to business centres for computation, and resist keyboard literacy test as part of promotion to their new grades.
We suggest, rather than hurrying to reopen schools without the fundamental structures for the virtual classrooms, let there be a transition period of two months to build the capacity of the lecturers to become digitally compliance, build infrastructure and negotiate with telecommunication service providers on how internet rate could be subsidized reasonably for every student, and make provision for affordable solar powered technology that will augment the epileptic power supply experienced in most parts of the country. It will also afford parents and guardians the leeway to provide digital devices for their children.
As we wait for the above, the next option now is to transmit the scheme of work to the students through their mobile phones so that they could be academically engaged at home, while laboratory practical will come up when the COVID-19 pandemic would have been ‘quarantined’.