Education Technology: Exploring opportunities, challenges before Nigeria

, Magazine

By Emmanuel Egobiambu
Technologies, dating back to hundreds of years, have played pivotal roles in the development of the human race.  The impact of technological advancements in societies cut across diverse sectors like health, business, religious, et al.

The goal of education and learning is to produce individuals who will contribute meaningfully to the growth of society.

And just as these technological tools are evolving by the day, they are becoming increasingly a big part of the learning process.

This is even more appealing as the adoption of different technologies has made learning easy on one hand, and also cheaper on the other side.

What Is Education Technology (EdTech)?

In a simple term, it is any technology that helps education; the learning and teaching experience. Even though many stakeholders in the sector are skeptical of adopting modern technological tools to teaching and learning, technology has proven to be the game-changer.

Technology: Penetrating Deeper, Pulling Down Walls

Technological breakthroughs have taken strong roots in the country little wonder Nigeria has one of the highest users of the social media platform Facebook.

Available data reveal that there are 17 million persons connected to Facebook with over 98.39 million having access to the internet in the West African nation, according to The Global State of Digital report in 2019.

In 2016, Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg was in Nigeria where he reiterated how technologies can be exploited to improve lives across diverse sectors.

He shared stories of how using technologies have transformed businesses, education, health and other sectors.

According to the United Nations, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Sha Zukang, “ICT and innovation can open up new opportunities for both expanding the reach and improving the quality of education in developing regions, by providing practical and enabling solutions to current problems.”

A Nigerian educational body, Edu Trust, is hanging its hopes on the development of education on technology.

It noted, however, that “Digitization is not only about internet access. It includes formats that enable [the] majority of the people to access resources including radio and TV, recorded lectures.

“Digitization breaks down the four walls of the classroom and brings education closer to the people.”

EdTech: Nigerian Government Taking Lead

Expectedly, the Nigerian government is keying into technologies for the development of the educational sector.
In 2001, it created the National Information Development Agency to spread the National Information Policy.

Also, in 2017, the Federal Ministry of Education organized the Skool Media Start-Up workshop and capacity building for some Federal Unity Colleges (FUCs) in Abuja.
It was meant to help bridge the gap in learning through the adoption of relevant technological tools.

“It [ICT] has redefined efficiency and productivity and changed the dynamics of the world of work,” the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Sonny Echono said during the programme.

“It has also expanded social networking beyond borders and introduced new paradigms in education delivery and administration.”

Technology: Education Now Democratized

The growth of technology has brought a new dimension in learning – online education. About 30 years ago, the idea of distance learning in Nigeria was only a dream.
Today, Nigerians through the internet, access courses in top universities in the world without moving an inch!

There are now hundreds of thousands of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). It is not just the open learning centres that offer courses to students; even the conventional universities have now embraced this trend.
Some universities like the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), University of Uyo (UNIUYO), University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) and a host of others, now offer online courses for its students.

Aside from these schools, many Nigerians with their laptops and mobile devices and an internet connection, now host courses on online learning sites where millions of students pay, and in some cases, access them for free. While enumerating the disruptive power of technologies in education, Funmi Adebajo of Kindle Africa described them as the bedrock of education.

According to her, “electronic technologies have greatly impacted education around the world, but in Nigeria, we have incorporated ICT into the educational curriculum for secondary schools in the 2004 edition of the National Policy on Education. “The use of ICT in education has enhanced teaching, learning and research in Nigeria’s education system, especially in terms of improvement of access and delivery of education.

“In recent times, online courses have proven to be very effective because it provides a low-cost alternative to higher education for Nigeria’s teeming youths.”

Nigeria Still Miles Behind in Adopting Technologies for Learning

Despite the growing usage of technology to education the world over, Nigeria is still crawling; not fully tapping its huge potentials.

Nigeria’s “Queen of Online Courses,” Stephanie Obi, while lamenting the untapped potentials of technologies in education, noted that online education is globally valued at “$107 Billion and is projected to keep growing, but in Africa, we haven’t scratched the surface because we don’t even know that this opportunity exists.”

Stephanie’s claim is not restricted to online learning but a reflection of the many hurdles facing the adoption of technological tools in education. Nigeria is currently behind South Africa, Kenya and other African nations in the adoption and use of these tools.

There is a high level of skepticism on the adoption of technology in the county as many still believe that it will take over people’s jobs. At other times, those who use them are even seen as “lazy” people who lack the depth to discharge their educational duties.

Infrastructure: Hurdle Too High To Scale?  

Also, technologies require the right infrastructure to function and sadly, Nigeria, at least for now, does not have them enough.  
Currently, the country generates about 5,000 megawatts of electricity for its citizens, a far cry from what the nation needs to propel growth.

Technology requires power supply to function and although a few ICT hubs are solving this problem, there is still much to be done.

The lack of basic infrastructure like power makes it highly ineffective to use technologies for education.  Hundreds of public schools do not have power supply in their classrooms.

Technology Is Expensive  

The assertion that “Technology is expensive” cannot be truer than it is in Nigeria. Think about the cost of purchasing laptops, tablets, and a lot more and then the true picture emerges!

How many students or schools can afford these when on an average, a Nigerian lives on about $1 per day? While some private learning institutions in Nigeria are harnessing the power of technology in learning, it often comes at a higher cost.

According to a Goldman Sachs report in 2016, global investments in China’s EdTech companies climbed to $1.2 billion. This is expected to have a 20 per cent yearly growth.

Ironically, this is not the case with African countries and Nigeria in particular.  Sub-Saharan Africa is not known for the production of these technological tools, they depend on the West for importation which is financially draining at the least.

Corroborating this, an Educationist and Engineer, Oyin Egbeyemi said, “ it is (educational tech) expensive to deliver; and given other running costs that school administrators incur (e.g. electricity, water, educational materials, certification, etc.), including the additional cost of technological initiatives puts pressure on the operational effectiveness of running the schools.”

Aside from this, internet connectivity has become a major pain point in the usage of technological tools in education. Even with the increased internet connectivity in Nigeria, data is still not cheap for the average Nigerian student.

While buttressing this, the Founder of Edusko, Jide Ayegbusi, said that with a huge part of the country’s burgeoning population living in poverty, “we can expect that only a very few privileged would be able to use technology.”

The increased cost of data means limited access to a variety of educational materials provided in several formats like photos, audio, videos et al.

Skill Deficit Remain Knotty Issue

Technical know-how equally remains a knotty issue in the adoption of technology in learning and teaching.

In instances where schools have the needed facilities to incorporate technology into its teaching and learning process, many of its instructors may not have the technical skills to handle them.

The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has now gone fully digital in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME).

However, since its introduction in 2013, the Computer-based Tests (CBT), it has not been an easy sail for JAMB and the candidates alike.

An invigilator in the 2019 UTME, who gave her name as Eniolaoluwa, lamented that in a hall of 250 candidates, only 10 could make use of the computer.

“In a hall of about 250 JAMB candidates, only 10 can successfully use a computer system,” she said on Twitter.

“The rest cannot just understand how the computer works; they are terrified at the sight of a mouse.

“They cannot left click, they cannot pick their answers using the mouse or the keyboard, they cannot scroll, they cannot delete when they make a mistake, and they cannot locate letters on the keyboard.”

In spite of the deepening of mobile telephony services in Nigeria and the opportunities they carry with them, much needs to be done if the country is to cover the huge gap and harness them.

Photo Credit: Unsplash