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[May 15, 2014]
Widening Education Opportunities Using ICT [interview]
(AllAfrica Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Although the impor-tance of education in the development of a nation cannot be overemphasized, Nigeria seems to be missing it as far as education is concerned. Statistics show that between 10 and 11 million children are out-of-school in Nigeria. Various reasons, including lack of funds, dearth of qualified teachers and recently, Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East, have been adduced as to why such a high number of children are out of school.
In this chat with Vanguard Learning in Yola, Mr. Amed Demirhan, Director of Library Services at the American University of Nigeria (AUN), Yola, says that by deploying information and communications technology, Nigeria can widen education opportunities, making it more affordable. Demirhan regarded as an apostle of e-learning, speaks from experirence.
Excerpts: E-Learning: "In the last eight years, I have spent a lot of time to propopse, advocate, develop and expand e-learning. I have been talking about how beneficial and cost-effevtive e-learning/e-resources are as against physical resources. However, many people have not taken advantage of this including many academics, so I concluded that one of the problems is that we all grew in our traditional physical environment, so when we think, we first think physical." AUN e-library example: "When we say library, we think of brick building, book shelves, desks etc., but we don't think of the e-version because it is not part of our growing up.
"Before you put up a structure, think whether ICT will be more efficient and less costly. In most cases, ICT will be more cost-effective.
The AUN library has received both national and international recognition for efficient and effective use of e-resources. The new library was designed 100 per cent as a library of 4,500 square metres. But because we implemented e-thinking and rational application, the library now needs just 20 per cent of the entire building so 80 per cent can be used for all other services including classrooms and offices." 3G internet access: "Nigeria has 3G internet access, so it could widen educational opportunities for millions of Nigerians from elementary to university level. In addition to widening educational opportunities, it will spur Nigeria's technological advancement because ICT companies are going to benefit from this development as they will invest and create jobs which will impact the rest of the economy. So from whichever angle you look at it, e-learning is a key concept for development: from education to economy, to management, to administration." Recruiting faculty from abroad: "Nigeria is suffering from lack of academic faculty. A recent study of 28 countries to evaluate teachers' salaries by international standards showed that Nigeria ranked above the 28 countries from four continents. This is good. So if we start implementing serious ICT with video/audio media teaching in real-time, then Nigeria can recruit faculty from any country in the world especially those countries where the faculty salary is lower than Nigeria's. So it could be real attraction of extra brain power to Nigeria in the academia.
"It costs a lot to bring people from other countries but if you can hire people and they don't have to come here, it will be much easier to find more qualified people and a larger pool for selection.
"Moreover, the integrity of the system can be easily controlled because it's not going to be the traditional method of learning. When we say online teaching, people usually think there is no face-to-face but in real time teaching (video conferencing), it's face-to- face, you cannot fake it.
"It is very doable, easy and inexpensive. Here in the north, some universities could not even hire teachers from Nigeria, they had to seek permission from the President to bring in faculty from abroad and it cost them a fortune but if you apply multimedia technology to education, with half the cost or less, you can get quality faculty to teach in Nigeria. It's not just for schools, you can attract global talent in any critical skill and be selective. You can use the global brain power to develop Nigeria.
Nigeria is already a global power but in order to be better, it has to position itself in better competitive environment and this is one of the tools it could use.
Video conferencing: This reporter was privileged to take part in one of the video conferences between students of the Dept. of International and Comparative Politics, AUN and the American University in Cairo (AUC), Egypt.
Speaking to VL after the conference, Ndifreke Umoyo of AUN said: "I learnt a lot from the conference. Although it's something we do everyday in class like we talked about solutions to Boko Haram insurgency. Most of our problems in Africa are religious, ethnic and tribal in nature and you keep asking yourself, why is it that people don't really have time to do something else other than fight? Everything boils down to corruption, illiteracy and poverty. So, I think the solution lies in educating the people because we that are educated think outside the box, we don't just see things in a religious light. I don't think there is any religion that says you should kill other human beings so why can't we practise the religions the way they should be practised rather than using them destructively? People should be creative, innovative and try to bring solutions rather than spend time thinking of how they are going to fight and cause conflicts everywhere." "This conference has been very helpful to me. With this, we can be able to find solutions to Nigeria's problems. I still think the present government needs to do more. I have also learnt that we could be able to help Nigerians in many other ways. The basic problem in Nigeria is mainly illiteracy and unemployment so I think government should look into these," said Mr. Onyekachi Obioha.
Copyright Vanguard. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).
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