A year ago when secondary schools across Nigeria were kicking off the 2019/2020 academic session, not many public secondary schools in the country, especially those in the rural areas, would have listed internet connectivity as one of the essential infrastructures needed to boost learning and open a door of opportunities to the students and teachers. Today, in the space of one year, a lot has changed.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the world into a lockdown in March, has further brought to the fore, the need for internet connectivity in schools and why digital learning is essential for today’s classroom experience across the country.
Data from UNESCO revealed that, globally, over 1.2 billion children were out of the classroom in April 2020 due to the pandemic. While they were stuck at home during the lockdown, the learning of many students was halted while some in the private schools took classrooms online to make up for lost hours.
The tremendous learning opportunities that internet connectivity brings to education were better experienced during the lockdown when students and teachers took learning and interaction online where they had access to a plethora of learning resources.
Students without access to internet connectivity miss out on several educational opportunities that prepares them to function in the global economy, which in turn negatively impacts the future of the country.
Despite the challenges of infrastructure, Nigerian private schools appear to be moving with the rest of the world as they have better access to the internet to improve education and the learning experience. However, the same cannot be said about public schools who are still miles behind in internet adoption.
Cost and technology infrastructure are the two obvious barriers that worry stakeholders and educationalists. Technology infrastructure is expensive, and setting it up in public schools, where a vast majority of students come from low-income homes where they live on less than $2 per day, is another hard piece of the puzzle.
According to the American Internet Society, the best results of internet connectivity in public schools are likely to be achieved through strategic partnerships between government and private sector stakeholders like the Internet Service Providers (ISPs), as well as teachers and educational administrators which has been the case in some parts of the world.
In 2008, Nokia partnered the South African government to develop ‘MoMaths’, a wide-ranging set of maths problems that can be accessed and answered via internet-enabled mobile phones. The project gave low-income learners access to high-quality education and allowed high school pupils across South Africa to learn theory and solving sums on their handsets as a result. Research by Nokia shows that students’ average maths scores improve by an average of 14 percentage points when using the service.
In Nigeria, an example of such public-private sector synergy is the project being championed by ipNX, a pioneering and leading information, communications and technology (ICT) company.
From 2011, for a number of years, ipNX provided free internet service to 55 public secondary schools in Lagos state. The initiative, which is part of ipNX’s corporate social investment dedicated to education, was recently extended to Oyo State to solve one of the biggest impending factors limiting the adoption of e-learning in public schools.
On October 8, 2020, ipNX unveiled free high speed broadband internet services set up at two public secondary schools in Oyo State – Government College Ibadan and Bishop Phillips Academy, Monatan, in a bid to improve access to technology for students and teachers.
According to Group Executive Director, HR & Corporate Services, ipNX, Folashade Efiong-Bassey, the project “will facilitate the goals of Oyo State in improving the education, science and technology sectors, which is a vision of the administration of His Excellency, Governor Seyi Makinde.
Moreover, this initiative complements the recent Federal Government intention to implement Zero-rating for education websites as part of efforts to ameliorate the impact of Covid-19 on Nigeria’s education sector.”
In no small measure, broadband internet will provide more opportunities for students and teachers to find the best practices, create new solutions, connect and inspire each other, all towards the achievement of better learning outcomes. With the empowerment of students in this way, the digital transformation and socio-economic development of Nigeria appear to be on course.
The end goal of this investment transcends the outcome of students performance from just passing exams but to actually harnessing opportunities from scholarships, jobs, employability training, and contribution to overall national development.
As part of efforts to solve the challenge of connectivity in the country, the Nigerian government has also developed the second phase of the Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020 – 2025. The goal of the plan is to deliver data download speeds across Nigeria, with effective coverage available to at least 90% of the population by 2025 at a price not more than N390 per 1GB of data (i.e. 2% of median income or 1% of minimum wage).
This move by ipNX to provide internet connectivity in Nigerian public schools is another significant contribution to the actualisation of the government’s National Broadband Plan. As Nigeria moves to achieve this ambitious, but realistic plan, public-private sector partnerships like the one between ipNX and the state governments, will prove to be the much needed fuel to fire up the engine of Nigeria’s education and human development.
AIT Emerges Ghana’s Best Tech Varsity at 2020 UMB Awards
Accra Institute of Technology (AIT) [www.ait.edu.gh], consistently ranked the top private University in Ghana and one of leading educational institutions in West Africa, has been announced the winner of the three most prestigious awards at the just-ended 2020 UMB Ghana Tertiary Awards in Accra.
The AIT was awarded: The Most Outstanding Institution in COVID-19 Times Award; The Best Technology University Award and; The Best Educator of The Year Award to the President of AIT.
As one of the ECOWAS sub-region’s top education centres, AIT is home to thousands of Nigerians and other West African students. Accra Institute of Technology has won the Best Technology University for the fourth year running.
This enviable position was put to test when COVID-19 set in with the university coming out with excellence in demonstrating how to deploy technologies and systems to ensure uninterrupted academic activity in an educational institution even in the face of a global pandemic.
AIT since its inception in 2009 has extensively been deploying cutting-edge educational delivery technologies and systems to support teaching and learning in all its undergraduate and postgraduate programs.
“As the only university in Ghana operating both campus-based and Open University systems, AIT is one of the few universities in the sub-region to easily and seamlessly roll-over all its academic program delivery and operations online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Therefore, campus-based face-to-face teaching and learning had zero impact on the operations of the university. This success among many others is what accounted for the award for the Most Outstanding Institution in Covid-19 times,” said the Registrar and Chief of Administration of AIT, Mr. Dominic Osei-Boakye while receiving the awards, on behalf of the university.
He added: “The AIT success story cannot be told without mentioning the creativity, strong leadership, and direction from their able President, Prof. Clement Dzidonu. The award-winning Professor has, through AIT transformed educational delivery in the country using Technology. It is little wonder then that he deservedly won the Best Educator of The Year Award.
Mr. Osei Boakye expressed appreciation to the organizers for recognizing AIT’s achievements as a leading technological university providing quality tertiary education in Ghana. The Award is instituted and awarded by the Ghana Tertiary Awards.
Anchor Varsity, New Horizons Inaugurate IT Empowerment Centre
Anchor University has partnered with the world’s largest IT training organization, New Horizons to commission a new ultra-tech ICT and e-business centre.
Speaking during the commissioning in Lagos, the university vice chancellor, Professor Joseph Afolayan, said that the university is passionate about raising exceptionally competent graduates who are conscientious global players in their different field of works.
He said he was convinced that this partnership and the impact of the quality infrastructure being deployed and commissioned will complement the academic regiments and that Anchor University students will make optimum use of the facility for personal and professional development.
“Anchor University does not have time to wait or waste, we are headed to achieving the impossible as a university and that within the slightest possible time. The plan is to widen our horizon and take the leap in all we do, we can’t afford to wait or crawl”, Afolayan added.
The managing director and the chief executive officer, New Horizons, Mr. Tim Akano praised the university management for deeming it fit to partner with New Horizons in order to build a new and higher profiled graduates who are empowered digitally to become the toast of employers globally or successful technopreneurs like the world’s richest Technopreneurs like Mark Zuckeberg, Bill Gates, among others.
Akano said the deployment of fourth industrial revolution (4IR) training skill sets like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Data Analytics, Internet of Things (IoTs), etc under the partnership programme are strategic measures to empower Nigerian graduates to be at par with their more advantaged foreign colleagues as well as ultimately position Nigeria at the front-row of IT-driven nations of the world both structurally and economically.
He noted that the project-driven entrepreneurship empowerment approach will serve to stem the loss of promising Nigerian graduates to current situation where many graduates seek to travel abroad to engage in menial and condescending jobs.
The chief universities operations officer, New Horizons, Dr. Bolaji Olaoye assured that the computer hardware, software and courseware are original equipment manufacturer (OEMs) standard and every student will be trained and mentored by internationally certified technical instructors. He said the university students will be groomed with the same top level standards which New Horizons has established across the globe.
NCC Pledges Increased Collaboration With Varsities
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has pledged to increase collaboration with higher institutions of learning across the country in order to transform Nigeria into a full knowledge-based economy.
The Chairman, Board of Commissioners of NCC, Prof. Adeolu Akande, stated this during a courtesy visit by NCC Board members to Bayero University, Kano (BUK) at the weekend as part of activities lined up for the 2020 NCC Board retreat held in Kano State.
According to Akande, who praised the university for producing Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, the NCC superintends a sector that is knowledge-driven and therefore, would not be able to achieve its mandate without strengthening collaboration with citadels of knowledge like BUK and other higher institutions of learning to produce the knowledge base needed to support the growth of the telecoms sector.
“The NCC is superintending a sector that is knowledge-driven. In the absence of the citadels of learning, one could only imagine what would have become of the communications industry. So, if we come to Kano, we need to come to the prime centre of learning in Kano and other universities across the state,” he said.
Thanking the university further for “contributing” Danbatta to the industry, Akande said the sector, which NCC regulates, has also benefited immensely from the knowledge being imparted by the university.
He said the BUK has produced a good ambassador, excellent professional and a man with administrative acumen and superb human relations in Prof. Danbatta.
“Hence, the Board of NCC decided to visit Bayero University with the EVC, who is a ‘home boy’ and to show our appreciation for the services of the EVC, an outstanding product of the university, has been rendering to the nation at the NCC.
We are here also to show that we work together and our coming to Bayero University would be an expression of appreciation of Danbatta’s good work at the NCC,” he said.
In his remarks, Danbatta said all the achievements “we have recorded as NCC can be attributed to the team spirit and cooperation between the Management and Board of NCC even as we are poised to achieve more,” adding that “Our profound prayer is that we leave the NCC better than we met it.”
Appreciating the university’s management for hosting the NCC’s despite a short notice, Danbatta used the opportunity to also congratulate Prof. Sagir Abbas for his appointment as the 11th Vice Chancellor (VC) of the university.
While expressing delight to receive the NCC Board, Prof. Abbas noted that the school management cancelled all engagements to receive the board in order to show the university’s high regards for Danbatta, whose name, he said, cannot be omitted in the history of Bayero University.
“Prof. Danbatta has served the university diligently, as lecturer, as head of department, as Dean, as director and he was also a former VC in Kano University of Science and Technology, but wherever he goes, you find him relating to his base.
“So, we hold him in very high esteem and we are always happy to see him and his team discharging the national assignment his is saddled with and Bayero University is proud to be associated with him. We have no doubt that the Board and Management of NCC will enjoy him more as he begins his second term in office,” he said.
According to the Vice Chancellor, the university has received many donations of computers, iPads and other interventions such as professorial endowments from NCC, all of which, he said, have had positive impacts on the university’s academic programmes.
Sagir, however, appealed for more digital assistance by the Commission in supporting the university more in the area of its ongoing restructuring to fully accommodate virtual learning into its system in view of the current reality globally where ICT is mediating the lecturer-student interaction.
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