SPECIAL REPORT: Years After Unveiling Opon Imo, Osun Public Schools Continue To Grapple With ICT Policy Uncertainty
In 2013, the former governor of Osun state, Rauf Aregbesola, announced the intention of the state to ensure development of the state leveraging on technology.
He said “We are breaking yoke of nothingness, the yoke of irrelevance that our continent has been for a long time. The idea of an electronic tablet is not our invention and we make no such claims but we make something completely new” Aregbesola noted with pride.
The launching event had several top personalities including national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu among many others. Years down the line, the state has not only suspended the Opon Imo but noted that the initiative needed to be upgraded to serve the purpose it was earlier designed for.
However, tracing the history, the Osun state government under Rauf Aregbesola at various times described the Opon Imo as the way to ensure that Osun state education sector is revolutionized through technology. According to the previous government, the Opon Imo was designed to ensure virtual textbooks, pruning down the amount the state would have spent on buying textbooks,, the then Rauf Aregbesola administration claimed that the tablet contained ‘e-textbooks, past questions (WAEC and JAMB) and Virtual classrooms for all approved subjects from SS1 to SS3’.
The administration also claimed that over 90,000 students have benefitted from Opon Imo from 2013 to 2017. A report published by Ripples had also noted that during its trip to schools in the state, the Tablet was nowhere to be found. Students also found it hard to use the Tablet due to low digital literacy while teachers also could not entirely use the tablet due to lack of training.
The Opon Imo also generated many controversies including on accountability, findings show that during the period of active usage of the Tablet, the state continued to grapple with efficient use across schools, inclusive of the tablet becoming tool for other things rather than reading and e-learning as propagated by the state.
However, after so much fanfare and expectations on the tablet, the Gboyega Oyetola administration suspended the initiative for ‘Enhancement’. This decision to suspend the Tablet was announced in March 2020; however, as at the time of this report, the state has not reintroduced the platform. Many persons who supported the government decision believed that if the initiative can be better developed, it would mean well for the state’s push. Despite boasting to be a state that would lead in the area of technological advancement for education far back 2013, the state public schools still lack knowledge on usage of Information and Communication Technology as a tool for academic development.
In June 2021, over one year after the formal suspension of the Tablet for its shortcomings, the state noted that it is designing an ICT policy, however the implication of this is that until the policy is designed, we may not have a new Information Technology powered learning, leaving the supposed projection of the state for advancement as a leader of technology powered education in jeopardy. Sources within the state noted that the state is trying to put things together to come back with better policies even as the Opon Imo sustainability remains a core concern, the pace of such activity may however be a concern.
Although, during COVID-19, the state opened an e-learning website, beyond the pandemic, the state’s path on deployment of ICT for public schools beyond its promises remains unclear .
The state government had noted that it is considering deploying technology into schools to make learning more interactive. “There is a change in education policy in the state to embrace technology and also ensure that teachers, as well as students, are in compliance with the new normal” the commissioner for education in the state Mr Oladoyin Folorunsho noted.
Sources familiar with the development told TECHMIRROR MAGAZINE that the deployment of Information and Communication Technology policy in the state’s education sector under governor Gboyega Oyetola was meant to commence with a pilot project but even the pilot project is yet to commence, leaving big doubts on actual deployment of ICT in Osun schools.
Although the state has continued to restate its commitment to ICT deployment, respondents who spoke to this magazine noted that it has been unable to match this with probable and evidenced action especially as the first term of the incumbent Oyetola starts to wind down.
Efforts to get the reaction of the state commissioner of Information, Funke Egbemode proved abortive as she failed to pick her calls neither return messages as at the time of this report.