Reopening Of Nigerian Varsities Through Virtual Learning; A Call For Caution
Few days ago, the Nigerian Minister of Education Adamu Adamu stated that the Nigerian government is looking at ways of reopening Universities through Virtual learning.
According to him, this became very neccessary due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Needless to say, the world is advancing Technologically and in other climes, one of growing sectors is E-learning, to some, it maybe very commendable that the Nigerian government is trying to help the Digital economy.
The Covid-19 no doubt has led to the shutdown of Universities. As stated in the media, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Professor Idowu Olayinka said the his institution will explore the E-learning if need be.
Also, Obafemi Awolowo University, Public Relations Officer, Olarewaju Abiodun stated that his University will cross the bridge when they get there without a clear roadmap.
While we may be eager to reopen the schools for students not be badly affected by the crisis, which will increase the nunber of out of school children,the country needs to be careful not to do a collosal disservice to the nation. It is noteworthy that internet is not very cheap and standard of living is not very high. When physical classes are held, we still have issues of failure because of the learning system and other issues.
Those who clamored for E-learning did not state that E-learning should replace physical classes but rather serve as a supplement to physical classes so as to solve issues of overcrowding, slowpacing of academic system and bringing students closer to the world academic standards.
It is very dangerous for us to ignore the fact that Nigerian Universities are not equipped for distance learning, despite some schools having distance learning centres. Lecturers also may need to be trained on using Digital tools.
The president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, weighing in on the crisis had stated clearly that E-learning may not work in Nigeria currently. Some Universities cannot boast of a well functioning portal nor a good networking system for students.
The Minister of Education should also consider the accessibility of internet to students. Do we mean that those who stay in the communities with poor network will be denied access to learning and will be expected to sit for examinations? What of those who stay in areas that making calls alone is a problem, how will they learn or their admission becomes inactive for the period the shutdown lasts?.
Another important question to consider is the fact that use of Television or Radio while commendable should not be used as a grading teaching platform.
The electricity situation in Nigeria remains very bad and some students do not have access to it for days, how will they listen to radio when even the radio provider have a poor service in their area.
E-learning is very commendable, infact, it is a shame that despite our rich resource, some schools do not know what Digital learning is, they still use obselete tools and some lecturers cannot efficiently operate emails or even Interactive boards, the truth remains that we must face the reality and not put students in a dilemma.
Yes, Nigerian education needs technology but we would not just rush the magic and become E-learning inclined in two weeks because of Covid-19, we will need a system that works and we do not have that yet, atleast not enough to use E-learning for grading students.
We can explore E-learning to keep students busy but we cannot currently make it replace physical classes because it is an injustice to many students caught up by the reality we face.
Olanrewaju Oyedeji is the Executive Director of Techmirror magazine.
He writes from Abuja and is accessible via email@example.com