If there is anything the coronavirus pandemic has taught Nigerian students, it is the fact that our education system is not nearly half-equipped to bear the brunt of a raging pandemic. In other universities of the world, even in some developing countries, the coronavirus pandemic spiked a rise in remote learning. Remote learning is a type of learning that tries to recreate the classroom experience, as students learn virtually and participate in learning activities. But Nigerian universities – or to be specific, Nigerian public universities – continue to struggle with effective remote learning. Nigerian students are dormant, without academic engagements, and are at the mercy of the ineptitude of the administrations.
While research shows that collaboration between UNICEF Nigeria and HITCH made resources available for primary and secondary school students to continue studying remotely, nothing was put in place for students in Nigerian universities as the National University Commission (NUC), Nigeria’s university regulatory body, is said to not recognise “online universities” and has no regulatory cover for such universities; thus, switching to remote learning has proven difficult for several universities across the country, especially those without the Open and Distance Learning (ODL) licence. It would appear that the criticisms against Nigeria Open University yesterday, has become today, proof of the backwardness of other Nigerian universities and their ignorance of technology.
Nevertheless, most private universities in Nigeria such as Covenant University, Pan-Atlantic University and others, started lectures via Zoom and other platforms, and they have since made progress. Some of these universities took to virtual project defence for their students and went on to graduate students. Conversely, public universities in Nigeria lay akimbo through these six months of the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with the on-going strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU); thus, threatening education in Nigeria. But why should we worry?
According to a statement made by the Executive Secretary of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETfund), Suleiman Bogoro, 94 per cent of Nigerian Students attend public tertiary institutions. That is to say, more than the average percentage of Nigerian students is currently at home without a means to learn, while their mates who can afford uninterrupted education in private institutions continue to advance in their academic pursuit. This, to say the least, is a failure on the part of Nigerian universities and the government.
A case in point – the University of Lagos, a few months ago, created a platform where online learning would take place. However, as much as most students were ready to resume lectures, the website was not activated for many different reasons, known and unknown. Therefore, remote learning never happened. Many other Nigerian universities have been unable to key into remote learning for many stated reasons ranging from lack of an eLearning platform, lack of funds, and most importantly the current ASUU strike which totally eliminates every attempt to bring back learning in public varsities. One wonders if these reasons are genuine or if Nigerian lecturers are simply ignorant of effective e-learning mechanisms.
However, of these government-owned universities, Lagos State University (LASU) has proved innovative by succeeding in continuing lectures through its eLearning platform, Envivo, while combining it with other social platforms such as WhatsApp, Zoom, and Telegram. Nonetheless, this progress does not come without the challenges of poor electricity, expensive internet data, poor network quality and distractions, to mention a few. Even with these challenges, this university has tried in bringing education to its students, pending the period when normalcy returns to the country.
It is no longer news that most African countries have advanced beyond Nigeria in producing a quality education system. For instance, the leading university in Africa is the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Within 2weeks of the lockdown, the board has set e-learning in place and the surveys conducted amongst students who are a novice to e-learning show that the university’s remote learning was very efficient. Capestone Exams were conducted in place of normal exams. The message was clear – ‘there is no intimidation of great thought.’ Learning continues. No doubt, it was easy for the university to distribute laptops, and monthly data for its students, because it has a good sponsor-research relationship with industries, alumni, network companies and governments.
In conclusion, it is pertinent to note that many Nigerian universities have failed in effecting remote learning. Those who attempted remote learning fail because of network instability, data costs, ignorance and pride of many lecturers, lack of resourceful research to warrant sponsorship, possible embezzlement of school fees, and the neglect of the education sector by the Nigerian government. Quo Vadis, Nigeria? When shall we learn?