Africa needs to harness innovative technology in education – Punch Newspapers

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What can African institutions do to change? Stop bureaucracies from mainly concentrating on serving elite interests over the interests of the entire society. Simple. There is no doubt that bureaucracy generally benefits society as it helps to create structures that help to keep people safe. But when it creates stiff policies and laws, it leads to inflexible rules and regulations that waste time, results in unnecessary costs which lead to extra burden on innovation.
Because of the educational system bureaucracies’ rigid rules and regulations in African settings, changes that could lead schools to international and progressive status become difficult. This has historically been the fate of a nation like Nigeria.
Because of bureaucracy, Nigeria continues to struggle to keep up with changing times and that promotes more unhealthiness in the system. As we now know, Nigerian schools remain among the worst institutional casualties of difficult disasters, as is evident from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Every nation faces disaster periodically, yet for almost 30 years, Nigeria, for the most part, unlike many countries including Arab nations, showed its lack of readiness and incompetence as its educational institutions and classrooms fell backward. It also watched pupils, students and lecturers in helplessness and disruption.
Nigeria in recent times appeared to now understand that it is abnormal to continue to be too into bureaucratisation and classical mentality as some of its education authorities have shown. In order not to allow subjective reasoning to stand as continued hindrance, educational authorities must decrease all forms of bureaucratic influences.
Insisting on enormous or some form of pronounced physical infrastructure for long distance learning to fully engage digital education is wrong. Such thinking is contrary to what is supposedly expected as that is why we have technology to help reduce those types of physical preparations. Moderation in all areas should be an integral part of government educational requirements as the adoption of technology into the environments of schools under a hybrid model of education continues to help manage cost better. Technology, for the most part, has allowed us to rethink the design of physical learning spaces.
As such, bureaucratic wishes and rules should not always be allowed to determine the nature and quantity of academic programmes.

A technology-based open and long-distance institutions should engage in their own unique way, as each school varies in dynamics, style, and concentration.
Take the American University of Nigeria, for instance. Compared to almost all other National Universities Commission-accredited schools, the AUN is 100% and offers an American-styled higher educational system at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels.
Its innovative international technological and in-person approaches should be modelled after by the NUC in terms of guiding Nigerian universities, on the physical, in-person, virtual and technical aspects of modern educational systems. In a similar vein as the AUN is the Maryam Abacha American University of Niger. While locally accredited by the NUC, it strongly remains an international and also American-styled forward looking institution as evidenced by its certification by the Accreditation Services for International Schools, Colleges and Universities, United Kingdom and its membership with the American Council on Education.
Certainly, the government, for the safety of its citizens and learners, must make sure it has prescribed basic requirements and standards that physical and virtual learning institutions should abide by.

However, its system of administration and hierarchy of authority should show flexibility when it comes to educational activities, as each school is different in culture and dynamics. Nigerians must not allow bureaucracy to continue to hinder the evolution and development of transformative education for society.
Nigerian and other African authorities should not allow individualised educational proprietors and innovative education pioneers become frustrated and abandon their ambitions for society. African nations, Nigeria inclusive, are still struggling in terms of basic amenities and individual income, and the staggering cost of higher education as in many nations remains high.
Speaking of innovative and widened education, Africa should be glad to welcome and embrace innovations like the University of the People. The University of the People is the world’s first tuition-free, online groundbreaking learning model designed to help qualified students overcome financial, geographic, dogmatic, and individual constraints to quality higher education. It is an open educational approach that allows people to get quality education at relatively lower rates.

To Nigeria, and other African nations, yes, technological shaped degree is a “real” degree from a “real” university. Africa has too few universities for its fast-growing population, a daunting problem in Nigeria, and despite the challenges of limited access to Internet connectivity, electricity or computers, technology-based platforms for teaching, learning and research are here to stay. Across Africa, countries such as Togo, Egypt, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Sudan, like Nigeria, are in recent times seeing how educational technology is making more people than ever to have access to learning valuable information and earning degrees from the convenience of their laptops.
Nigeria, I must say, is now empowering and opening more roads for the sustainable development and practice of online and distance education. The NUC continues to enable and support the National Open University of Nigeria, known for its evolutionary and transformation of higher education, in terms of more access to high quality education. More universities, both private and public, are providing distance learning programmes in their physical settings.
It is the responsibility of accreditation and licensing approval bodies like the NUC to ensure the financial fitness and viability of institutions including ICT-driven schools for the safety and protection of students, families, sponsors, and staff.
But there is a need for some degree of moderation and where possible innovative private schools should be qualified for government’s supportive funds in several ways. And working capital for unique schools as in technology-driven schools should also come through sloughing of external investments.
But one thing Africa, Nigeria especially, must realise in totality is that apart from responding to crisis and emergency situations with partial online, web or mail-based education, less intrusive bureaucratic effects on universities of the future such as online and digital education will allow education to remain as a noble enterprise which should be accessible as a tool for intellectual freedom and opportunity development. Africa certainly needs to develop and adhere faster as it is currently sluggishly paced compared to the rest of the globe. A reality we all agree with, right?

  • Prof Egbeazien Oshodi, a forensic psychologist based in the United States, wrote in via [email protected]

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