ASUU strike: Redeeming the time through digital literacy, By Zeenat O. Sambo – Premium Times

A society with multiple dimensions to learning always produces the right thinking, visionary and effective leaders. In the fight of ASUU for its demands, students should not become the collateral damage, as they should be enabled to enhance their intelligence and knowledge base by engaging in numerous knowledge-building opportunities…
The unresolved disagreement between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the federal government weighs heavily on Nigerian youths who are out of school. While some have taken to vocational skills, others still lay idle in the discomfort of the economy, finding it hard to support themselves and their family.
In the light of making the best use of the free time forced upon them by the strike, digital learning has become entrenched so wide for many to unravel other aspects of their potentials by accessing the web of technology for self-development.
It is an indisputable aphorism that “an idle mind is a devil’s workshop”. This continual strike by university lecturers, with no indication of compromise from either the ASUU or government parties anytime soon, can push many “stay-at-home” students into heinous acts.
At this juncture, many students ought to avail themselves of practical engagement in the ongoing digital skills acquisition initiatives/programmes organised by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and other stakeholders in Nigeria’s tech ecosystem.
In all honesty, the strike might turn out beneficial to some students who will have used this time to engage in virtual studies and digital skills development, even as a good number of them will still struggle to fit into the digital world due to financial challenges, among other similar constraints.
Even at this, the delays in getting academic qualifications, long reversal of projects, university clearance, mobilisation into the National Service, and the overburdened labour market are many of the challenges that Nigerian students foresee within the academic terrain.
NITDA, in its effort to digitalise the nation and de-institutionalise learning, developed digital channels for free e-learning through the NITDA Academy for Research and Training (NART), to build capacity, enable the acquisition of skills, and reduce unemployment in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector.
The platform, in operation since 2020, with fully operational centres across Nigeria, has been a blessing to the promotion of e-learning in the country. In addition to bridging the skills gap between the industry and academia, the programme is also promoting more inclusive ICT knowledge access for various segments of the Nigerian populace.
NART was developed to boost the capacity of Nigerians with courses that will help them to be creative and find their calling in the labour market.
The propagation of digital literacy or technological knowledge is a strategic effort by NITDA to engage many Nigerians to acquire the skills that will help them harness the abundant opportunities to become job providers and wealth creators in the digital economy. Also, it will help with the building of capacity and development of the skills of Nigerians in the emerging IT industry, and reduce the unemployment rate by bridging the widening skills gap in the sector.
The fate of Nigerian students during this strike is reflective of the saying that “when two elephants fight, the grass suffers”. The unique difference is that there is a platform (NART) for students to engage in the attainment of productive skills, with no financial challenge.
The NART e-learning facilities and vocational training programmes are scheduled into four categories. These include Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) Training; Students Training; General Training, and these trainings in digital skills are to help those who experience them to function better and achieve self-sufficiency.
With hundreds of courses available, the e-learning resources have helped many to envision a realistic futures of gainful entrepreneurial and digital competence. For students with little digital knowledge of the internet, programmes like digital literacy, introduction to packet tracer, entrepreneurship courses, and many more, are basics to knowing the web of technologies.
Over 47 different courses can be accessed on the NART website. Introduction to computer science for lawyers is another interesting platform for upcoming legal practitioner’s to digitalise their profession and become self-competent digitally.
NART’S achievements include the training of more than 26,000 active students and over 200 women in ICT, provision of tools at the end of the training, development of tech startups, and efficiency in artificial intelligence, among others. These have helped many Nigerians to spend their time meaningfully and get trained on new technologies that will build and develop their capacities in the tech world.
While outside the realm of core academics, learning must never stop. In this regard, the Director-General of NITDA, Mallam Kashifu Inuwa, recently challenged universities in the country to devote greater attention to entrepreneurship training to produce graduates capable of creating job opportunities, rather than becoming job seekers.

Considering the large number of young Nigerians graduating yearly, NITDA must strengthen its collaboration with Nigeria university system to enable students partake in courses that can serve as industrial training in digital communication, to widen their scope of knowledge beyond their courses of study.
In consonance with NITDA’s agenda to foster entrepreneurship training and create jobs, both tertiary and vocational institutions should raise awareness to encourage virtual learning, the building of innovations, and developing digital skills among students and lecturers. This will enable Nigeria to produce more job creators and solution providers in the no distant future.
It is impactful to be able to learn with the comfort of digital devices and be certified with newer knowledge. With over 20 free training centres in Nigeria, the opportunities are available and awaiting more youths to delve into. With set priorities and digital education, the breach in academic activities due to the ongoing strike will not be so wearisome to students when they are gainfully engaged.
A society with multiple dimensions to learning always produces the right thinking, visionary and effective leaders. In the fight of ASUU for its demands, students should not become the collateral damage, as they should be enabled to enhance their intelligence and knowledge base by engaging in numerous knowledge-building opportunities created by the federal government.
Zeenat O. Sambo writes from Wuye District Abuja
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