By Felix Oladeji
Sir: Sometimes, when you think you have heard the worst about what is going on in Nigeria, that is just the beginning of contending with the unimaginable.
As a citizen you know that there are obvious anomalies, but you have to figure out these things yourself. Imagine the president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Professor Biodun Ogunyemi publicly declaring that virtual learning cannot work in Nigeria now!
I’ve tried in vain to understand the exact point that the ASUU president was trying to make. I also don’t think that the challenges confronting Nigeria in the area of virtual learning are so unconquerable to warrant such a definite verdict from the leader of Nigeria’s academic body.
Is the ASUU president telling us that Nigerian students are so slow in learning that they won’t understand concepts and presentations when delivered online?
Perhaps Ogunyemi has a different definition of online teaching. Otherwise, online teaching as we generally understand it to mean, is simply using electronic technology and media to deliver, support and enhance both learning and teaching.
Nigeria does not need to come up with any special invention to offer online teaching neither is this thing rocket science So, I don’t know why the ASUU president is giving the impression that Nigerian lecturers have to go to space to learn how to deliver online lectures.
The Olabisi Onabanjo University professor is giving the world the impression that Nigerian lecturers are backward and behind their counterparts across the world and this is obviously not true.
After all, many of these lecturers go for their sabbaticals abroad and do well in universities that operate virtual teaching. Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, many institutions have been combining e-learning and face-to-face interactions.
They have been deploying educational technology to meet the needs of their students. It is bad enough that Nigeria and its institutions are lagging behind others in this area; and it becomes worse when the academic community is seen as deifying the problem.
ASUU has been on strike for more than three months. One cannot fault the union’s patriotic struggle to improve the funding of public universities in Nigeria.
Truly, the state of our public institutions is nothing to write home about. Our leaders seem too desperate to kill public universities, as they did public primary and secondary schools. They don’t mind doing this because their children don’t attend these institutions.
If not for COVID-19 and the attendant closure of many countries’ airports, we would have been regaled with photographs of our lawmakers, governors, ministers and other senior public officials and their children graduating from Ivy League universities abroad.
Our leaders are shameless! They don’t mind stealing from Nigeria to develop other countries’ economies.
Agreed, Nigerian leaders have their catalogue of problems. But, ASUU could have started using the so-called weak to non-existent ICT infrastructure in our universities for online teaching and in the process draw attention to the problem.
Perhaps, government would have been forced to channel part of the donation for COVID-19 towards the delivery of online education in Nigeria. If ASUU is insisting on continuing with its strike, that is fine. But the academic union can at least prepare itself for the inevitable.
Telling us that online teaching belongs to the future in present day Nigeria is hogwash. Babcock University is a Nigerian university.
The university churned out a fresh batch of graduating students amid this pandemic. How many expatriates does Babcock have in its faculty? There is no point shooting down the online teaching method used by any university here. Who says everything the institutions abroad are doing is perfect? They are also learning from their mistakes.
Universities are established to create solutions to societal problems. It is abnormal for the academic community that should have been at the forefront of providing solutions to the nation’s problems to publicly declare that a problem cannot be solved.
Ordinarily, challenges ought to bring the best out of lecturers. After all, the worth of managers is in their ability to manage crisis.
We can no longer be talking about data cost as if it is an insurmountable issue. We have telecoms firms that give their subscribers as much as five times worth of data in all kinds of promos.
Are we saying these telecoms firms cannot work out better arrangements for students and lecturers in our universities? Let’s face it.
It would be a huge business deal for any telecoms firm that can work with any university to provide internet connectivity and other things relating to virtual learning. Until universities start this online teaching, they can’t know the possibilities therein.
I know that attitude and behaviour matter when adapting to any form of technology. While it may not be strange for some lecturers to be reluctant in migrating online, the academic body should be encouraging its members to do the needful. Having the right mindset is vital to successful deployment of education technology.
- Felix Oladeji, Lagos.