Distance (digital) learning is any form of learning that is accompanied by technology or by instructional practice that makes effective use of technology. It encompasses the application of a wide spectrum of practices including blended and virtual learning. Through the use of mobile technologies, digital learning can be used while travelling and other related activities. It’s noteworthy that there are a plethora of tools and resources online, many which are free, that can be used to create and enhance a digital learning environment. Some of the tools being used by the 21st Century digital learning tutors include Google+, YouTube, RSS, iTunesU, cloud-based Word Processors (Google Drive), Evernote, file-sharing platforms (Dropbox), Zotero and digital pocket.
Penultimate week, precisely on 2nd April 2020, unsure of how long the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic that causes pleurisy would linger, the Nigeria’s Minister of Education – Mallam Adamu Adamu – engaged 237 Vice-Chancellors (VCs), Rectors and Provosts of the various higher citadels of learning across the country on a rigorous talk concerning how to reopen their respective institutions using virtual learning.
In the amazing discussion that lasted for hours, which held via a teleconference, the said boss directed all universities, polytechnics and colleges of education to activate virtual (online) learning environment to enable students continue their studies through digital devices. He however acknowledged the fact that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was still on strike, hence assured the Federal Government (FG) would do its best to resolve the lingering labour crisis.
Mallam Adamu who was physically flanked by the Executive Secretaries of the National Universities Commission (NUC), National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) as well as the Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), among others, further stated that the FG could not afford to shut schools for a long time, thus called for the meeting to ascertain remedies to the challenges posed to the nation’s school calendar by the COVID-19.
The minister who affirmed at the online session that he had tested negative to the COVID-19, said “We cannot be held down by the pandemic. We have to deploy all e-platforms to keep our universities, polytechnics, colleges of education, and other schools open.
He frowned that the outbreak of the COVID-19 had negatively changed everybody – both individuals and institutions – therefore asked the leadership of the higher citadels of learning to device alternative ways towards ensuring that the education of the young ones would not be truncated. Mallam Adamu who urged the education leaders to take advantage of technology as it was found in other parts of the world, stating the country could not shut down all schools when it could boast of other means to teach the students, equally disclosed that the government was already collaborating with the World Bank and the United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) on how to create platforms for virtual learning classrooms. Having reiterated determination to end the ongoing impasse between the FG and the ASUU, the minister stated that the private universities that were not on industrial action could immediately commence the virtual learning prior to the anticipated resumption of the public varsities that were still on strike.
On their part, most VCs of the private varsities welcomed the idea, hence expressed readiness to reopen their institutions having claimed they already had top grade virtual (online) learning system. They however pleaded with the FG to amend the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) Act to enable private citadels benefit from the intervention funds. Mallam Adamu went further to enjoin the UBEC to work out modalities on how primary school pupils and secondary students could learn by using digital channels such as the radio and television stations. He said the FG would involve the state governments in this regard. This could be referred to as a clarion call made by the education minister, conscientizing the stakeholders in the education industry to embrace the current realities. He was apparently making effort to let them comprehend that digitalization – or technology at large – cannot be kept in abeyance at such a critical time like this.
t’s really appalling that at this moment when virtually everything is being digitalized across the globe, most Nigerian higher educational institutions are yet to fully key into the language of digitalization let alone granting access to the teeming students. It’s not news that till date, most of these citadels are still finding it difficult to engage their students in e-library platform. Though face-to-face contact – or physical presence of a tutor – plays a very major role in impaction of knowledge, hence cannot be jettisoned, it’s imperative for these leaders of thoughts to acknowledge that the impact of a tech-driven teaching mode in the contemporary society cannot be overemphasized. Hence, it’s needless to assert that time has come for our institutions to deploy a new and alternative means of learning in their various jurisdictions in line with the present global realities.
However, come to think of it; one of the prime reasons that informed the recent incessant industrial actions embarked upon by the varsities’ dons was reportedly the continued poor funding of the institutions by the governments at all levels. The last time I checked, the main reason that resulted in the ongoing strike by the ASUU members remained the compelling need to revitalize the country’s various universities in the area of learning, infrastructure and research. If the above paragraph holds water, we will then wonder how the minister would expect these institutions to duly embrace digital pattern of learning when they are ostensibly facing paucity of funds in their respective purses.
This smacks of deceit. It’s worthy of note that the Nigeria’s numerous varsities have recently been deprived of their rightful place. The current move by the government to totally denial them their right for autonomy is a tangible proof to this assertion. As if the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy wasn’t enough, the FG still went ahead to involve the varsities in the newly introduced Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) policy after several stakeholders had condemned the action. It’s worthy of note that the Nigeria’s numerous varsities have recently been deprived of their rightful place. The current move by the government to totally denial them their right for autonomy is a tangible proof to this assertion.
As if the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy wasn’t enough, the FG still went ahead to involve the varsities in the newly introduced Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) policy after several stakeholders had condemned the action. The worst of these remains that the latter – as regards the aforementioned policies – is currently causing more harm than good in the sectors that have keyed into it. It suffices to assert that the IPPIS, which is primarily targeted to curtail corruption in the public sector, is rather reportedly constituting more corrupt practices.
For any society to move forward as expected by all, viable and feasible policies must be initiated and duly implemented by the apt authorities, and the existing ones that are perceived to be lofty and wholesome must equally be sustained at all cost. It’s more disheartening when realized that those who invariably embark on the countless industrial actions do so only for the sake of tokenism. It’s, therefore, unarguably high time we faced reality squarely and vow to hold the bull by the horn. As the days unfold, the country continues to witness myriad of brain drain both in the health and education sectors, yet those concerned would still observe the unfortunate incidence with amazing physiognomies.
As much as we eagerly want these citadels to improve or grow in terms of learning content and research quality coupled with patent development and innovations, the needed support must equally be granted without involving any element of pranks. Think about it!
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