OLABISI DEJI-FOLUTILE shares her experience in the online lectures she attended during the week and points out the role of institutional authorities in driving the delivery of online education.
I was privileged to attend two virtual lectures this week on the invitation of the Distinguished Professor of Science and Computer Education, Lagos State University LASU, Professor Peter Okebukola. The World Bank support project is powered by the African Centre of Excellence for Innovative and Transformative Stem Education (ACEITSE) and aimed at offering qualitative and transformative training for African postgraduate students.
For the benefit of those who probably do not know Prof Okebukola, he is the Chairman of Council, Crawford University, Chairman, Board of Trustees, Caleb University, President, Global University Network for Innovation (GUNI-Africa), a former Acting Vice Chancellor, LASU, and a former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission. He championed the inclusion of entrepreneurial studies in Nigeria’s universities’ educational curriculum and also worked assiduously towards the delivery of digital library project as NUC ES. I think it won’t be out of place for me to also add that Professor Okebukola is one of Nigeria’s credible voices at global forums on education.
I had approached him for an exclusive interview on the lingering challenges around the delivery of online lectures by Nigeria’s higher institutions, especially at a time when ordinary primary and secondary schools in the country are not only doing this effortlessly, but also seamlessly. I guess he wanted to prove to me that online teaching wasn’t a big deal in Nigeria after all, hence the invite to join some of his classes for the week. From all indications, academic activities had continued at the centre in spite of the disruptions to education occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic. LASU was selected as a World Bank’s African Centre for Excellence in November 2018.
If my experience in those classes is anything to go by, I don’t see the reason why higher institutions in Nigeria should still struggle to deliver enriching virtual lectures to their students.
I was invited for the lectures scheduled for Monday and Tuesday from 10-12 each day, but I couldn’t attend Monday classes for whatever reason. I was probably intimidated by the lectures’ topics. The first one was on “Non Parametric Statistics-Theoretical Considerations” and the second, “Non Parametric Statistics-Practical Considerations.” The truth is, I am not your typical fan of statistics and mathematics. In fact, that is one of the major reasons why I couldn’t fulfil my dad’s dream of me becoming a pharmacist. He had wanted me to study Pharmacy. He already had a doctor, nurse and probably wanted to complete the circle by adding a pharmacist, being a chief nursing officer himself. But, I cleverly registered for a subject combination that I knew would give me comparative advantage in my Advanced Level. So far, I have enjoyed being a journalist and miss nothing about not being a pharmacist!
Anyway, despite missing or should I say ‘dodging’ the Monday classes, I still had access to the lectures as I got the PPT files and links to videos of both lectures delivered by Dr. Rasheed Sanni. One thing I could glean from those videos was that the lectures seemed detailed. I might not be able to make much of sense out of them, but I guess, it must have been a rewarding experience for the students.
However, Tuesday’s lectures were a whole different ball game. It was a wonderful experience. To start with, the topics were familiar. The first lecture was on “Basic Concepts in Entrepreneurship: Developing a feasibility study and business plan,” by Professor Hakeem Ajonbadi, who spoke from the United Kingdom. The second lecture was on “Entrepreneurship: Beyond Theory, delivered by Professor Martins Anetekhai from the United States. The fact that I love learning about wealth creation further fuelled my interest in these lectures. So, I was in class on time to assimilate everything possible in the lectures.
People in class that Tuesday included a few vice chancellors, some former VCs, and students from Sierra Leone, Ghana and Democratic Republic of Congo. True to expectation, the lectures enriched my life. I learnt from Prof. Ajonbadi that “Anything you do but do not make money from is pure hobby.” That was contrary to common knowledge out there. Before then, I used to hear people say that when you “follow your passion well enough, it will give you money.” But, here is Prof. Ajonbadi saying that being passionate about a thing does not guarantee making money from it, except one has an entrepreneurship mindset. He also said you might not know jack about a thing but still end up making good money from it with the right entrepreneurship skills.
In the same vein, Prof Anetekhai emphasised the need for everyone to possess entrepreneurial skills. To him, all stakeholders in government from politicians to civil servants must be entrepreneurs. That really made sense to me too. Imagine if all Nigerian leaders had been truly entrepreneurs, would they have kept on exporting crude oil and importing petroleum products at exorbitant prices. Wouldn’t that be illogical? You produce a thing, export it, and pay more to import it back to your country when you can easily process this product for local consumption at a far lower cost. Similarly, had Nigerian leaders been entrepreneurs, they wouldn’t have continued to waste billions of Naira on Turn around Maintenance of dead refineries when they can easily sell them off and get investors to build new ones. The same way a country, so rich in land mass and good soil, shouldn’t be having any problem feeding its people. These are just some of the few things that Nigeria could have enjoyed if it had entrepreneurs in the saddle.
If migrating online is still a challenge for higher institutions in Nigeria, in spite of all the possibilities out there, I am suspecting there are other things beyond the ordinary that may be holding our institutions back.
By the way, Prof Antekhai is the Director of Entrepreneurial Centre, LASU. It is expected that LASU will also do more in terms of its internally generated revenue going forward just like Tai Solarin University of Education, whose Vice Chancellor, Prof. Abayomi Arigbabu, told the class, generates over N200m monthly. According to the VC, the university is into many businesses including block making and bag production. While Ogun State gives the university N30m subvention per month, it runs a monthly wage bill of N210m and does not owe any worker.
In all, my online classes were a pleasurable experience. Yes, there were little hitches here and there primarily due to poor network connectivity, but my Glo Mi-Fi came to my rescue and did more than an average job. Besides, the videos of the lectures were on YouTube and one could always go back to see them. The seventh Discussion Forum was opened on Wednesday and would remain live till Thursday for students to provide answers to questions from the topics discussed. This is part of their assessment as marks are attached to each question.
If my experience in those classes is anything to go by, I don’t see the reason why higher institutions in Nigeria should still struggle to deliver enriching virtual lectures to their students. What are the vice-chancellors, rectors and provosts of various public higher institutions in our country doing to provide this much-talked about online learning? Honestly, this thing is not rocket science. The minimum technology to kick it off is already available. All that is required is for lecturers to prepare the slides for their lectures and for universities to make data available for lecturers and students. Both the universities and the Federal Government can work with telecoms companies to offer discounted data for both students and lecturers. What stops the Federal Government from providing a token as data allowance for students in its universities? After all, Nigeria has been generous enough to provide tuition free university education for its citizens all these years.
If migrating online is still a challenge for higher institutions in Nigeria, in spite of all the possibilities out there, I am suspecting there are other things beyond the ordinary that may be holding our institutions back. Beyond the lecturers, it is probably time to start looking at the role of institutional authorities in driving the delivery of online education. Are these heads really fully committed to doing this?
*Deji-Folutile is the Editor-in-Chief, FrankTalknow.com and member, Nigerian Guild of Editors. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org