Tuesday , September 26 2023

Nigerian Higher Institutions Not Prepared for Virtual Learning – Experts

Unsure of how soon the Corona Virus pandemic will end, Minister of Education Mallam Adamu Adamu has directed vice-chancellors, rectors and provosts to reopen using virtual learning. But experts have argued that the nation’s education sector is not prepared for such.

Worried about the continued closure of the nation’s higher educational institutions over the CoronaVirus pandemic, minister of education, Mallam Adamu Adamu has directed school administrators to switch to online learning. Unsure of how soon the COVID-19 will end, Adamu has opened talks with vice-chancellors, rectors and provosts on how to reopen using virtual learning.

He directed all universities, polytechnics and colleges of education to activate virtual learning environment to enable students continue their studies through digital devices. He said although the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is on strike, the government will do its best to resolve the labour crisis.

Most vice-chancellors of private universities embraced the idea and expressed readiness to reopen because they claimed that they have top grade virtual learning system. Adamu, who had a teleconference with the vice -chancellors and other heads of tertiary institutions from his home in Abuja, said the Federal Government, cannot afford to shut schools for a long time.

But while stakeholders described the call as laudable, they however expressed mixed feelings on the possibility of switching to virtual learning, particularly the conventional institutions.

For ASUU, government’s failure to adequately fund the sector over the years will make online learning impossible. A former chairman of ASUU, University of Ibadan (UI) branch, Prof Deji Omole who described our leaders as “millennium jesters”, said if government had adequately fund the sector, switching to online learning would not have been a problem.

“We have been struggling all these while that they should make certain facilities available for teaching and learning, and they have refused, this is one of the reasons why ASUU is on strike, suddenly they now realised that we can no longer move forward without those things, is that not self-indictment? Who is going to be responsible for the e-learning? Is it the students or the lecturers if those facilities are not there?

“Education is a very serious investment and we learnt that some of them sent their children abroad to study, they should be honest enough to ask them when they come back the qualities, standard of equipment and infrastructures put in place there for conducive learning. We are far away from the reality that was why I said they are millennium jokers. How would they facilitate the e-learning? Did they assume its Whatssap message? What is not on ground, how do you now deploy them at this critical period? Besides the fact that the union is on strike, even if the union is not on strike, how do you deploy that? You would know how much as an individual you spend on internet every month, where will the students get money? What is not on ground you cannot use it. Those are the things we were talking about.

Omole added, “Government must consciously release money for such facilities to be put on ground, in so many institutions presently, academic staff use yahoo, gmail and others, infact at a particular time of the day, you cannot even access your mail. It is a serious matter. In some instances, you would see students, about 20 of them clustering in one place because they said signal there is better, government must be ready to fund education, there is no alternative to it.

Similarly, former vice chancellor, Caleb University, Imota, Prof Ayodeji Olukoju said there is no Nigerian university that has the requisite infrastructure to quickly switch over to online teaching. Olukoju, a distinguished professor at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) said the average Nigerian university is structured to teach on the conventional platform and distance learning is not as developed as we would have loved.

“We can talk of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), or the distance learning institute at UNILAG or its counterpart at UI but unlike South Africa’s UNITA, which is very efficient, we haven’t got to that level here because of the infrastructure required-online facilities, human resource that is, the technical people that can handle it and then the trained lecturers that can operate on that platform. So to the extent that we don’t have such structures, the physical and the pedagogical on ground, it becomes problematic, we cannot switch over overnight.”

Prof Olukoju however stated that government could work towards it, as a future plan as online learning is not practicable at the moment. “For any university that wants to switch to virtual learning, apart from the physical structure having a central location, where those things can be coordinated on their campuses, we also need to be sure that the students at the other end have power supply and laptop to connect with their institutions.

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