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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Repositioning Nigerian youths with ICT

Features of the week:

The need to upgrade the nation’s education embellished with Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) at all levels, will reposition the youths for tomorrow’s competitiveness, reports REMMY NWEKE.

Computer science graduates:
Recently, six Computer Science graduates were invited for a job interview in an ICT firm in Lagos. The similarities they had were that they were between the ages of 21 and 22 and had just graduated from six different universities located within the six geo-political zones of the country.

Unfortunately, they had no practical knowledge of what they purportedly spent four years studying and in most cases; some spend five or more years when strikes disrupt the school calendar.

But one unforgettable experience about these graduates was that none of their universities’ curricula has any of the applications being used by this firm during the interview.

This did not only automatically disqualify them but left them in despair of clinching the job on offer.

As was later discovered from these graduates, most of them had no working computers at their institutions for practicals. This further widened the gap between them and technologies. That is in addition to deficiency in curriculum and even where available, it is guarded like an egg.

Investigations however, revealed that most lecturers in computer science departments of our universities are still engrossed in teaching students the likes of COBOL series and computer first century applications. This was found to be the curriculum, thereby leaving out current number of increasing applications available today.

Retraining:
The chief executive, InfoSoft Nigeria Limited, Mr. Pius Okigbo Jnr, lamenting the deplorable situation of the university system in the country, said ICT firms spend huge sums on retraining graduates that find themselves into the sector.

Supposedly, he noted, at one of the ICT events at MUSON Centre Lagos, that these were youths expected to have graduated from the computer science departments of Nigerian universities. But more awesome, he said, was that about 70 per cent of these students do not have access to Personal Computers (PCs) let alone laptops.

A re-engineering of the system, he said, must begin with providing adequate infrastructure at the primary, secondary and university stages, such as PCs and teaching tools as streamlined in the New Economic Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD) e-School initiative with private sector.

Reacting to some pupils and students’ quest on how to uplift the education sector so as to raise the standards and empower the youths who are the future leaders, at a recent ICT seminar in Lagos, President, Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, pointed out that the curriculum for Nigerian education system and specifically the universities must be upgraded as well as the knowledge of teachers in the course at all levels.

This, he said, would pave the way for collaboration with the industry’s organised private sector (OPS) like ATCON to canvass support for the schools. He urged Nigerian students to also take extra steps in advancing themselves positively, through the lots of knowledgeable information available online via the Internet.

According to him, as much as the teachers and lecturers need upgrade, they cannot offer tutorials on abstracts. Pointing out that once these lecturers are knowledgeable in contemporary issues, they would be able to offer the same in tutorials based on current experiments, which must include updating the curricular. Also, these experiments, encompass constant research and development on ICT sector, among others.

“Once our lecturers are upgraded, the market would be flooded with ICT-related text books with local context,” he declared, warning, however, that days are gone when who you know gets you there.

“It’s not who gets you there that matters now, but what you have there – the brain. Faith, without adequate work is dead,” Dr. Ekuwem stressed, advising the youths to eschew clubbing and other irrelevances while in school as they would have enough doze on graduation.

Also commenting on this at a one day convention put together by the Nigeria Internet Group (NIG) last December, President, Computer Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN) and a lecturer at University of Ibadan, Dr. (Mrs.) Adenike Osofisan, acknowledged the decay in the system, but said that some teachers like her are striving to update themselves via personal efforts.

The first CPN lady president, also called for understanding of students and school management, while advocating for enabling fund to help teachers at all levels attend train-the-trainer programmes. That way, the society will be saving for the future.

A new vista:
For chief executive, Digital Bridge Institute (DBI) Abuja, Dr. Olusapo Ogunfemi, it is the curriculum and methodology that distinguish DBI among institutions of learning with specialty on ICT.

This, he said, is why DBI through the collaboration of Federal Ministry of Education is working to incorporate its curriculum into the universities curricula nationwide.

Additionally, he said, this could be extended to post primary education and primary eventually to avail Nigerian youths and future leaders to be 21st century competitive.

To this end, he said, that DBI in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Education is working out plans to align current curriculum in Nigerian higher institutions with that of DBI which is updated. This, Ogunfemi stressed, would raise both the curricula and institutions at par with their counterparts in other parts of the world, just as it would pave the way for DBI to partner them with ease in stirring up relevant courses for contemporary society.

Focus Nigeria:
A contributor to the Focus Nigeria, a phone-in programme on the Africa Independent Television (AIT), Mr. Olaruwaju from Effurun in Warri, Delta State, while dwelling on Education, noted recently that everyday we change the education system which is a reflection of lack of focus and it seems the leadership of the country, and education ministry are lacking in focus.

He wondered that if United States (US) was able to send some people to the moon, “why can’t we strive to improve our education and get near to such innovations.”

Also, a panelist at Focus Nigeria, penultimate Wednesday, Mr. Lai Mohammed, said, “If government is really interested in science and technology, let government spend a third of what budget they have for aborted third-term agenda on equipping the educational institutions structurally, pay our professors well and then sit back and watch the difference.”

Another contributor from Jos said misplacement of priority from public interest to personal aggrandizement, has been the bane of education development in the country. “Let us emphasise institutions and good leadership and de-emphasise self” he said.

Mr. Dele Momodu, a Nigerian residing in Accra called in to say that it is all about management, noting that infrastructure is very relevant to development and our neighbour, Ghana is far ahead of Nigeria when it comes to development and education is not left out.

Yet for another contributor, the professors are just there taking salaries in their offices without fund for research, which he said is the root of universities. He likened Nigeria to an uncaring parent of many children.

He also recalled that in the days gone by there was what was called handiwork exercise in primary schools on weekly basis and from there teachers and parents would discover what their children are likely to major on in the future. But the 6-3-3-4 system, did not help in this regard.

The alternative:
President, Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), Dr. Chris Nwannenna, further corroborated the fact that education system in the country requires refocusing, mostly in the school curriculum. This challenge is gradually infesting the privately owned tertiary institutions.

He described it as sad that many university students do not have access to PCs, especially computer science students.

To this end, he said, NCS has set up a committee on education to redraft the curriculum in the system. For the next one year, NCS intends to focus on bridging this gap by organizing one week hands-on workshop for university students, especially those in the computer science final year, to further prepare them for the labour market.

The workshop, according to Dr. Nwannenna, who also is the chief executive, Condata Systems, would be held in the six geo-political zones in the country, thereby taking it nearer to the students, even as NCS awaits sponsors’ green-light on the project.

He equally noted that the workshop may not take all of them, but the basics would be on programming tools.

Government, he advised should be alive to its responsibility of providing qualitative education to her people, mostly the future leaders, the youths, and by partnering the likes of NCS in order to upgrade the school curriculum.

That way, it would be repositioning Nigerian youths for the 21st century leadership with ICT, while strategically re-examining the primary and secondary levels.

He believes that if you teach a child on how he or she should live, that the child will not depart from it.

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