Once upon a time in Nigeria, a child’s first board was the sand. Their first duster was their palm. Then, they proceeded to the slate and the chalk. Then to exercise books with large boxes for numbers; the ones with red and blue lines for alphabets. In secondary schools, much of the learning involved, and
Once upon a time in Nigeria, a child’s first board was the sand. Their first duster was their palm. Then, they proceeded to the slate and the chalk. Then to exercise books with large boxes for numbers; the ones with red and blue lines for alphabets. In secondary schools, much of the learning involved, and still involves, huge textbooks that makes backs to slouch.
However, this is gradually changing. Moses Imayi, Project Director of Skool Media, the organisation championing that change, says that it has been a long but interesting journey. Three years ago, with two pilot schools—Queen’s College and Federal Government Girls’ College, Benin—the Skool Media project kicked off.
Why the choice of girls’ only schools? Imayi calls it a calculated move because technology in Nigeria has a male face. To change that, it is important to include young girls on the journey. This can change, not only the face of technology, but the entire country.
“We want technology to be attractive to females. If you start the change process with them, before you know it, it has an overriding effect on the entire country.” Imayi says that the project is spreading beyond those two schools now, to include mixed schools as well.
Skool Media started with intensive IT trainings for teachers on how to use technology for teaching. Teachers were taught how to use basic Microsoft Office package which helped them to turn their lesson notes to soft copies. They were taught how to use laptops, projectors and projector screens in classrooms. Many of them, reluctant initially, but with consistent trainings, they saw the benefits of technology for improving student concentration in the classrooms. Imari says from feedback, they also saw that it made their work easier and more productive.
Then, classrooms were painted in bright colours and fitted with technology gadgets. One laptop loaded with educational material—videos, illustrations, past questions, and more—per classroom. There were also Personal Educational Tablets also preloaded with educational content for students. With the tablets, students have access to their classmates before class; they can read textbooks; they also practice past questions.
Ifeoluwa Sofowora, a student of Federal Government Girls College says that her tablet has improved her knowledge of Mathematics. She says that it is easier for her to study the steps of any equation by simply watching a video on the topic. “This means that I do not have to continue bothering my teacher for further explanations,” she says.
Why is education important to Skool Media?
Education is the bedrock of any successful nation, Imayi says. “Look at nations that are changing the world, they invest in education. It is only quality education that can provide doctors that will keep citizens alive. It is only good education that will provide the knowledge to make the next technology that will change the world.” Imayi says education is important, not just today, but for the future of the country; this is one of the reasons behind their work.
Imayi attended Surulere Secondary School, where blackboards were used to teach. He studied History and Strategic Studies at the University of Lagos, where he got a Bachelor and Masters of Arts degrees respectively. His own education was without technology, the kind that he is bent on putting in schools today.
Why is he fascinated by technology in education?
Imayi asserts that the significance of technology in education has been proven in many countries. He says that he has seen it at work first hand on several visits to schools abroad; he has seen its impact on students and teachers alike; so, why not Nigeria?
“Technology has been shown to make education more interactive, to make students more dependent. So, it is important for us to make it priority.” He says, his voice filled with passion.
Imayi says that the project is based on faith and hope; faith that technology can change the education system for good and hope that this change will transform Nigeria. So, with a huge dose of both ingredients, the project kicked off in its pioneering schools.
A former Permanent Secretary of Education saw the project in Queen’s College and bought into it.
“They were like: this is what we have always seen education as.” Imayi says that was the beginning of their partnership with the Federal Ministry of Education (FME). In 2015, it signed an MOU with the FME to digitise 104 Unity schools in Nigeria. That project is in its first phase of digitising 24 schools across the six geo-political zones of the federation.
What does Skool Media consider when choosing partner schools?
Imayi says that their partnership with schools is a collaboration based on enthusiasm.
“We see school administrators who are so keen on having the project in their schools. They make their staff available for trainings; they provide space for our staff; they ensure that the facilities are safe; they encourage the PTA to partner,” Imayi says such schools make their burden lighter.
There are other burdens. In a world where constant power supply remains a scarce resource, how does one incorporate technology into anything? In a world where teachers are comfortable with their traditional teaching methods, of copying and forming lesson notes, of endlessly dictating notes to students; how does one advise technology in education? In a world where many parents do not even have three square meals to eat; how does one encourage them to buy an educational tablet for their children?
Skool Media takes these challenges one step at a time. For power, they have struck a partnership with the operational schools and their Parent Teacher Associations to make power available for the school hours when classes are in use. For the teachers, they continue to have IT trainings to update their knowledge of technology. For parents, it is only a function of convincing them on the importance of technology to the future of their child.
“Technology gives that child an opportunity to change the parent’s life,” he says that when the child has access to quality education through technology, they have better chances at a better future since they can compete with any other student. Each student in the operational school pays N5,000 as part of their school fees while the purchase of the educational tablet is optional.
One common thing about the operational schools is the presence of common rooms. Common rooms are like meeting rooms for students and Skool Media staff stationed in each school. In the common rooms, you will find laptops, projectors and projector screens which are available for students’ use. The IT instructors in the common rooms also provide continuous technology support for students and teachers. In the common rooms, the students also charge their educational tablets and store them away for safety at the end of every school day. The presence of IT instructors in these schools is also an avenue for creating employment for young Nigerians enthusiastic about technology.
Despite the many challenges, one school, one classroom, one student at a time, Skool Media is putting Nigeria on the global map of technology. In doing so, it is also rewriting the history of education in the country. Its effort is also being recognised; in May, 2016, it was awarded an award for innovation and creativity in education by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Imayi is not slowing down; he hopes to take the project to as many enthusiastic schools as possible. He also has other dreams—to use technology to solve not only challenges in the educational sector but other challenges facing Nigeria.
“There are so many things to fix. And education is priority for us today. Tomorrow, it can be health; it can be agriculture or any other sector that needs immediate intervention.” He says, emphasising the prospects of technology for engineering social change.