DR. Vannavar Bush was the man who developed the early technology of what has come down to our age as the computer. But he didn’t see long enough to capture the far-range reach of his work. He didn’t even see up to 20 years of the limitless possibilities of the device he had created.
For instance, he was asked if rockets (immensely aided by the computer) might travel three thousand miles. Bush dismissed the idea and declared: “I feel confident that it will not be done for a very long period of time!” His “very long period of time” proved embarrassingly wrong because 20 years later rockets blasted off to the moon!
Now if this great man couldn’t see that far, it would be proposing too much at that time to suggest that the computer might be an indisputable tool for global communication. Pray, wouldn’t it be a less promising proposal to push the idea of a laptop or a pad-like successor to the computer in the 21st century? Crazier still would be a proposition that down south of the Sahara in 2012, secondary school students in a place called State of Osun would be tapping from the vast potential of the computer technology.
But this seemingly unthinkable scene is what is playing out in the State of Osun under Governor Rauf Aregbesola. For the first time in the history of education development in Nigeria, a Governor is bringing the unlimited benefits of Information Communications Technology, ICT, right into the homes of students. Whereas up till now the student could only have access to ICT-driven education through private means or depending on your economic power, the government in Osogbo has rolled out a plan to equip its secondary school students with what it calls Opon Imo (tablet or pad of knowledge).
It is an ICT-based device patterned after iPad, the handy tool that the elite in the society wield for omnibus communication purposes. In a stroke of genius, the government has demystified the pad, commissioning a Chinese company to develop the computer tablet for specific local needs. Opon Imo will be in the kit of all the high school students in Osun.
It has been designed to have 38 subjects offered in the schools installed in it. But the authorities have done much more than accommodating the so-called conventional takes. They have included Yoruba history, Yoruba traditional religion, civic education, sexuality education and -wait for it- entrepreneurship education! At the last official count there are 43 subjects stored in Opon Imo.
All the books used in all the three senior classes as well as WAEC, NECO and JAMB past questions and answers are in Opon Imo. Being solar compatible for at least eight hours the tablet saves its user undue dependence on the country’s unstable power supply.
The government of Aregbesola, from the foregoing, can thus be seen to be determined to ensure “total education” to the young sons and daughters of Osun. His administration is offering the best aid to prepare the boys and girls for both internal and external examinations. Characteristic of governments that are passionate about selfless service to the people that voted them into power, the correct administration is viewing the present from the prism of the future.
His philosophy is to offer stress-free education through Opon Imo which the ancient Latin people would call vade mecum. Literally it means go with me. But it alludes to a handy reference book, a pocket manual that goes with you everywhere you go, giving you instant knowledge and information about your school work.
This value-laden tablet that frees the student from the physical burden of backpack of books and other odds and sods is a giant leap in the history of education in sub-Saharan Africa. It will mark a watershed in the life of the student, parents and society the same way Vannavar Bush’s computer, the great precursor of Opon Imo, has made a difference in the history of mankind.
A government’s real worth is the difference it makes in the life of its citizens. It is the only enduring legacy. Thus, the lesson from the advent of Opon Imo is that a good government ought always to put on its thinking cap with a view to breaking new concepts of good governance that would be of immeasurable advantage to the citizens.
Opon Imo (alias vade mecum) falls into that special class.
Mr. philus alaba, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Osun State.