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Slow to boot: Nigerian students lag behind in computer education

By Laju Arenyeka

Nigerian students seem to be languishing in the dust behind the moving train of the twenty first century as a result of poor computer education in many secondary schools across the country.

Investigations carried out by Vanguard Learningrevealed that many schools in Nigeria lack up to date computer technology and that many of those that have computers have little or no access to electricity.

Also, some Nigerian students have only been in a computer classroom when their school is privileged to have a qualified corps member for one year of national youth service.

Remi Ademiju, is one of such Corps members who teaches computer science in a government school in Southern Nigeria. He said: “I teach basic knowledge about the computer. We are supposed to have practicals but we can’t because there is hardly any electricity here, and the school doesn’t have a generator. The students barely visit the computer lab. So we just teach them theory.”

When asked to rate the computer knowledge of students in his school, he replied:” Less than five percent. For them to be able to define the internet and not be able to use it is a big problem.  For many students Out of a class of about 60 people, only one person claims to have worked on a computer before, on his uncle’s laptop.”

Executive Head of Networks, Vodacom Business Nigeria, Mr. Vernon Van Rooyen (center) addressing students of the Mathematics/Computer Science Department of Benue State University at an ICT workshop organized by Vodacom Business Nigeria recently in Lagos

Professor Olu Jegede, a lecturer at the Institute of Education, Obafemi Awolowo University said: “Illiteracy is now beyond being able to read and write. Once computer education is out of it, that person is an illiterate. Very few of the schools that have access to computers also have access to the internet and that is a very big problem.”

Eyitemi Ogunjimi, a JSS1 student in a state secondary school said: “I’ve been to the computer lab once when the corps member that taught computer studies was around, we had classes, but I can’t really remember what he taught us.”

Mr. Festus Ogunmola, an education practitioner in Northern Nigeria, gave his perspective on the reason for the lack of computer teachers in many Government schools. “A computer teacher knows that he has many opportunities, that is why he is not likely to restrict himself to teaching in a public school except on contract. Private schools on the other hand, have a competitive edge and use computer studies as an incentive.”

Professor Jegede and his colleague, Josiah Abiodun Owolabi in 2003 did a research on ‘Education in Nigerian Secondary Schools: Gaps between Policy and Practice’ where they compared the National Computer Policy (1988) with existing school practice at that time.

The now obsolete policy, whose objectives were to “Bring about a computer literate society in Nigeria by the mid-1990s, and enable present school children to appreciate and use the computer in various aspects of life and in future employment” obviously passed on with the tenure of the policy makers as a 2010 report showed that 90 per cent of primary school teachers are not computer literate.

Prof. Jegede, in an interview with Vanguard Learning, said: “Computer education should not just be in the domain of the computer teacher, but the responsibility of every teacher. We should apply the social learning theory here and understand that students learn by continuous practice. If the teachers use computers, it would be a better way to inculcate computer skills than just the strict subject approach that we practice in Nigeria.”

Although Computer Education is now a subject at the Junior Secondary School Certificate Examinations level, there is still much progress to be desired. Another corps member, who teaches JSS1-3 computer classes in a school in Anambra complained.

“This issue (of lack of practicals) is of grave concern to me. For example, I’ve been teaching a class on Corel draw, and I gave them a test. They all failed. It’s not really the students fault because all we can teach is theory and it’s supposed to be practical. It’s no wonder that they are confused.”

Prof. Jegede summed up the effect of this situation when he said: “This same situation is what translates into our higher institutions. There are still a lot of people who aren’t computer literate in the universities. What this means in the long run is that our graduates will eventually become unemployable.

“The three Rs of education are ‘Reading, Writing, and Reckoning.’ It’s in reckoning that computer education finds its essence. We must focus on producing students who can compete favourably with their peers around the globe.”

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