ICTs transforming Nigeria's schools
In the past, twelve-year old Samuel Jacob would wake up in the morning, put on his school uniform and suddenly feign illness in order to be allowed to stay home from school. At other times, the Akwa Ibom State-born primary six pupil of Saint Andrew's State Primary School in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, would go to school and sleep most of the day in class owing to boredom.
Now, Jacob's attitude to learning has changed dramatically. These days, he is punctual to school, very active and always eager to learn.
What has so dramatically transformed his life is the introduction of ICT into his school by the governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi.
Jacob is not the only child showing a new interest in learning.
Silverline Wike, head teacher, State School, Okoro-Nu-Odo, Rumuokoro, Port Harcourt, says she has seen many similar cases of revived learner interest recently.
She recounts that before the primary school education renaissance that brought about the renovation of some 500 primary schools and gave a face-lift to all the secondary schools in the state, she used to wake up and reluctantly prepare for school.
But with newly renovated, well ventilated and tastefully furnished classrooms, an ICT laboratory with 31 desk top computers, e-library, a 300-capacity auditorium, race tracks, football and basketball pitches, a school farm, standby generator as well as a nursery section all equipped with a sick bay, schooling has become an attraction of a sort to all and sundry.
ICTs a ‘magic wand’
“The computers have affected the learning and teaching process positively in the school, especially in the life of the children. The children get so excited when it is their turn to come to the computer lab to work. They are so much excited and have demonstrated unprecedented zeal and eagerness to learn such that my seven-year old daughter, Beauty, in primary two, scored higher marks than I recently when the computer instructed set a test for us,” Wike explains.
For her counterpart, Kpugikwa Dorman Nwizuga, head teacher, St Andrews State Primary School, Ikwerre Road, Mile 1, Diobu, introducing ICTs into the school is like a magic wand that has had a dramatic impact on the teaching and learning atmosphere in the school.
“It is amazing how the pupils are responding to instructions. They come to school punctually and are ever eager to learn. In the past, when our pupils went on holiday, they stayed back one or two weeks before resuming school. The story has changed. If you ask them to come to the school on Saturday and Sundays, you will be shocked at the number of pupils that will be around. As a matter of fact, some of them wished they could come here all through the week to operate the computers,” he says.
According to him, with a pupil population of 361, at 30 per classroom in primary grades one to six, the school timetable is designed in such a manner that each class has a time allocated to it for computer studies.
“There are 31 computers in the school. Each of the 30 pupils will man a computer while the instructor uses the last one to instruct them. It is incredible how the pupils rush out enthusiastically to the computer lab each time it is their turn to go in,” he added.
He said this has also impacted on the teachers who hitherto were not computer literate, as they too must learn how to operate computers.
Wike says the introduction of ICT into the school has also affected the morale of the teachers psychologically as they now see themselves as impacting knowledge under a congenial environment. This has also affected the way the teachers dress.
“We now wear suits like our counterparts in the banks, we no longer feel inferior. Generally, we are grateful that Governor Amaechi has restored the dignity of the teaching profession,” she said.
The pupils, feel similarly inspired to greater ambitions.
Seven-year old Beauty Olunwa, daughter of Wike, who is in primary two at State School Okoro-Nu-Odo, Rumuokoro, says she is happy about having computers in her school. “I wish to become a medical doctor and help the sick and needy. Now that there are computers in my school, I operate it and feel very happy sitting down there operating it. I am sure this will help me to realise my ambition,” she says.
Prince Friday Nna, age 12, whose initial ambition was to become an electrical engineer, says with the introduction of computers in his school, he is beginning to change his mind. “I am interested in how the computer was made. So, I am going to work hard so that I can make my own computer,” he says.
Other pupils of the school who spoke to Biztechafrica.com are Mary Onyesoh, Chid Nwanele and Rachael Austin.
Twelve-year old Gladys Misominah, said she would want to be a teacher. Asked why, she says likes sharing knowledge with people. “I wish to become a teacher. Look at all the people teaching us in the school. They are all teachers. If they are not here, who will teach us?
The computer has made me to want to become a teacher more. I enjoy the class each time the computer instructor is teaching us,” she says.
Nwanele says he would wish to become a psychiatric doctor to attend to the mentally sick. “There are so many sick people out there. I like to be able to help them by putting their brains back to normal. Governor Amaechi has done well by giving us computers. It is helping us a lot because we are now more serious,” he says.
Wike says her day now begins as early as 5 am. “I now wake up as early as 5 am, do my morning devotion, prepare and the family for the day and hit the roads by 6.30am. Ten minutes after, I will be in school preparing for the day,” she said adding that the introduction of computers has changed the face of teaching and learning in the school.
Looking forward to the transformation
Prudent Comprehensive College is a private secondary school located on the outskirts of Lagos. Constrained by paucity of funds but aware of the place of ICT in the 21st century, Musa Abdulsalami, who is a director and principal of the school, told Biztechafrica.com that efforts are on to fully equip the school's computer lab.
According to him, the school has placed order for 20 additional desktop computers to support the few ones available.
“You can see our computer lab and you can also see that we have limited numbers of desk top computers now. Hopefully, at resumption in September, this lab would be filled with computers. We will also go a step further to put internet connectivity in in the lab so that students can do guided research on the internet. This will assist us pedagogically,” he said.
Like his colleagues in Rivers State, the principal said the use of ICT in the school has whipped up the interest of the students, some of whom have gone beyond what the instructor teaches and broken new grounds in computing.
A 14-year old senior secondary school (SS1) student of the school says her first contact with physical computers was in the school. “Before now, our computer instructor, Anty Abimbola, would teach us the basics like key board, mouse and other components.
Now that the school has purchased some computers, I am so excited that I can put into practice, those things she has taught us,” she said. With an ambition to study medicine, Elizabeth says early exposure to computer will assist her realise her dreams while her counterpart, 15-year old Lateef Akinyemi, an SS2 student, says early knowledge of how to operate computer will smooth his way to becoming a petroleum engineer in the future.
“With what I have been taught now, I usually visit a local cybercafe in my neighbourhood to check my email, Google some topics in chemistry, biology and physics. Sometime ago, I read about DNA test and did not know the meaning, what I did was to dash into a cybercafe, Google it and I was amazed with the result I got. I am happy that the school is making efforts to get internet connection for the school with a promise of strict supervision to avoid abuse,” he says.
Growing internet penetration
Availability of computers for schools will no doubt deepen internet penetration in the country. Speaking at a one-day workshop on Domain Name Registration and Management, organised by the Nigerian Internet Registration Association (NIRA), the Director General of National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA) Professor Cleopas Angaye, observed that the level of ICT penetration in the country also called for development of efforts to serve the indigenous market, attract foreign investment and contribute to the gross domestic product.
Speaking on the current internet penetration in Nigeria, Angaye said: "The Nigeria internet population witnessed tremendous growth with a boost from 2,418,679 users in 2005 to an estimated number of about 10 million users in 2008 and currently over 44 million internet users, thereby, positioning Nigeria as one of the fastest growing internet users in sub-Saharan Africa."