Disclaimer: SaharaReporters Media Group has partnered with MTN’s mAcademy to explore impediments to increased adoption of electronic learning modules in West Africa.
Of late, life in several areas of Nigeria’s northeast is routinely punctuated by news of indiscriminate militant attacks, kidnappings and bombings since the Boko Haram insurgent group began escalating its campaign of violence in 2009.
What would you do as a parent in Nigeria’s northeastern cities of Damaturu or Bauchi, if you should hear rumors that Boko Haram insurgents are planning to attack schools in your area? Unfortunately, these are the kinds of heart-wrenching decisions some parents in Nigeria’s insecure northeast have to wrestle with. The decision—whether or not to send children to school—has already been made for other parents in the region with over 800 school closings in the region due to insecurity.
An independent evaluation and assessment conducted by the Coalition of Civil Society Groups (CCSG) has determined that over 194,664 students have been forced to stay out of school due to insecurity. According to CCSG President Etuk Bassey Williams the school closings will cause Nigeria to fail in meeting its 2015 benchmarks for primary school enrollment with less than 80 percent enrollment of school-aged children.
Some education analysts have proposed the adoption of online education programming in school curriculums as a viable tool in educating home-bound students especially in Nigeria’s troubled northeast.
Will Online Education Work In Nigeria?
In October, Dr. Dipo Fashina, former president of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) declared Nigeria’s education system to be dysfunctional and in need urgent need of transformation.
"Education is the major thing that promotes being at the height of development and we are not there yet," Dr. Fashina said.
Enrollment in online education programming has already gained significant numbers of users in Nigeria partly because of the dysfunction in an education system, which produces ill-prepared graduates who find it very difficult to find employment. Thousands of Nigerians who want to obtain quality education and credentials from reputed institutions abroad find that online learning programs may be the best available option.
Additionally, many online learning programs are considerably more affordable as online education programs can accommodate thousands of learners using the same online resources, and without the need for hiring additional instructors or maintaining school buildings.
With over 175 million monthly mobile phone subscriptions in Nigeria it is increasingly becoming easier for Nigerians unable to attend traditional classrooms to undertake learning programs online. In fact, the field of online education platforms—once exclusively the domain of large university systems in the United States and Europe—is now open to African-inspired versions. Beni American University is Nigeria’s first online learning university, developed by Gossy Ukanwoke, a young entrepreneur with programs geared towards entrepreneurship and executive-level management.
MTN’s mAcademy is another online learning application, which has been rolled out in several African countries offering popular courses like information technology, banking, and teaching, many of which are offered free or at the low cost of N100.00 per week. The mAcademy platform, which has been endorsed by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) is an example of a model which shows how online learning tools can be employed towards educating home-bound students in Nigeria’s northeast region even at the present time.
With a growing telecommunications sector in Nigeria and improving internet broadband capacity, the potential for online education programming to provide students in insecure areas a viable learning alternative will only become clearer.