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By Rommy IMAH
Thought leaders in Nigeria’s Education and Technology sectors, had at the maiden edition of the African EduTech Conference held Thursday in Lagos, re-echoed the need for the country to overhaul her educational curricula to allow for the growing demography to contribute to the new global economy driven by technology.
African EduTech Conference 2019 is organized by the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce in partnership with EduFirst.ng, a subsidiary of Skool Media, with support from Olashore International School.
But relying heavily on the scary statistics of about 60million illiterate adults, 10.2million out of school children inhabiting Nigeria, and the fact that about 60% of the country’s population is below age 30, Arc. Sonny Echono, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education stated that for Nigeria to change her scary education narrative, there was need for the country to work hard at ensuring that her graduates are equipped with 21st century skills.
Arc. Echono, who presented a keynote address at the event themed: Education, Technology & Jobs: A Synergy That Works, highlighted the importance of technology in the actualization of the skills needed in today’s economy and job creation processes.
“With the depressing statistics, there is need to provide access, modernised delivery mechanism for teaching; increase the number of teachers; provide enabling environment and ensure even resources, as means to recreate the education system. Education system has to provide graduates with adequate skills for present and future workplace.
“CBN’s 2018 statistics shows that Diaspora remittances to Nigeria exceeded the proceeds from oil revenue. In other words, we are no longer an oil economy rather human resource-based nation. Therefore, we need to stop the brain drain.
“We must make our education competitive and attractive. Today, we use games to make education fun such that the children while playing, they learn too. So, we must make our graduates employable.
“At the same time, we have to emphasis entrepreneurship. To create more jobs, we need more entrepreneurs who are using technology to innovate whether in agriculture, health, education, telecommunications, manufacturing, etc.
“As a government, we are keen to always facilitate public-private-partnerships that enable investments in the sector knowing that the expectations are huge.”
Arc. Echono, who further tasked stakeholders in the education sector to create an accountability structure for proprietors of schools, teachers and students as means of tackling laxity in the system also emphasized the need for the equipment and re-equipment of the classrooms and laboratories with state-of-the-art tools so as to enhance effective teaching and learning environment.
Mr. Kayode Falowo, Acting President and Chairman in Council, Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce, had earlier in his address noted that the Conference was part of the exercise of the Chamber’s mandate to support the socio-economic development of the country through educational development.
The Chamber’s African EduTech platform he said, will continue to provide the government, regulatory agencies like the Federal Ministry of Education, the National Universities Commission (NUC), the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC), the West African Examination Council (WAEC), and other educational professionals the opportunity to interact and share experiences on the revitalization of Nigeria’s education system, through the application of technology and innovation as key ingredients for educational transformation.
In his remarks, Principal, Olashore International School, Mr. Derrick Smith said the case with Nigerian schools is that the curriculum has to be reviewed, adding that there was need to upscale the courses offered at the schools to reflect skills for the 21st Century among the students, such as critical thinking and problem-solving, creativity, imagination, and communication skills that will help them become citizens of the world.
“The curriculum should have room for the children to develop personally, bring up ideas for research, because it is no longer fashionable to teach-for-passing-exams. Our children need to have the skills that are necessary in the workplace when they graduate which are also constantly changing. It is no longer interesting to train a child for a particular job; their skills should work in a variety of jobs,” he added.
Speaking to newsmen on the sidelines of the event, General Manager, Partnership Implementation at Skool Media Nigeria Limited, Mr. Charles Dungor, said the goal for African EduTech Conference was to bring all stakeholders in the education space to brainstorm on how best to engineer a better system that recognises the need for grooming students with 21st Century skills.
“I am sure that in the global scale we all know what is happening in Nigeria due to the decadence in the Nigerian educational system. We believe developing a platform as this will be an avenue for people to interact, proffer solutions, get public-private participants under a roof to dialogue and see how best to tackle the challenges so we can become globally competitive.
“The goal is simple: we have a lot of young people moving from the Secondary and colleges to universities, and others graduating from the universities, but they are not employable. This informed the theme of the conference, ‘Education, Technology & Jobs; A Synergy that Works’. How does this work? It deals with a competitive and effective interaction among stakeholders in the education sector, innovation (ICT) ecosystem, public-private sector participants to synergize,” Dungor said.
He stated that as the first edition, a communiqué will be produced from the Conference, which will be sent to the government to highlight issues that were portrayed and solutions or recommendations proffered to resolve those educational issues.
“We have the body in charge of curriculum; the NCC that regulates telecoms and can recommend how they could go about assisting the education sector through their product offerings; NECO, which is an examination body and also WAEC; I believe some of their takeaways from this conference will reflect in decision and policy-making processes.
“Just as the Acting Minister of Education, Arch. Sonny Echono who doubles as the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, delivered the keynote, he spoke to the topic and proffered solutions from the Government point of view. He also stated clearly what the government is doing to bridge the gaps in the system and took feedback from the participants mostly from the private sector.”
The Conference also had in attendance had in attendance the Director General, Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce, Bunmi Afolabi; the Co-Founder and Project Coordinator at Skool Media, Moses Imayi; Digital Innovation & Country Manager, EduFirst Ng, Idris Oladipo; Principal Consultant, Leading Learning Limited, Folasade Adefisayo; Team Lead, HR Strategy & Projects, First Bank, Tomilayo Esan, among other speakers and moderators.
Over 10 firms exhibited at the event which also featured panel discussions, teaching tools demo and presentations by students.