The Nigerian Landscape
Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. The worldwide response to the COVID pandemic wasn’t the beginning of a technology revolution but instead more like an awakening because the technologies that powered remote work and learning were all available. The truth of the new stimulus turned out to be the inspiration to think outside the box, or in the case of EdTech, outside the classroom. Sometimes, restrictions are the keys to the imagination, and EdTech was provided with those keys early on in Nigeria’s pandemic response.
On the 23rd of March 2020, Nigeria’s schools were officially closed. The Federal Ministry of Education began a search for alternative solutions to the classroom. It soon became imperative to find a sustainable solution for the home based learning that had become mandatory to curb the spread.
Through a coordinated effort, the FME and the Universal Basic Education Commission established a Task-Force Team that developed the Learn at Home Programme (LHP). This program came up with multiple scenarios in response to the lockdowns and made allowances for the possibility of an extended period out of school, which included a structured approach to carrying out the digitization of curricula and development of radio, TV, or self-learning instructional materials based on the national curriculum would be introduced.
In April 2020, the FME released a schedule for the use of radio and TV programs as a means to deliver learning and teaching content to the students in the country. Several e-learning resources like SchoolGate and Mobile Classroom were also developed for students to access learning materials based on their curriculum. To support students in preparing for their government examinations (WAEC), an e-learning portal was set up to facilitate access to learning materials. The FME also collaborated with 9mobile Internet Service Provider to provide students with free data that would enable them to access e-learning resources and online course platforms While this plan on paper for distance education solutions was meant to cater to students during this time, the infrastructure that was needed for successful instruction was sorely lacking. Electricity, the Internet, and even compatible devices were problems faced by teachers and students country-wide.
UNESCO estimates over 40 million learners in Nigeria were affected by the closure of schools in 2020, worsening an already critical situation in education in the country.
The Nigerian environment has been described by many in EdTech as completely discouraging, particularly when appraising the situation of government schools that lack even the most basic amenities. Despite the challenges of our landscape, people across the country have continued to innovate in order to provide educational services to much different demography. Private schools across the country have heavily invested in tools for digitizing the curriculum and making sure time is not lost for their students. Responding to the demand for these services, technology enthusiasts, educators and engineers have collaborated to create a number of solutions since the lockdowns began. Some of these solutions were already in play before the closure of schools, but a massive upscaling was inevitable once the students all over the country came knocking.
Independent companies like uLesson, Gradely and Passnownow saw a rise in the accessing of their platforms, engaging students in problem-solving and identifying gaps that could be addressed on a digital platform. The increase in the use of these EdTech tools led to learning institutions turning to organizations like evolvEd for guidance on how to easily migrate, Integrate into their curriculum and train teachers, students and parents on how to maximize the usage of these EdTech tools.
Tech skills, perhaps the most transferrable area for digitized education, have also seen a rapid rise in these communities, and the evolution of EdTech continues at an accelerated rate, even though students have since returned to the classroom.
In Q1 of 2020, there were as many as 210 EdTech start-ups on the African continent, with Nigeria leading the way in both volume and variety. At this moment, official data on the state of EdTech infrastructure in Nigeria is still not publicly available. What we have seen instead is a rapid response to the lockdown through medium-scale, localized initiatives, some at a state level. It is the opinion of many that the Federal Government become more involved in this push to EdTech in order to create a more sustainable environment for the burgeoning industry.