By Lucy Osuizigbo-Okechukwu
Awka, Sept. 24, 2020 The Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS) has called for more funding for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure to build smart university campuses and a resilient higher education system that can cope with any pandemic.
Panelists during a webinar on “Building Resilient Higher Education System in Nigeria”, organised by the academy on Thursday, said that the pandemic exposed acute lack of ICT infrastructure in the nation’s public universities.
One of the panelists, Prof. David Mba, Pro Vice-Chancellor at De Montfort University, UK, said that UK universities spent a lot of money to switch to online teaching to sustain the education calendar during the COVID-19-induced lockdown.
Mba said that UK universities had to address the digital divide among students, as some of them did not have laptops or tablets and did not also have access to internet or data.
“To address the challenges caused by the COVID-19 lockdown in UK universities, a lot of money was spent on buying hundreds of laptops, and a loan scheme for purchase and delivery was instituted so that students could get laptops and learn online irrespective of their locations.
“We had university staff training in technology and virtualisation of laboratories for quality online teaching.
“Going forward, we are considering classroom and online-blended learning, especially for science students; this can help to build a smart and resilient university education.
“I believe we can achieve same in Nigeria but it requires huge investments in ICT infrastructure, constant power supply and training of staff,” he said.
Another panelist, Prof. Charles Wambebe, President, International Biomedical Research in Africa, said that the federal and state governments had huge roles to play in achieving smart a education system at the higher level.
Wambebe said that South African Government was proactive during the lockdown to ensure that students had their courses and examinations online from their various homes.
“It is an expensive venture but it is worth the while; our government should be able to replicate same in our universities in Nigeria,” he said.
Commenting, Prof. Abiodun Adebayo, Dean of the School of Postgraduate Studies, Covenant University, Ota, Ogun, said that most private universities in Nigeria had adopted e-learning with most courses offered online.
Adebayo said that lack of funds, corruption and mismanagement of funds in public universities hindered the development of ICT infrastructure.
“If a smart campus is achievable in our private universities, it means that our governments must wake up to their responsibilities and do more to drive education.
“Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) should find a creative way of ensuring that a certain percentage of its budget is dedicated to ICT infrastructure, access to internet and constant power supply in public universities,” he advised.
Prof. Labode Popoola, Vice-Chancellor, Osun State University, said that governments alone could not bear the cost of building a smart and resilient high education system in Nigeria due to dwindling resources.
Popoola urged the academia to engage the private sector, parents and students to chart a plan on how to raise funds to solve some of the problems facing public universities in the country.
The President, Nigerian Academy of Science, Prof. Mosto Onuoha, urged vice-chancellors to be innovative in solving problems in their institutions.
“Get an alternative power generation source such as solar or windmills. Universities are supposed to be hubs for problem solutions.
“Resources are dwindling for the government. There must be something we can do to cope with the realities of our time, ” Onuoha said.
In his remarks, Prof. Oluwole Familoni, the moderator of the discussions, said that the webinar was organised to gather thoughts on tackling challenges to higher education in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and advise governments appropriately.
According to Familoni, there is a need to start using technology to drive a blend of online and classroom teaching and learning, rather than wait for a pandemic before the needful is done. (