By Vivian Onyebukwa
During the lockdown as a result of COVID-19 breakout, nearly every human activity was affected, but for technology. Human activities went digital, including academics. Schools that were able to continue with their academic work were those who embraced technology, which proved that education of today cannot do without technology.
The Bunmi Adedayo Foundation is one organisation that is ensuring that schools are equipped with content production suites such as computers and gadgets for producing e-courses.
Recently, the organisation held its yearly conference, the Bunmi Adedayo Foundation Tech Relevant Teacher (TRT) project.
The conference was held in Lagos, with the theme, “Leveraging Technology for School Sustainability.” It is an annual event that brings together stakeholders in the education space to talk about the school business, its leadership, operations, strategies and how they impact on the quality of teaching and learning. The conference, which had participants virtually and physically, was in continuation of BAF mission to empower primary school teachers with 21st century pedagogic, life digital skills, to deliver quality and practical education to pupils.
Participants were school heads and administrators, owners, heads of departments, and school management boards in low-cost and medium-cost private schools. Senior teachers who also play leadership roles were allowed to participate.
The TRT project is a four-month exercise (between February and May 2021) that will directly impact 600 beneficiaries (200 school heads, 200 Math teachers and 200 English teachers), and indirectly reach over 1,400 teachers. Thirty schools will be empowered with the required equipment to set up content production suites at the end of the programme in May to aid continuous high-quality output from the teachers.
Chinenye Mba-Uzoukwu, trustee of the Education Reform and Innovation Team (ERIT), the keynote speaker at the conference, attributed the major challenge in embracing technology to human factors, stating that it was about agreeing as a country, from the leaders to the parents, that the only way to address the challenges in education today, particularly in public schools, is technology: “We believe that there is no other option, the entire world is in the 21st Century where technology has transformed all sectors. It has done that and it is currently doing that in the education space, so the first thing that we have to understand is that we are not going back to the 19th century of the level of education we had.”
According to Mba-Uzoukwu, learning is now individualistic, where every single person is given the best opportunity to reach their full potential, and one can only do so by using technology. “You see that in other parts of the world and it has not happened here. The reason why it has not happened here is not that we don’t have Internet. It is not because data is expensive. It is not because we don’t have computers. The reason is that we have not agreed as stakeholders, from the government who made the policy to those who run the school at the state and local government levels, down to the parents, that this is our priority.”
Continuing, Mba-Uzoukwu, who is also the president, Institute of Software Practitioner of Nigeria, said, “What gives a child capacity is education, and until it is fixed, we will keep having the crisis we are having. There is no option, we must use technology.”
Head of school, City of Knowledge Academy, Ijebu-Ode, Abiola Lamikanra, while speaking, shared how her school integrated technology in all its activities. She stated that policy has to drive technology in public schools, because, it is what the people in government understands about education that will drive it in whatever state one is.
“So the sooner we do that, the better. Truly, education must be separated from politics and if we are interested in transforming the lives of our citizens, that is the only way to go. You need to equip the school, train the teachers, all these cost a lot of money.”
Lamikanra stated that education these days, is no longer information-based, but skills-based.
She, therefore, advised teachers to improve in their personal growth and development, which she described as vital for all schools to explore virtual activities and invest in technology. “Technology enhances the relationship between the teachers and children. It is very important that all schools should be engaged with the use of technology.
She further advised that government at all levels should create and implement policies to integrate technology into teaching and learning in public schools across the country.
Dr Justina Adeosun, Director, Howbury School, Lagos, who also attended the conference, emphasised on the importance of technology. She said that technology enhances children’s creativity and boldness.
Adeosun equally reeled out practical steps her school used to implement the use of technology in their school. “Technology has helped us to save more money. It has improved the children’s academic confidence, and has provided access to global knowledge”
To schools who are willing to embrace technology, she said. “Start from wherever you are. You can start with just one computer, you can make difference. Have a plan for your school. It takes a long time, but be consistent with the plan. Skill off, go out and get the skill required. Have a tech champion. Engage all the stake holders, and get their opinions on what you plan to do”.
To school owners she adviced them to train their staff who are not competent enough with technology instead of doing away with them. “You need to have a vision of technology. It is not difficult, it may be strange to you, it may be new, but it is not difficult. The most important thing for you is to identify a resource person who can come in and train. Then you begin to think of what you want to use technology to do in the school. Every activities that is done in the school needs technology. So there is need for school owners to train and retrain their teachers for them to be abreast of happenings technologically”.
Femi Martins, programme director of Bunmi Adedayo Foundation (BAF), said the foundation is a non-profit organization that takes pride in reducing the gap between the haves and have not. He said the foundation was in fifth year and believes that a solid foundation must be built from the primary school level.
According to him, the foundation has done a lot of school renovations and teacher training, and the project at hand is the Tech Relevant Teacher. “We believe that teachers must be tech relevant. The kind of children that we are raising for the future are not children that will not know how to use the computer, you must be able to create code, and we believe that teachers can do more if they have knowledge of technology.”
Martins said the training itself was a four-month programme that started in February: “We started with the school leaders, if the leaders get it right and they buy into the idea, then we can teach the teachers effectively, that is the trend.”
He noted the barrier between children in low-cost schools and their peers in privately-owned schools, explaining how the project seeks to leverage technology to enhance learning and teaching across target schools”.
According to Martins, digital literacy for students and teachers was increasingly being recognized as an indispensable element of child education.
The conference was sponsored by Coca-Cola Foundation. The partnership between The Coca-Cola Foundation and Bunmi Adedayo Foundation on the Tech-Relevant Teacher Project has restored tremendous hope and also impacted hundreds of families in Nigeria.