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RECOMMENDING THE NCC EXAMPLE

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By

Y. Z. Ya’u

08056180208

On Tuesday 24th February this year, I attended a small and brief ceremony at which the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) presented three laptops to the Kano-based Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) as part of its support for the annul ICT quiz programme for secondary school students that CITAD has been organizing. It was also a double occasion as CITAD itself at the venue immediately handed over one of the laptops to Government Girls Science Technical College, Kofar Nassarawa, Kano as the overall winners of the 2008 edition of the quiz which held in November last year. They had beaten 29 other schools from four states to emerge top in the keenly competed event.

m-1This is of course is only one of the many instances in which the telecommunications regulatory body has been assisting schools with computer. A number of secondary schools in different parts of the country have benefited from its digital study centre donation in which beneficiary schools were given a 100-computer terminal laboratory. Many universities have also benefited form the donation of computers and VSAT equipment as well as payment of bandwidth for internet access. There is of course the even more ambitious programme of the Universal Access Provision Fund (USPF) which is establishing a community communication centre in all the senate districts of the country.

In making the presentation, the NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Engr. Ernest Ndukwe, who was presented by the Zonal Controller of the Kano Zone of the NCC, Alhaji Adamu Amshi said that NCC was supporting with the event because it would help in the attainment of its vision, which was to facilitate the creation of an information rich society that is comparable globally in quality of telecommunication service provision. He reasoned that such an information rich society cannot be built without digital literacy. It requires achieving national universal computer proficiency, which itself is only possible when every child has access to computer with which to learn.

Digital literacy is the ability of people to work and interact effectively with information technology mediated and dependent world of today. There is no doubt that things have dramatically changed, including they ways we do things. The landscape of literacy itself has so changed that our definition of functional literacy must not limited to just reading and writing but must also include ability to use digital machines such as the computer and GSM phones.

What struck me during the presentation ceremony was the fact that while we all agree that every body must be computer literate, we are making very little effort to ensure that our children do actually have the opportunity to be computer literate in schools. If we are to take count of how many of our schools, both public and private, have computers for students and pupils to learn with, we would be shocked to realize that the proportion of schools is so small in comparison with the totality of schools we have in the country.

In the last two or so years both WAEC and NECO have migrated to online registration by requiring candidates to register from their websites. JAMB has also migrated. All of these bodies also now release their results online. There is has recent indication that JAMB is even considering to start online examinations. Yet have we cared to find out how our students and school administrators are coping with the situation?

There is even an irony on the part of both NECO and WAEC. These two examination bodies are yet to make computer studies an examinable subject in their examinations in spite of various calls by many stakeholders including IT professional associations. A relevant curriculum for secondary schools had long been prepared, yet its implementation has been bogged down by the lack of seriousness in addressing the lack of computers and computer teachers for the schools. Why will an organization that does not see the need to make computer studies examinable in its examinations insist that all students must register online?

There has been also broad agreement at the level of the National Council for Education that computer studies should compulsory, yet there is no corresponding commitment to examine the subject. Making computer studies examinable will not only make students to become computer literate before their final year but will also encourage both parents and school proprietors to invest in the provision of IT facilities in the schools.

I have seen how a few entrepreneurs make money out of desperate students wishing to beat the deadline for the various examination bodies. Since their schools do not have computers and access to internet, they have to go to commercial cyber cafes to register for these examinations. In many communities there are no internet access points and students and their principals have to travel long distances to make the registration. In the process many miss the deadlines.

By the time they reach the café, of course the students and their teachers are often not computer literate, and therefore have to rely on the café staff or some of the other ad hoc registration attendants. Students are charged huge amounts for this registration. Even mere checking of results or admissions lists to institutions of higher learning (many of which now also only published their admission list on their websites) charge as much as Five Hundred Naira.

The rationale behind the CITAD’s ICT quiz has been to use it as an advocacy tool to draw attention to these anomalies while at the same time encouraging both students and teachers to take ICT seriously by rewarding those who have excelled. Each time the event is held, it is remainder to governments and other proprietors of schools that there is need to ensure that there are computers in their schools.

The NCC gesture is meant to send two messages. At one level, it is a demonstration of NCC’s commitment to the realization its vision for Nigeria. At another level, it is a challenge and a call to other corporate organizations to consider leveraging their corporate social responsibility through the provision of computers to schools or supporting causes that would enhance the penetration of ICT in our schools. If many of these organizations follow the example of the NCC, our children will learn in the prerequisite environment that would make them to compete favorably with their peers across the world.

About Adamu Umar

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