With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic many schools, students and teachers were forced to stay at home. According to the United Nations the pandemic triggered the compulsory closure of classrooms in 191 countries, which affected at least 1.5 billion students and 63 million primary and secondary school teachers.
And although having a mobile phone can support young learners in accessing information or connecting with their teachers, for example, around 56 million live in areas that are not served by mobile networks; almost half in sub-Saharan Africa.
With that unsavoury development, the whole world looked towards Education technology (Edtech); the adoption of Information Technology as a tool for learning. Before the pandemic, the application of Information Technology as a tool for learning was optional, but now it is necessary to have it incorporated into the education sector.
The most populous black nation in the world, Nigeria strove to take control of the one sector of its economy which was badly hit by the emergence of COVID-19, the education sector. Though a reasonable percentage of the private sub-sector of the sector were able to resume tuition online via WhatsApp, Zoom, and other social platforms. But in the public sub-sector the reverse was the case.
The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has been relentless in attuning and refocusing all of its activities in line with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), the Digital Economy Policy which was developed with the sole aim of actualising a digital Nigeria.
With this in mind, NITDA has proactively come up with strategic initiatives during the pandemic. Some of the initiatives include Tech4COVID, National Innovation Challenge, Hack the Crisis, the constitution of an Indigenous Edtech Working Group for Nigeria (targeted at devising means of facilitating Edtech adoption in Nigeria), etc.
Education Technology Solutions magazine, a leading Edtech publication in Australia wrote that “Education Technology Solution introduces teachers and IT Staff to the latest product, services and developments in education technology”. In order to provide practical how-to guidance designed to facilitate the integration of education technology products and services into the school environment in the most dynamic and favourable way possible.
NITDA took into cognizance that the teaching and learning of the future is going to be powered by technology. This was why it felt the urgent need to support education in Nigeria using digital technology that will help in terms of reaching out to the underserved and unserved communities.
In an effort to proffer a solution that will be both consistent and sustainable came up with the National Adopted Schools for Smart Education (NASSE). NASSE as a model is a platform for education on demand powered by smart technologies and innovations.
The director general of NITDA, Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, speaking on the initiative said, “the desire to ensure our students have access to education anywhere and anytime motivated us to design NASSE as an ecosystem and indigenous contents-driven platform”.
The model is an indigenous cloud-based digital education solutions that is built on National Educational Research Development Council (NERDC) curriculum to support over 500 students and 30 teachers for JSS 2 Karshi.
The pilot project was launched by the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami on 1st April, 2021 at Junior Secondary School, Karshi, Abuja.
As stated by the Honourable Minister a digital economy can only be as vibrant as the level of digital literacy of its citizens. The more people are prepared to use technology productively upon entering adulthood, they will be better equipped to solve problems, think critically and make a difference in the digital world.
NASSE is captured under the digital literacy and skills pillar of National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS).
How does it work?
In an interview with Info-Tech Regulator a quarterly publication of the Agency, the Desk Officer for NASSE in NITDA Mr Lukman Lamid revealed that the Agency provided, Free Wireless Broadband (unlimited contents download and upload) for students and teachers; portable renewable energy system; smart devices (Tablets); and Instructor’s android-enabled smart screen.
Mr Lamid stated that the model is designed in such a way that normal activities in class can be replicated on the platform. He added capacity building was done for the teachers of the school to enable them use the platform seamlessly.
The model is an interactive platform between a teacher and the students.
The teacher can upload content (video, text or any other format) and students can respond to it in real-time as classwork or homework. Students can watch a teacher teach live and can have it recorded so that they can watch later. The platform is accessible as long as there is internet access, so it is learning anywhere, everywhere and anytime.
The Desk Officer of NASSE stated that the level of success will be determined by the performance of the pioneer JSS 2 students after they are promoted to JSS 3.
Though NITDA will continue to facilitate NASSE, but having the infrastructure needed to facilitate the initiative requires a lot of resources. In view of this, corporate entities and individuals can seek to incorporate the facilitation of education technology (Edtech) as part its corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Non-profit organisations can also channel some of their activities towards providing Edtech solutions for rural communities. The Edtech Working group for Nigeria can seek for ways to partner with NITDA on NASSE.
By gradually doing these the spread of education technology in Nigeria will know no bounds. And then in the nearest future we would be talking about a highly competitive ecosystem of Edtech solutions companies in Nigeria.
It is often said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a step. In the Nigeria’s journey to Edtech, NASSE is that step taken by NITDA that will fan the embers of Education Technology in Nigeria.