The success story of NOUN cannot be complete without you. What were you envisaging when the thought to establish the university crossed your mind?
I was thinking of a number of things. One, about that time (20 years) ago, we didn’t have up to 10 percent of our people in higher education and I asked myself, why must we make it a special privilege of other people who are rich and people who are in urban areas. If we say education is the foundation of development, both for an individual or for a nation, why don’t you make it accessible? Why don’t you make it in such a way that it is qualitative, equitable and you can reach it anytime, anywhere and anyhow, so first is access, let as many people as possible get this degree. The world is open, let everybody partake in knowledge. knowledge is free, so that was the first and I am glad that God has answered our prayers through Nigerians, that the open University which I started and people said it will never succeed, I moved people from here to Lagos July 15th, 2003, that we must all go there and start the university using the old ministry of education. A year after, when people said it can never happen, I said never say never. I started with 34,000 students, today the university has over 600,000 students, and that’s a single University. The big university in Nigeria has got only 30,000 students so you now imagine what it means. One single university is like 20-30 universities and we can still do more because the Open University in India has 4million students everywhere. The second is that it should be affordable. Although the university government put a lot of money into it, after that it became cheap. Also, the way we see it is distance education, that by providing distance education to the people, you are taking the distance out of it. So you take education to the person and that’s why the person can stay in his village and learn through the study centers.
…on the need for a policy framework on digital literacy in Nigeria.
All over the world people have embraced technology much more than we think. There is nothing you can do now without technology. Technology has taken over all parts of our system. Technology is like our inorganic DNA if you like and so it has become imperative to appreciate the role of technology in teaching and learning so that the next generation will be better placed in appreciating the world and of being trained so that they are better suited for the work force and better entrepreneurs. The national plan for digital education and digital literacy is proposing that by the year 2030 95% of Nigerians will have come across, will have imbibed, understood, will have acquired digital skills because without digital skills you cannot have a proficient digital economy. The world is now dependent on the digital economy so this is what the policy is advocating, that the Universities should appreciate the use of digital learning in today’s world. The professors, lecturers can use digital learning for teaching, assessment, exams, interact with students and send their messages across and bring students together for them to have their group discussions. Digital literacy is actually saying we should understand how to use all these technologies, how to use them to access information and how to produce information through them.
How do you think the implementation of the digital literacy framework will help address challenges facing education in Nigeria?
Once it has been implemented, it means right from the primary school, through secondary, all our children will be digitally literate and once you are digitally literate nobody can cheat you. In the old days when you bought a new phone and you took your old phone to transfer data you took it to computer experts because you were not digitally literate to that extent. When you give them the two phones they will tell you they have to copy it into a flash or computer before transferring and by doing so they have already copied everything when they do it. They may not have deleted it and so before you know it your bank details are gone and other information. But if you are digitally literate you can do it, you don’t need anything. All you need is a software or application, you just download it and connect the two phones and everything is done. So what we are saying is that, it is becoming a digital world and there is nothing we can do to escape it.