Mr. Muyiwa Bamgbose, Chief Executive Officer of School On Air, an indigenous e-learning solution provider talks to Anthony Nwosu, IT Edge News on why mass failure has become the bane of the educational sector in south western Nigeria and how technology can close the gaps.
It’s about a year we last spoke.What’s new inSchool on Air?
We have introduced mobile videos, which can be watched on demand. This means the student or even a school can watch any desired video at any desired time. This makes the School On Air videos more adaptable for use either in flipping a lesson or livening up a lesson.
How will you gauge your e-learning solution this 2016?
Our achievement is not as much as one would desire, more because of adoption by the schools. Many of our people are still clinging to the idea of the traditional school. It is interesting to note that a state in declaring war on poor academic performance decided to ban mobile phones in schools! It is not just videos that can be put in phones, even text books can be. Interestingly, this seems to be a generation issue! A recent survey shows the level of adoption of e-books along the age distribution with great disparity between the young and the old. While Facebook is making profits due to the inclusion of mobiles, many “oldies” are still on the excluded list.
Mass failures in examinations like WAEC and NECO is thought, by some, to result from distraction-tools such as phones and TV. What do say to this?
The world has changed! Cars are no more what they used to be, banking has changed, relationships are changing (Facebook, etc.)! Those distractions are the modern life. Not to be involved is to be excluded! We just need to wake up.Books were not always like they are now! There was the time of papyrus, of clay, of tablets, before books as we know them. Now it’s e-books!We are looking for the students where they used to be and therefore not reaching them. We need to wake up. The world will never go back; we are the ones to catch up.
How do you handle the distributorship of your solutions across the federation? Do you pay special focuson education disadvantaged states like Zamfara and Yobe?
We are not government. We are a private enterprise and go to where we are needed and welcome. We hope the people in Zamfara and Yobe will consider us relevant and reach out to us!The results of students in the examinations conducted by the West African Examinations Council,WAEC, and National Examination Council,NECO,in Oyo State were disgraceful. In fact, the state was at the lowest rung of the ladder coming 34th out of the 36 states.
How effective is your eLearning? Is your method fault-proof?
Jesus was born in Israel but not everyone in Israel accepted Him. Our headquarters is in Ibadan, but we are not limited to Ibadan operationally. We agree that charity should begin at home but you need to be appreciated at home to exhibit charity.The last time we were involved in assessing the students in SS3, we had to lower our pass marks to such a level that we considered ridiculous before we had 4% pass!Part of the problem is the value system of parents. Now that the government has resolved to leave the examination fees to parents, we will definitely see a better showing. The unfortunate thing is that many intelligent children who were unfortunate to have poor parents will be excluded and the state and nation will miss their contributions. We pray for Oyo State to be a “pacesetter” indeed.
Some think your model is not interactive enough. Is this not ashortcoming on your part?
Bringing in interactivity is very easy but not cheap! It is a choice between making a bad situation good and making a good one better! Why don’t we want to crawl before we run?Anything is better than the abysmal failure that we are working with!On a serious note, we have provisions for interactivity in School on Air on the internet using many tools which are however,subjected to serious limitations by the quality and cost of internet which have not been helpful.
eLearning solutions are pricy in Nigeria which has made this new teaching method unattractive. What are you doing to correct this impression?
Uncle Bola Ige said: If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.A comparison of e-learning solutions to conventional approaches shows that they are not only more effective but cheaper. The figures are there to prove the facts.
States like Anambra and Delta appears to be doing well while states once known to excel in education like Oyo, Ekiti are lagging terribly behind. Why is this so?
We had the best responses to School On Air from the south eastern states. I know how we were received by many of the commissioners of education, permanent secretaries, and teaching service commissions compared to how we were ignored by the west! You know the danger of being unteachable: He who knows not and knows not that he knows not! Those states are doing a lot more, but doing it quietly.
How receptive are students and teachers to your solutions?
The rate of adoption is very encouraging. We have requests from some states with which we are doing a lot. We got fantastic reports from some rural areas with missionaries and we are also doing more in that direction. Our primary and junior secondary work is almost done. Things are really encouraging.
How have you been able to train the teachers who are less inclined to using ICT tools?
There is no point attempting to train or teach someone who is not motivated to learn! Students learn because they know what happens if you don’t pass your exams. Jesus endured the cross because of a joy set before him! What is there to motivate the teachers? Not much. What is there to harass them if they don’t improve? Again, nothing. I have seen teachers wake up because students insulted them based on new facts they discovered on School On Air. No teacher wants to look stupid! You know our suggestion? Expose the students to School On Air videos and the teachers will sit up to avoid embarrassing moments in class. With or without estacode, travelling grants etc., the teachers sit up to prepare more seriously when confronting exposed students. Simple! When designing a multimedia learning experience, the role of the teacher shifts from instructor to facilitator.
If a lesson allows students to complete learning at their own pace as they move through stages of learning, won’t classroom management becomes increasingly difficult?
Who says classroom management becomes difficult? Not true! It simply requires different skills and attitudes! There is nothing as wonderful as managing “independent learners”! It looks difficult at first but gets into auto-pilot once you take off. We need a change in mind-set. Incidentally, because this is the direction of the world, there are wonderful tools that can actually make the teacher indolent! We just finished at BETT (British Education Technology exhibition) and one cannot but feel sorry, sad and scared!
Limiting face-to-face communication is one thing that opponent of teaching via radio broadcast has maintained saying that If a balance is not maintained, then too much technological input can have a detrimental effect on social skills that children need to learn. How true is this?
Very true! Texts have replaced talks; emoticon has replaced smiles, etc. Have you heard of spousestexting each other in the same house? “What would you like to eat?” “Rice”, “When?”, “Now”. Serious balance is needed.
What are the challenges you face daily in your business and how do you reconcile humancapital deficit in Nigeria e learning space?
Human capital is the most serious challenge within and outside our company. What do we do about it? We train and train and train. No ready-made guys anymore. When they are good, they get poached, so we have to keep training and training.
“Many of our people are still clinging to the idea of the traditional school. It is interesting to note that a state in declaring war on poor academic performance decided to ban mobile phones in schools! It is not just videos that can be put in phones, even text books can be.”