ACCESS TO INFORMATION AND QUALITY EDUCATION (SUBTHEME: THE 21ST CENTURY INFORMATION – EDUCATION DESIGN AND THE AFRICAN REALITY)

Charity begins at home; a common maxim goes. Hence, x-raying the current state of accessibility to the right information and quality education should need-be begin from the Nigerian reality, and by extension the realities in the African society.
It is needless to state that this age has largely been information-driven with the landscape punctuated by advances in dissemination and delivery and as well, individual and collective perceptions of such delivery processes, ranging from intrusive to solicited. The age has also been fraught with challenges of also deciphering what is true and what contents the average African should be exposed to. These are however the realities of any industrial revolution just as the 4th industrial revolution lurks with the powering influence of information communication technology.
The information model employed in most regions of the continent has at best been rudimentary, marked majorly by on-air broadcasting via radio and for a privileged few, telecasting. These means of information access as minimally demanding in technical know-how as they are have the nagging concern of too little censorship driving anti-government agenda in those cases and bringing to disrepute anyone at any time or too much censorship where a select group of persons by virtue of power or influence wields great control over what the larger populace hear and to what extent the truth will be told and therefore being at the center seat of people’s reactions which are a product of the information available to them.
Access to information and quality education remain about the greatest determinants of how forward-thinking, motivated or otherwise society can be. Wars and territorial conflicts have been won by virtue of feeding the opposition group with demoralizing information and also quality education both in the areas of science and arts have proved effective in creating advanced societies within regions. All these keep bringing to question the reason why proactive measures have not been made to ensure that every region within the African society has access to quality information and education.
As much as significant advances are being made to advance information technology and by extension quality education, it is expedient to note that take on of these technologies has been far from impressive. A recent statistic from Stastista.com shows that there are about 170 million mobile subscriptions in Nigeria but only 10-20% of this population is using a smartphone. With estimates such as this, one can fairly make projections for what might be obtainable in other parts of Africa.
The current model of education practiced within the continent is a far cry from that obtainable in western climes but since the aim of this piece is not to make snide remarks nor compare and contrast obvious differences, it is needful to state that there is a gross absence of quality in the current education design. Training here has centered majorly on education systems that were only relevant in decades past. In Nigeria, the compulsory universal basic education Act passed into law in 2004 has failed to live up to its expectations. By all intents and purposes, this act represents the Government’s strategy to fight illiteracy and extend basic education opportunities to all children in the country (www. Unicef.org/children). This basic state and elementary stage education one would believe should serve to stimulate interest in education in the child and as well nurture a lifelong interest in acquiring knowledge while serving to spot needs of special children who might not fare well in the conventional design, but owing to a lackluster setup and failure to pay close attention at this formative period, the child goes on having no significant difference from when he began and when exiting the system.
A considerable lot of avenues now abound for the average African to better his or her lot intellectually and access information and quality education from the comfort of his or her home. These include the massive open online courses (MOOC) offered by some global institutions including but not limited to edX, Udemy, and Coursera among others. These avenues as much as they abound also come with their constraints which include the poor knowledge of such opportunities among the average African, the financial commitment through a token which might not be readily available to the common man owing to economic and financial realities and as well, the poor broadband penetration in many rural areas and suburbs which these courses depend heavily on. Private sector mediation has to an extent helped in ensuring an upgrade in the status quo with regards to quality education. They worry that this solution proffered by private individuals bring remains the exclusion of the financially handicapped individuals and families who sadly make up the bulk of society. A widening class gap and gradual elimination of the middle class have proved inimical to achieving quality education.
Information in its relative context with varying individual interests and preferences are also openly sourced from well-read online sites and blogs. An example will be the tech point and tech cabal group which is a go to source for current happenings in the Nigerian tech space for tech savvy individuals and followers of tech happenings.
As the subject of information remains relative, our needs varying and the educational needs dire, the general landscape has not matured enough to keep everyone regardless of age adequately informed and quality education assured. Thus the nagging need to change the existing narrative.

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