Coronavirus: The Challenges of Education and Telecommuting in Nigeria
March 22, 2020
I think I am going to join the bandwagon: “Egungun be careful na express you dey.” This song became a hit in the past weeks on the street of Nigerian social media community. This chorus line from Obesere’s song reminds one of the red lights at the intersection of road junctions. This signal tells that there is a need to stop, pause, reflect, and act. It points our attention as a nation to what is about to come.
We never knew what was about to happen. There was no clue of an impending global pandemic. Coronavirus is the “Egungun” that tells us to be careful of how we thread. The pandemic is here. It questions the preparedness of nations in times of crisis. It is no longer about the yearly tornadoes or Lagos flooding. Rather, it forewarns that this outbreak should not be undermined by the developed and underdeveloped nations. Even when nations want to undermine its strength.
Nigeria, are you ready for Coronavirus? Are you ready for the change that is about happening to the world? I believe the global challenges would not stop at coronavirus, there are still many to come. In many advanced nations, workplaces have switched to telecommuting. Employees now work from the comfort of their homes. The schools are shut down. While the EDX and COURSERA model of learning is taking the frontline of teaching in Universities in the United Kingdom and America. Two years ago, I wrote on the possibility of MOOCs not taking over the higher education industry. But how possible is this? Times are changing, tides are turning, and repositioning is essential.
What does this then say about Nigeria’s institutions of higher education and workplaces? Truth be told Nigeria is behind in terms of telecommuting and online learning. The number one obstacle is electricity and internet connectivity. Nigeria currently generates 4,000 megawatts of electricity as opposed to the 12, 000 megawatts that the nation as the capacity to generate. Based on 2014 data by CIA factbook, Nigeria generates a per capita consumption of 164 kilowatts per hour and per person consumption of 14. The nation also ranks as one of the lowest in electricity generation in the world. Whereas South Africa with a population lower than that of Nigeria (currently with a population of 206 million) at 59 million generates 51,309 megawatts and electricity consumption at 4, 300 kilowatts per hour and per person consumption of 445. What does this comparison tell us about Nigerians access to a constant power supply?
We also do not have to lie to ourselves that the advancement in technology in Nigeria is still taking its baby steps. Access to internet service is a big challenge in Nigeria. In various locations, internet network access varies. According to Statista, Nigeria has 92.3 million internet user access; which is about 47.1 percent of Nigeria’s population. This data as well claims that this access is majorly from mobile phones. The question then is, can Nigerians easily access internet service from the comfort of their homes with constraints? This question as well takes into cognizance the semi-middle class.
The challenge with access to electricity plagues telecommuting and online school access in Nigeria. Many Nigerians do not have access to constant electricity. And so, if this is going to be furnished, students, lecturers, and employees would spend more on generating their power. Which is only possible using electricity generating plants called generators. And these costs more. Organizations, universities, and students might, in the end, find it difficult to furnish online education and telecommuting. Currently, there are very few Nigerian tertiary institutions that can run an online education. Of which, I only know of Ahmadu Bello University’s MBA online program. Now that students are demanded to vacate the schools, what happens to their education? (However, the Academic Staff Union of Universities are also currently on strike.)
For us to compete in the knowledge economy uninterrupted electricity and internet service would effectively help us to define the quality of education and workplace productivity. The lack of access to these tools indicates that Nigeria needs to buckle up on its development agendas. We cannot continue to slumber and drag our feet at the fast-approaching fourth industrial revolution. We should not be thrown off balance and met unprepared. Schools are shutdown. Workplaces are shutting down. Coronavirus forewarns that there is a lot to be done as a nation. We can no longer be the largest African nation without anything to show for it. Nigeria are you ready for the advancement coming?
“Egungun be careful na express you dey:” This sentence is a code mix of English, Yoruba, and Pidgin English. It means that “masquerade ply gently you are on the express road.”