Opon Imo: How Aregbesola Laid Foundation For Digital Education In Nigeria, By Inwalomhe Donald
Much has been written about the role technology played in bringing social and political change across much of Africa, but less is known about the technological revolution that is taking place and transforming people’s lives in the State of Osun, Nigeria. This deep and rapid mobile penetration is catapulting the State of Osun school children into the 21st century and bringing new and previously unimagined opportunities. African schools and universities are now exploring the use of mobile technology to assist teaching.
Whether critics like it or not, Governor Aregbesola has laid the foundation and remains the pioneer of digital education in Nigeria and he represents an agent of change as far as digital education is concerned in Nigeria. The history of Digital Education will remember Governor Aregbesola as the first Nigerian to implement the UNESCO recommendation on digital education. Nigerians need to visit Osun Sukuk Schools, Middle Schools and Elementary Schools. Governor Aregbesola has undertaken to build and equip schools with computer classrooms and training teachers to use digital media in education. In this line, Opon Imo “local content’’ in digital education has allowed teachers to use tablets to teach students. In the history of Nigeria, Governor Aregbesola will be remembered as the first leader to introduce digital education. Like India, the State of Osun is working to improve on Opon Imo. In years to come, Governor Aregbesola will be remembered as a pioneer of digital education in Nigeria.
About 33 states in Nigeria are presently working on how to introduce digital education by using Osun model of Opon Imo. Opon-Imo, is indeed the first digital education revolution in Nigeria. Through Opon-Imo books, libraries, virtual laboratories and study materials of Osun schools are introduced and made available to students. Governor Aregbesola promised that there would be no need of students buying books and other study materials. The tablet of knowledge, indeed, served that purpose. The way secondary school students operate and interact with each other has drastically changed with the advent of OPON IMO, the first digital education revolution in Nigeria. Over the years, the impact of technology has been profound, not just in terms of making our lives easier, but also in terms of our approach to the way we carry out tasks, solve problems and resolve issues.
There is no doubt that Governor Aregbesola understands the role that technology can play in realising the vision for Nigeria’s growth – it is at the core of the Opon Imo and a key driver across all plans devised by the State Government of Osun over the last six years. The government recognizes the transformative power of technology and sees it as an enabler for the change that we all seek – be it in delivering better citizen services, digitising education records, efficient and productive functioning, or using technology to provide a new social security platform
Until recently many students in Osun had never touched a tablet computer. But it took them about “one minute to work out how to use one when such devices arrived at Osun schools. Osun students were no slower to embrace the new tool. Teaching used to be conducted with a blackboard and a handful of tattered textbooks. Now children swipe the touch screen of the devices, which are loaded with a multimedia version of Nigeria’s syllabus.
The prospect of many of Africa’s 300m pupils that want digital education has not escaped the attention of global technology giants either. A bigger question is whether digital tools will actually improve education. Early results are encouraging. In Osun, reading skills improved measurably among school children. In Osun, researchers found that even in the absence of teachers, children figured out how to use tablets provided to them by the State Government, to teach themselves to read.
As we transit towards knowledge driven economies, the need to build human capacity to gain competitive advantage has become a front burner issue for developed and developing nations. This situation is seen as more critical for developing nations which hold the majority of the world’s uneducated and have suffered decades of education infrastructure neglect.
To reverse this situation, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) timelines, developing nations will need more than orthodox initiatives to bridge the huge learning gap. The use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) appears to be one of such promising innovative means of democratising access and improving the quality of learning.
The State Government of Osun, under the leadership of Governor Rauf Aregbesola, in its resolve to champion inspiring innovations for Africa, has undertaken a ground breaking step to utilise ICTs to concisely tackle the learning problem through the Opón Ìmò Initiative.
The State, through its Opón Ìmò Technology Enhanced Learning System (OTELS), has developed a learning tool that could revolutionize learning in developing states around the world. This tool is called the Opón Ìmò, “Tablet of Knowledge”.
The digital revolution has hit education, with more and more classrooms plugged into the whole wired world. But are schools making the most of new technologies? Are they tapping into the learning potential of today’s Firefox/Facebook/cell phone generation? Have schools fallen through the crack of the digital divide? This groundbreaking tool offers a vision for the future of the State of Osun’s education that goes well beyond the walls of the classroom to include distance learning with “anytime, anywhere” access, digital home schooling models.
Opon-Imo (Tablet of Knowledge), an e-learning device which solved educational needs of Senior Secondary School students of Osun State, introduced by Governor Rauf Aregbesola, have become one of the biggest known digital initiative in Osun’s educational history and Nigeria. Opon Imo has solve the educational needs of the state and cut cost in the sector as promised by Aregbesola upon its inauguration, the project has solved the major educational problems of the state, leaving with it huge progress that the state had battled with for a long time.
On Tuesday June 4, 2013, Governor Aregbesola, in a speech entitled, ‘Opon-Imo Enters the Stage’ had told the people of Osun, “It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all and to be here myself for this epoch-making event in the annals of this state…Today in the State of Osun, we are taking another momentous leap forward in our unflinching and unstoppable effort to lay a solid foundation for the education of our children. “The much-awaited Opon-Imo has finally arrived. The smart computer tablet has entered the education scene, to the glory of Almighty God, and to the victory of the public school students of Osun, but to the utter bewilderment of ill-meaning cynics, whose ardent wish is for the project to fail. Unfortunately for them, God has a different plan for Osun and for its good people.”
“This initiative, the first of its kind anywhere in the world, covers 17 core subjects with over five extra curricula subjects for senior secondary 1, 2 and 3 levels. The tablet contains over 56 textbooks, 900 minutes of virtual classroom lessons and 1000s (Thousands) of practice questions for WAEC and JAMB. In addition to aiding preparation for School Leaving Examinations, the introduction of the tool is expected to aid adoption of information communication technology (ICT) skills among students in the state,”
The typical Osun classroom like Indian classroom was once characterized by students sitting through hour-long teacher monologues. Now, technology is making life easier for both students and educators. Schools are increasingly adopting digital teaching solutions to engage with a generation of pupils well-versed with the likes of tablets and iPads, and trying to make the classroom environment more inclusive and participatory.
Governor Aregbesola has observed that in line with Osun’s increasing interest in technology for school education, there has been a rush of education-focused tablet computers in the market. It aims to eliminate digital illiteracy by distributing the Opon Imo tablets to students across Osun at free rates. While the project itself has become successful, it has generated a lot of awareness and interest among students around the educational tablet.
Aregbesola had observed “Digital learning facilitated through tablets will revolutionize the educational space,” He has invested in developing content and services targeted toward tablet audiences. To start with, he offered Osun school curriculum-learning modules, and at home live products on the opon imo. Students can now have access to good teachers, educational content and a great learning experience anytime, anywhere.”
But even as schools in Osun are going through this transformation powered by technology, one key question is how big a role technology will play in the education sector. Technology plays a critical role in all these. Despite numerous studies on the impact of ICT in education, the outcomes remain difficult to measure and open to much debate. It needs to be understood that technology is only an enabler and a force multiplier and cannot be treated as a panacea. We believe that impressive gains in teaching-learning outcomes are possible only through an integrated approach like Opon Imo intervention.