By Joel Popoola
Data is a luxury many families cannot afford but education is a necessity for Nigeria.
Telecommunications firms must make exempt educational resources from data charges.
The Nigerian government has announced that schools will reopen in the next phase of easing the Covid-19 lockdown.
But for many children, nothing will change.
According to the United Nations, 10.5 million of our 5 to 14 year-old are not in school.
One in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is a Nigerian.
And that was before COVID-19.
These figures shame us.
It must be acknowledged that no other nation faces the challenges we do when it comes to tackling this problem.
In some areas, economic barriers – the need for children to work to support their families – make education financially impossible for families. In others, school attendance is actively discouraged, especially for girls. In others, there is the impact of insurgencies which, according to the United Nations, have destroyed almost 500 classrooms and left another 1400 badly damaged.
But we can go some of the way to addressing the educational impact of these vast challenges with technology.
The COVID-19 pandemic is turning existing educational gaps into gulfs, but it is also revolutionising digital and online education across the world, as lessons move online.
But in Nigeria, many homes are not equipped to adapt to these new methods of learning.
This can mean that kids who currently can’t keep up with their peers may never catch up. This in turn means that Nigeria will continue to feel the effects of the coronavirus for long after the pandemic is over.
Long term, we need to ensure our children benefit from an education worth having, one which young people are prepared for the workplace of the future, whether that means embedding basic digital skills in every area of the curriculum, and putting higher level digital expertise at the heart of our national skills ambitions.
But we need to take action now to ensure children already lagging are not left behind and forgotten forever by the current crisis.
That means Telecommunications firms must exempt educational resources from data charges.
Hardware is not the problem. Within four years, roughly two-thirds of Nigerians will use a smartphone. But while wealthier Nigerian families have reliable and affordable access to the internet, millions of Nigerians cannot receive home lessons as they cannot afford to buy enough data to access the internet.
It is within Nigeria’s grasp to become Africa’s first truly digital democracy, starting with universal broadband. But that takes time and money. And we need action now.
This is why telecommunications firms must exempt educational resources from data charges
If not, Nigeria risks a lost generation of students, at a time we can least afford it.
People before Profit!
As founder of the Digital Democracy campaign, I know the impact digital connectivity can have when it comes to improving our political system.
Our free Rate Your Leader app is designed to allow registered voters to directly contact their local politicians – building trust, transparency and accountability, and allowing a two-way flow of information which educates and benefits both parties.
All of this is done with the touch of a smartphone button from the comfort of the home.
We can use the same process for education, connecting teachers with students who cannot leave their homes due to the lockdown occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic, cultural practices or conflict, and safely and effectively giving children the learning resources to build a better future for themselves and for our nation.
But that needs data. Data is a luxury many families cannot afford. Education is a necessity Nigeria cannot progress without.
As a matter of urgency, the Minister of Communication, Dr Isa Patami, should encourage both indigenous and non-indigenous telecommunication providers to play their part to help millions of Nigerian children cross the digital divide and to kickstart our economic recovery. If they do not, Dr Patami should consider compelling them to.
Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy, the continent’s largest producer of oil and will have a bigger population than America within 30 years – and yet 40% of us live in poverty.
This will never change unless we equip the next generation to face the challenges, and seize the opportunities of the twenty-first century.
With one simple action, our telecommunications firms can put us on the path to achieving that today.
Joel Popoola is a Nigerian tech entrepreneur, digital democracy campaigner and is the creator of the free Rate Your Leader app. You can reach Joel on +447920178732, firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @JOPopoola
Court Revokes Marina’s Son’s Bail, Orders His Arrest
The Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday revoked the bail granted Faisal Maina, the son of Abdulrasheed Maina, and ordered his arrest for jumping bail in his trial on money laundering charges.
Justice Okon Abang also ordered that his trial on money laundering charges would proceed in absentia pending when the security agencies would be able to arrest and produce him in court.
The judge also summoned his surety, a member of the House of Representatives, Sani Umar Dangaladima, representing the Kaura-Namoda Federal Constituency of Zamfara State, to appear in court to show cause why he should not forfeit the N60m bail bond which he signed for Faisal.
The order for Faisal’s arrest came barely six days after the same court, on November 18, issued a similar order against his father, Abdulrasheed Maina, a former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reformed Task Team, who is facing separate N2.1bn money laundering charges before the court.
On Monday, Justice Okon Abang, sent Maina’s surety, Senator Ali Ndume, to jail for his inability to produce the fleeing defendant in court.
Earlier on Tuesday, following the judge’s November 18 ruling, Maina’s trial held in his absence with three prosecution witnesses testifying behind him and his legal team.
At the resumed hearing of Faisal’s trial on Tuesday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s prosecution counsel, Mohammed Abubakar, said both the defendant and his surety had not attended court since June 24, 2020.
FG, S’South Govs, Leaders Set to Meet in Rivers Tuesday
A delegation from the Federal Government is expected to meet with Governors and leaders of the South-South geo-political zone in Government House, Port Harcourt today (Tuesday).
The Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, is expected to lead the presidential delegation.
A Government House source in Port Harcourt, who confirmed the meeting to our correspondent, said Gambari is on his way to Port Harcourt.
The rescheduled meeting is coming on the heels of the botched stakeholders’ forum, which angered the Southern Governor, during which the South-South Governors’ Forum, demanded an apology from the presidency.
Makinde Presents N266.6bn 2021 Budget to Assembly
The Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, on Monday presented a budget of N266.6bn as the 2021 budget to the state Assembly.
While presenting the budget tagged, ‘Budget of continued consolidation’ Makinde announced that 53.2 per cent of the total budget was being proposed for capital expenditure.
He said, “The 2021 budget is N12bn above the 2020 budget and this is to further drive a consolidation effort that we started this year.
“We were able to achieve 50.2 per cent of the 2020 budget implementation and you will agree with me that it was due to causes beyond our control like the COVID-19 pandemic and other crisis that bedevilled the nation and the world at large.”
Makinde further explained that the recurrent expenditure is N136, 262,990 while the capital expenditure is N130. 381bn.
According to him, 21 per cent of the budget, amounting to N56.348 bn, is allocated to education while infrastructure is to gulp N46bn, representing 17.2per cent of the budget.
For health, a total of N13.2bn, representing 4.9per cent of the budget was set aside for the establishment of primary health centers across 351 wards in the state.
“So, it is pertinent that we appreciate the members of the state House of Assembly for their support.”