[Column] Jens Ischebeck: The Potential for M-Learning in Nigeria
Learning through mobile phones is a revolutionary new type of edtech that enables people to learn remotely. M-learning is particularly useful in countries where literacy rates are low, and where school children struggle to complete their education - whether due to poor school facilities, the prevalence of child labour or poor transport infrastructure making it hard for children physically to reach the classroom. Through their mobile phones, learners can engage with all kinds of courses, such as adult education courses, exam revision, diplomas, language qualifications and MOOC.
Thus, m-learning has great potential for improving a population's access to education in any region of the world. In West Africa and Sub-Sahara Africa in particular, mobile learning and edtech offers some very exciting possibilities.
But what about the specific case of Nigeria? Knowing whether or not these types of technology will have a positive impact on a given country will depend on many factors, including the population's mobile phone use rates, existing educational facilities, the economic situation of the country and the quality of telecommunications infrastructure. So, let's look more closely at each of these factors for Nigeria.
The Current Situation of m-learning
Nigeria has a well-established and wide ranging mobile and satellite phone network, especially when compared to other countries in the region of Sub-Sahara Africa. With its telecommunications industry having recently been deregulated, Nigeria offers both many new opportunities and many new challenges for mobile and e-learning. Mobile phone penetration rates in the country are currently at 30%, which of course will limit the numbers of communities that can access online courses and other e-learning materials through their mobile phones. However, these penetration rates are forecasted to improve over the coming years, with the number of mobile phone users in Nigeria predicted to exceed 23 million by 2019. Those people who do have smartphones are generally au fait with a wide range of smartphone based technology, including apps.
In terms of the affordability of mobile based e-learning technology, this will differ for different sections of society. Nigeria has one of highest economic growth rates in the world (averaging at 7.4%) and yet it has poverty rates that are very high. Around a third of the Nigerian population is defined as living in poverty, with over 100 million people currently attempting to get by on less than $1 every day. Elites tend to be concentrated in urban areas, and it is in urban areas that the best mobile phone coverage, and highest rates of mobile phone use, are concentrated. As such, new solutions for e-learning will need to be found for the impoverished populations of Nigeria (i.e. those people who arguably stand to gain the most from the introduction of m-learning initiatives) and especially those who live in areas with poor mobile phone penetration rates.
In terms of its education system, Nigeria has what is known as a 6-3-3-4 system which means that students spend 6 years at primary school, 3 years each at junior and senior secondary school, and 4 years at university. Nigeria's education is well established and it has some of Africa's best universities including the University of Lagos, the University of Nigeria and the University of Benin.
Overview of the Future of m-learning here
MOOC, online courses and other edtech to be accessed through mobile phones has great potential in Nigeria. One way that it can be used is to complement the existing education system. Nigeria's well established universities, for example, could implement online learning opportunities for remote learners. However, in terms of increasing literacy and education rates among Nigeria's poorest populations, there are several challenges to overcome. The first is the low prevalence of smartphone use among many Nigerians, a third of whom are (as we have seen) living in poverty. The second is the low rate of mobile phone penetration in the country. Economic solutions are needed alongside eductional ones in order to meet these people's needs. However, statistical forecasts suggest that mobile phone use in Nigeria is going to continue to increase over the next few years, thus providing more and more opportunities for mobile based learning to be implemented in this country.
For more information about this important and exciting educational market, visit my apps-for-learning.com. Alternatively, if you wish, contact me directly today. Whether you are a student or teaching professional, we specialize in mobile education within Africa and will be pleased to help you with your enquiry.
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