Vibrant, colourful and dynamic is my first impression of Skool Media as I walk into their establishment. The one thought resonating in my mind was, “if schools looked this way, I wouldn’t have hated it so much while growing up”. This is the foundation upon which this ICT based initiative is built; redefining the face of education in Nigeria and making learning fun.
Skool Media is fully committed to the seamless integration of technology in the education sector in Nigeria, while we think of technology in education as the future, Skool Media believes that this future is now. One where the tablet, a tool of technology, replaces the expensive and cumbersome presence of text books; a future where teachers can have a better interaction with students because they have become ICT proficient; this is also a future that moves learning from the realm of the abstract to the material, by incorporating visual simulations in the learning process.
The brand is well aware of the limitlessness of technology in our everyday lives and have presented to us twenty ways to use technology to better society.
How has Skool Media changed the belief system that technology is detrimental, by unduly exposing young people?
Indeed, there is a belief system in place that technology is detrimental to the young, because it unduly exposes them. However, we attempt to change this belief by showing people what technology can do and its limitless possibilities. This is by putting forward the positives of technology, rather than its negatives. A typical example, is where we share with the public, success stories from schools, that have felt our project presence and benefited from our system. We would rather people hear these testimonies from the actual users, thus we give students the opportunity to give these attestations to the benefits of technology and its impart in their lives and education.
Parents and guardians are likely to believe their children when they say “I have benefited this way by using this” and all elements of doubts are allayed. Skool Media educate people by showing them that the benefits of technology, far outweigh the negatives. It is just like saying fire is dangerous, whether we like it or not, it has its uses.
How is Skool Media pivotal in the transformation of Education in Nigeria?
An important way Skool Media is pivotal in the transformation of education in Nigeria, is in training teachers, we have noticed that teachers, especially from this part of the world, are not ICT compliant, that is indeed a major challenge, especially if you are pushing for the incorporation of technology in schools, these teachers are those who will use this technology to impart education in these students. If teachers are not proficient in the use of these gadgets and technological tools, they will be ineffective in imparting knowledge through technology.
What we are invested in as a brand, is training for teachers, every term we organize training sessions and capacity building for teachers, to ensure we keep them properly aligned with current technological trends. We do the same for students as well, although most children born in this age are ‘digital natives’, i.e. where you see babies, toddlers and young people know how to operate a tablet without any help. But we go a step further to educate them, by not restricting them to the use of these gadgets alone, but educating them on the reasons why these technological tools are used. We don’t just put these tools in the hands of students, without proper guidance, we show them how to properly manage their time and properly use technology in a productive way.
The unique quality of your brand is to seamlessly merge Education and Technology, how have Skool Media gotten the government and schools to come on board?
In all of our school projects, we ensure that the custodians of the education sector are involved, that is the Federal Ministry of Education. We ensure we have their approval, before we carry out any project in schools. This collaboration has been a major push for us, in seamlessly merging education and technology, a few weeks ago, we had two ministers, visit our project and this is proof that they are involved in all school projects we undertake. We are aware that change is something people are resistant to and this has made our journey even tougher, because we don’t just leave it at training the teachers, we go the extra-mile to compensate and reward these teachers and their efforts to be ICT proficient. This becomes a motivation for others to want to embrace and learn more about technology.
What challenges have Skool Media encountered in their quest to radically transform the education sector in Nigeria?
One of such challenges we have encountered is capacity building for teachers, teachers in this part of the world, lack the technical know how to use these technological tools, this is where we make efforts to train these teachers. Another major challenge we have also encountered is in funding, it is quite expensive to fund educational projects and edtech can be quite capital intensive. This challenge is even made worse, with the current economic situation of the country, where parents are not keen on parting with their money.
Inevitably technology will evolve beyond what is tenable today, how do you intend to bring schools, teachers and the government on board as you evolve?
Our brand is well aware that technology is not stagnant, inevitably, things will keep changing and we are committed to changing with the tide. It is also our aim that as we change, we carry teachers, students and parents along and ensure that they are not left behind. We are working hand in hand with the government to make this possible, by coming up with policies, that would positively affect the educational sector. An example of such policy is where teachers are compelled to go for compulsory ICT training every two years, this will ensure that teachers get more computer literate and more IT proficient. In the future, the possibilities of what technology will evolve into is limitless. I see a tomorrow in Nigeria, where students will have nothing to do with paper and text books, learning will be solely electrically based. Teachers wouldn’t have to come to class with cumbersome lesson notes or the get involved in the task of strenuously writing notes on the board and not interacting with students. Technology in education will evolve to a point where there will be real life simulations on subjects and this will aid learning.
How has the epileptic internet service in Nigeria affected your service? Do you think you can influence better internet service in Nigeria?
The misconception about the service we render is that, it is mostly internet based, the educational contents of our tablet for schools do not rely on the internet, because they have been pre-loaded, thus, with or without internet connectivity, students have access to these courses. However, we have set up ICT centres, we call common rooms in most of our project schools and they serve as collaboration centres, where students can carry out researches online, but they are monitored. To tackle the issue of epileptic internet services, we don’t rely on one network provider. Like I said, Skool Media is in liaison with the appropriate government bodies and they are aware of these challenges and reach out to these bodies providing some of these services to ensure there are solutions to these problems, the internet problem is no different.
In the larger world, where do the Nigerian student fit in after incorporating Edtech as a viable form of learning?
Skool Media has a sister organization, called the Uniting Cisco Networking Academy and they are into training of young students, with the aim of bridging the digital divide, between Nigerian students and students from more developed countries, like Europe or Asia. This training program is the same with what these developed countries offer and this is to ensure that Nigerian students can effectively compete with their European or Asian counterparts.
We already have student who are working on innovative ways to solve problems, one of such is where student worked on and presented a fire detector system.
It is important to incorporate fun, while learning, how have you been able to strike the proper balance between fun and learning for your students?
We ensure that in our project schools, students are properly monitored and guided, so there is a proper balance between fun and learning. We are insistent that learning must be fun, because it will aid proper assimilation.
Some of the fun things we have incorporated into learning for example is the just concluded art tech, it was fun exercise as students expressed technology through art, there was a competition, music and dance for the family and friends of these students. On children’s day, there was a novelty match on the field, teachers and students participated in these exercises.
How does Skool Media influence the government and society, into incorporating Edtech as a canon for learning?
We had two ministers of the Federal Republic visit us, that is a telling factor of how deeply involved the government is in our projects. It is not enough that they just theoretically know about what we do, they also see for themselves. And by showing them, we push the idea that what we do can be propagated across the country, putting Nigeria at parallel with other parts of the world. For example, when the minister visited, we had students couple systems, right in from of them and they worked when they were tested.
The world is slowly moving in the direction of IOE (Internet of Everything), how does Skool Media, intend to be a part of it?
The internet of everything, is about connecting things, people, systems, machines and processes. Ideally these processes embedded in IOE were created by people, Skool Media is dedicated in its quest to train and motivate people, who would in turn, create and manage these processes with students.
In the future, the Skool Media brand will go beyond the educational sector, to embrace other sectors that need improvement in Nigeria.
Promoting proper interpersonal relationship between people is important, in the spirit of promoting community, how does Skool Media intend to achieve that.
In our project schools, we usually encourage clubs for student and these clubs are avenues to foster interpersonal relationships between people, not just limiting it to man and machine. We also organize competitions between our project schools and this is another avenue for fostering interpersonal relationship, between people and also promoting the spirit of community.
Thomas Edison once said, “Books will soon be obsolete in the public schools…our school system will be completely changed inside out ten years.” Is this a vague reference to technology?
It is my strong belief that this statement by Thomas Edison is in strong reference to the part technology will play in education and this is already happening. I am sure there are other parts of the world where students do not have to log around so many books for different subjects, because they will all be loaded in one tablet. This eliminates the burden of having students being exposed to too many books, which may terrify them from learning
How much do you think the education sector in Nigeria has embraced and imbibed technology?
In comparisons with our counterparts in other parts of the world, we haven’t done enough in embracing and incorporating technology in the education sector in Nigeria, however, we are taking baby steps in the right direction. It is our belief that soon technology will be fully integrated in the education sector in Nigeria. We see this happening already, with gadgets, projectors, flash drives and all forms of technological tools, used while learning or working on assignments.
How can schools use technology to empower teachers?
We ensure teachers are being trained to be ICT compliant, because they are the ones to teach students through laptops and projectors, so it is important that they have this knowledge. This skill set also set the Nigerian teachers at parallel with their counterparts from other parts of the world. Knowing world is going on a digital march, these teachers are empowered, so that they are not left behind but can come on board technologically, besides skills acquired through technology are never obsolete.
What way can social media reinvent teacher-student role and relationship?
When teachers are better equipped to teach their subjects, they are likely to be confident and encourage students to ask questions, because kids these days are so smart and are likely to ask questions, when a teacher has no clue to what the answer is, he or she may employ the intimidation tactics, in a bid to save face. Also, when learning is made enjoyable and less abstract for students, this also promotes a healthy interaction between teachers and their students. Learning becomes more visual not just restricted to just being theoretical.
With Skool Media, the traditional way of learning, which was teachers standing by the board to write long exhausting notes is phased out, as they can move around the class among their students while they teach and get closer to them.
Technology has the potential to radically change the way we live, and even how we relate to each other as human beings. Is Skool Media thinking of transcending beyond education and use technology to impart other sectors?
Undoubtedly, technology is here to stay and its importance in our lives cannot be underestimated, such that we rely on it more to solve problems. Our brand, will transcend beyond education to use technology to impart other sectors in Nigeria, by creating solutions to problems that plague these sectors. In the future, we intend to go beyond the education sector, to impart health, agriculture et cetera. Like I said, the possibilities of technology are endless.
How can technology better the lives of the poor and needy?
Technology, if properly utilized can drastically reduce the cost of education, parents will no longer have to spend so much money buying so many text books whenever the term begins, especially for family with more than one child in the same class who have to buy these text books in two of threes. Now these will be made available in soft copies in tablets and that save them the massive costs of buying books. With technology, the avenues for students to do cheap or free online courses, to also increase their knowledge while saving costs for their parents. They are able to acquire knowledge that goes beyond that being offered within the four walls of school. These are ways technology can help the poor and needy.
Technology and its learning apparatus are quite expensive to incorporate, what steps have Skool Media taken to negate the exorbitant price of incorporating technology in education for schools and the Nigerian parents?
At first it can be very expensive when this equipment is being set up, subsequently these costs will reduce, because maintenance of these equipment that have been set up is the only requirement over time. While parents are likely to keep buying text books each school year, there are not likely to keep spending money on these technological tools, once they have been set up, save minor maintenance and this doesn’t cost too much.
We understand the economic situation and know that it isn’t easy, however we do not have programs to negate the exorbitant prices of this technology, because we get these materials from suppliers at very high cost as well. We are looking to partner with the federal ministry of education to make these technological materials accessible and affordable for Nigerian schools and parents in the near future.
How has Skool Media been able to fund itself given how expensive educational-based learning tools can be?
Our brand is in partnership with likeminded individuals and corporate bodies. For example, we have partners who can support schools with internet connectivity, another partner is Samsung, and when we get theses gadgets from them, we get a price, that is a little lower than in the open markets. The partnership with the Federal Ministry of Education is also important, to our projects. Our partnership has been instrumental in managing cost and funding.
How sustainable are e-learning centers?
To be honest, in our society, we have such poor maintenance culture, therefore our brand does not just set up these projects in these school and abandon it, we work hand in hand with these schools to ensure that there is a proper maintenance of these digital equipment. We also our staff on ground in these schools, to manage, monitor and train on the use of these technological material.