OPON IMO: Knowledge or Not?

Recently, news carriers have been agog with the introduction of the “Tablet of Knowledge” better known as Opon Imo by the Osun State government in a bid to reduce the rate of illiteracy in the state. The first of its kind, (out in the open), in Nigeria, the project has been lauded as a welcome development in tackling the spate of underdevelopment in education in the state of Osun. Indeed, providing Android 4.0 powered tablets for senior secondary students is indeed a remarkable feat on the part of the state government. Not only has the government given out these tablets to students of selected schools for the pilot edition, they have also deemed it fit to pre-load the device with the necessary educational tools the average Nigerian student receiving secondary education would need to excel in his/her endeavors. Definitely, no student in any of these three schools has any excuse not to excel in his/her studies. Opon Imo would true to its name, provide knowledge for the average child that is able to access the knowledge therein.

Having commended this project, i would like to point out a few things that caught my attention. The idea behind Opon Imo is indeed a good one. From the telecasts i have watched, and what i have read on the web page for the project, Opon Imo has been preloaded with an E-Library, A bible,  A koran, as well as a Health book. Now i read somewhere that it also contains Opon Ifa, (an app on divination), truly intriguing. Education could not have gotten more indigenous than that. However, i am not really a fan of the “religious part”. Personally, i believe that religious education should be left solely to those in the churches and the mosques and shrines who are assigned to teach it. Now if some pastor somewhere was making the Bible App available to his church members and they download it by their own freewill, i have no problem with that. But the state should not be seen as encouraging religious devotion of any form, as its sole duty is to provide (in this case), sound education, to the student, and not religious bias by exposing the average student to every kind of religion at once. I feel this should be a choice that should be left to the student to make.

Moving on, i also read that Opon Imo would be “monitored” by schools through the use of the collection of school leaving certificates at the end of a student’s education, at which point a student is supposed to turn in the tablet in exchange for his/her certificate. This, in my opinion is easier said than done. I thought about it, what if i was a typical Nigerian student in a state such as Osun state; i am given a tablet when i get into my final year in school, but i have no plans of writing my final examinations in that same school. As is practiced in majority of these schools across the country, i switch schools mid way into my final year. I have the tablet, and probably Opon Imo’s real owners can not locate me because the school i relocate to was not included in the list of schools to benefit from it. What happens then?

Another scenario, what happens when a student damages Opon Imo? Or because of lack of training using the Android 4.0 OS damages the software totally? Would the student be asked to pay a fine? In addition to the #1000 they had paid for the tablet ab initio? These are only a few of the questions in my head on tracking the use of Opon Imo by students. Is it really possible for the tablets to be passed down from one generation of SS3 students to another without any “wear and tear”?.

On the actual reality of learning using Opon Imo, i want to ask, would the tablet be preset to indigenous languages? Because with the little experience i had while teaching as a youth corp member in Kwara State, i remember it was quite difficult for the average student even in the city (Ilorin) to converse in English language, let alone write or read proper English. It was an arduous  task teaching even SS2 students how to read and write, and in the worst cases, some of these students could not even recite the full letters of the Alphabets. Even when i thought they would be able to read in yoruba language, (a colleague taught yoruba), some of the students still experienced difficulties reading the language they spoke everyday!. Now, i have heard stories about the schools in Osun State as well, as my batch during my service year was the pioneer batch for the increase in deployment to schools. The complaint was the same even there.

My point here is, is effort being put into providing quality education for these students on the chalk boards and papers first before venturing into the world of technological advancement? I know anyone reading this would think i am doing a great injustice condemning the IQ of the average Nigerian student, but the truth is these students (a majority) are not as bright! And this is the fault of the governments that fail to invest in teacher training and comfortable emolument to inspire dedication in the classrooms. Left to me, Opon Imo could be merely a political statement. It could be someone trying to create a legacy, so that history would say “so and so created this”, and in the long run, no real effort would be put into the development of the student   vis-a-vis new found technology.

I read in another article that the Opon Imo was created for Osun State at Harvard (http://leadership.ng/news/070613/opon-imo-tablet-knowledge). I do not know how true this is, but i want to ask, what does this say of the research culture and government’s investment in same in this country?. If a state can go as far as Boston to collaborate and feed of the minds of technological experts, when we have graduates of Computer Science/Engineering who could have provided the platform on which Opon Imo would have run, then someone is trying to avoid the elephant in the room. It is not enough to introduce feats that can not truly represent the country’s efforts towards developing education and research in the state. Are there no researchers at Osun State University that could have designed and delivered the total package for Opon Imo?

Educational development using technology is truly the way to go, but it is meant to augment the efforts of teachers, not be the sole source of knowledge. The fact still remains that teachers are still not treated well enough to make them interested in imparting quality education to the student. If you give a student a tablet that even in some cases, the teachers can not operate, then there is a serious problem. This reminds me of when i got myself an Android 4.0 phone while still teaching as a corp member, i remember the teachers in the staff room were always looking at me like i was some rich kid to have such a fancy looking gadget. There were “eye popping/straining” moments, and “eeeh oooh” moments whenever i would flip through my ebooks while in the staff room. (I only completed my service year recently). Someday we would be able to strike our breasts and say “yes, we have educated at least 90% of our population)… Till then.


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