Monday, December 12, 2011

Computer Education Needs Dynamism And Curriculum Upgrade

Isaiah Kolawale is the Head of Computer Department, Yaba College of Technology. A computer scientist and mathematician, Kolawole told FRANCA ENEGBETA in this interview that for the country to actualize Vision 202020, greater emphasis should be placed on IT education…
What have been your challenges since you assumed office as the Head of this Department?

Computing is changing everyday and you need to brace up with the new challenges and concept in the profession. Unlike other courses, new concepts come out regularly and we need to understand those concepts before we can impart it on our students. If you are not fast, while you are still on a concept you will discover that another one has been out. And so if you try to train the students the way you have always done, you will discover that you will not be accepted in the industry.

The other challenge is the issue of power which is a national issue. If you must learn the computer, you have to be constantly on the computer and the Internet; so you have problems when you don't have power. Of recent, Nigeria has actually been operating on zero power. When this is not in place, we are handicapped because computer functions on the basis of power.

What do you think is responsible for students lagging behind in practical computing after graduation?

That will not be for our own graduates here because we have over a hundred functioning computers in our computer laboratory which students use for learning. We endeavour to train them on new concepts in the industry.

What you have said generally is true because most of our institutions lack these facilities and computing is dynamic. Some lecturers that have been teaching for the last fifteen years still use the same notes, the same concepts and even the same curriculum. So the students will not get anything.

If you must impart the right knowledge in computing, you have to be dynamic and move along with the trend in technology. Then there is the issue of syllabus and curriculum and it is so unfortunate that Nigerian curriculum is done in such a way that it cannot be changed easily; this can be a problem. The review of curriculum should be dynamic in computer science because without a dynamic curriculum, the students will not be up to date.
Are your students allowed hands-on approach on the use of the computer?

Yes, computing is both theory and practical and we have lots of practical that we introduce our students to.

Though the course is practical based, they still need to have theoretical knowledge. So there is a blend of theory and practical.

What have been your school's contributions to the growth of ICT in Nigeria?
Yaba College of Science and Technology is one of the first institutions that started the use ofthe Internet even before it became a household name in Nigeria.

So we are really the pioneer of ICT applications delivery. We are also one of the few institutions that have Internet access in every office, classroom and even part of the student's hostels.

We organize trainings in ICT for both our students and staff and we are presently planning to make the department a pragmatic centre where we can do certifications. What are your views on local content?

This is one issue we will not be able to shy away from. Having our home-made computers and software is the most important thing that can happen to the IT industry and to Nigerian economy as a whole. As it is in other industries which are almost dead, what we do is just to assemble, which is not good for the industry and the country.

We actually make our students here make computer casing with wood and we try to fix in some of the components.
 Must a casing be made with metal? What about wood or even plastic? These things should be looked into. But even with all these, we still can't go anywhere without resolving the power issue in Nigeria. This is the only way we can make headway in developing local content.
We have the capacity and manpower. Most of the software that our students and even colleagues write can compete internationally but these people lack encouragement.

Nigerians prefer going to India to buy software because they complain that Nigerian software are costly which is not true.

We should try and encourage the spirit of self-dependence. The environment now is too harsh for self dependency. There should be an enabling environment and law that will allow young and productive entrepreneurs function properly. They can be given incentives, loans and grants to start with.

What do you think about the CPN registration? Would it improve the quality of service?

Yes, it will. CPN is the umbrella body that regulates computing in Nigeria and we are glad to say that we are CPN certified. We attend conferences and even annual general meetings. CPN exists to control and ensure high quality. So with the National Board for Technical Education, (NBTE), they go to all schools to do accreditations and I think this is healthy for the industry.

They are in the forefront of ensuring quality in all tertiary institutions which I think is a major feat.
 With the level of ICT in Nigeria, do you think the industry can meet up with what is being demanded by 2020?
No, I think we are lacking in the issue of IT education. Government should invest money in this sector by building ICT parks, training centres and even institutions. In Malaysia, there is a
university with about three campuses just for multimedia; they call it Multi Media University. We don't even have IT university here that offers just IT as a course alone. The government should establish universities and polytechnics dedicated to IT and ICT education alone.

How do we actualize Vision 2020?

Students should be focused on the IT profession. Focusing on banks and oil companies will not help us. We need software that can compete with other IT giants of the world. The government should create an enabling environment for students and IT personnel to function. Parks, ICT centres and institutions should be provided. The private concerns should also encourage IT education.

There should be organisations sponsoring IT education and establishing research centres. When I went to the Multimedia University in Malaysia, I discovered that Microsoft, Intel, and all the large organisations have laboratories there, well equipped and furnished for practical purposes.

We should try and see a situation where banks and oil companies will come in and invest on ICT development.

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