Past, Present, and Future of Tech in Nigeria Schools

Photo by Will van Wingerden from unsplash

TLDR; As we all know, Technology is taking over so many things, so many jobs. It might come as a surprise to us because we are in Nigeria, a country that is way back in technology and no technical orientation. I’m a final year student of Computer Science and I’m not really proud of having schooled in Nigeria. We had a “School of Technology” day on the 7th of November 2018 at Yaba College Of Technology, Lagos, Nigeria. So, I decided to put down some of the things I observed.

The Rector (Engr. Obafemi Omokungbe), a guest speaker, the pro-chancellor of University Of Lagos (Dr. Wale Babalakin), and some other awesome personalities were present at the event. They all talked about several things but the one we all enjoyed most was Dr. Babalakin’s talk which was centered towards “Attitudinal Behaviours when employing Nigerians in our ecosystem and how the government should help fund students to become experts even before they graduate”.

During the questions and answers session, Dr. Babalakin answered most of the questions but he couldn’t answer one of them properly which was tailored towards “The school having a review of the current curriculum as it won’t help them securing a job when they graduate”. This question was asked by a student that knows the importance of these new technologies and how they are shaping the world today.

Dr. Babalakin’s response was just about stability.

Most schools in Nigeria use an old curriculum most of which was probably used to lecture them during their youthful age or that of their fathers, if I may say. Some of them are still relevant today, while others should be thrown to the bin. Courses like Introduction to C, Introduction to C++, Compiler Construction, Project Management, and some others are still relevant today. C and C++ are still one of the top languages today, which other languages are built on.

Go Lang, a programming language designed by Google Engineers and one of the fastest languages today, initially implemented its compiler in C called GC.
The first JavaScript Engine(Spider Monkey) created by Brendan Eich was implemented in C++.

It’s not like the other languages that should be disposed are not somewhat relevant, they are just very old and irrelevant in today’s market and in the future. Some questions needs to be asked like:

  • Will this language help students in understanding other languages?
  • Will this language fetch students a good job when they graduate?
  • How can this language help the Institution?
  • How can this language help the present society?

The answer to the first question would be about thrashing QBASIC, and bringing in MIT Scratch. QBASIC interface is boring and crappy for a modern age. Students to be introduced to tech should probably start with Scratch and not some BASH looking interface language. Most of them have smart phones with better interfaces. Most students cram QBASIC’s syntax to succeed in tests and examinations. Some with very good cramming ability would excel without a proper understanding of the language. They need to know why some things are done the way they are done, why some things are needed, and why they should care about some other things.

I thought it was a joke when I heard we would be taught FORTRAN programming language. I was like “Seriously?” because I was already writing Python programming language before I got into school. The thought of having to be taught a programming language like FORTRAN came like a shock to me. I hardly looked into it because I knew what I was going to do as soon as I graduate from school, so it became the only programming language I didn’t get an “A” in. I couldn’t get myself to look at it because I knew what the world needed and I couldn’t help but to study other personal things. FORTRAN won’t help in securing a job in the future, neither will it help bolster learning other languages.

LinkedIn Jobs is where many folks get jobs from. Try searching for FORTRAN jobs, you won’t get any result. Also try searching for Pascal, you won’t also get any result. But when you try searching for JavaScript, Python, and some others, you’ll surely get results. Yes, we also went through a course on Pascal. It’s not a very bad language, but it needs to be replaced with a language like Python.

Students often write final year projects. Some of which was copied on the internet, and others contracted out to someone. The impact of these final year projects are never seen in the school. Upon completion of the project, a copy with the code either burned to a CD or printed on a paper sleeps in the supervisor’s office. That’s why most school’s website is not built using best engineering practices. Some processes could be automated, but they’ll choose to do it the old way, making them lag behind in tech. Sometimes it’s not all about teaching them how to be great at most of these things, it’s just about giving them the spark to help them grow themselves.

Practicals are nothing to write home about, let’s not talk about that. I know some of my classmates (studying computer science) who can’t turn on a computer. It might seem like a joke. Surprisingly, they are just a month away from graduation.

I never got interested in “tech day” till I was called for exhibition to showcase some of the things I had done in tech. I got up from bed in sheer enthusiasm thinking I would show the Rector and who ever is interested, a progressive web app.

I showed a few lecturers what a progressive web app is, and told them how relevant it is in the present society. They loved the idea. Some of them even asked questions on how they can port their normal web app to a progressive web app, and I answered accordingly. It came as a shock to me that the Rector didn’t look to seek out the main folks in technology “The Computer Scientist”.

The exhibition went on for about 30 minutes and so, then after not seeing the Rector and heard he had already left, I grabbed my bag and went home. I got pissed that they were not interested in knowing what the future holds when it comes to technology.

We were taught data structures and algorithm. No one told us it was a prerequisite to becoming a Software Engineer. Still on data structures, we were never taught Big O notation. I mean, what’s the point of calling ourselves Computer Science students if we don’t know what Big O notation is, and how to write better algorithms, putting performance in mind.

And if these things are not taught properly, it will affect everything students try to build, now or in the future. Government sites are perfect examples; poor performance and bad user experiences. That’s why most of those websites become unavailable when many users are on it at the same time. None of these websites conform to international standards.

There are many buzzwords in tech these days “Block chain”, “Artificial Intelligence”, “Data Science”, “Big Data”, “Machine Learning”, and many more. We(I and some awesome tech leads) try our best to organize events, both in school and outside, to make sure we get updated in tech and don’t get swallowed up in the bad ecosystem we found ourselves.

The most hilarious thing is, the management will claim to have taught most of us that developed ourselves to learning these awesome technologies, despite knowing that they had nothing to do with our learning.

My take for students that involve in doing any tech-related subject here is to “Learn on their own”. You can always reach out to me on Twitter for advice on how to go about anything tech related. My DM will always be open.

My take for the school management here is, to train lecturers to learn most of these relevant technologies and drop the old ones, because technology is growing at a rapid rate.

My take for Government here is to help supervise how tech is being done in schools, and set a standard that will help the present and the future of tech in Nigeria as a whole. If a proper standard isn’t set, more companies will be established with bad tech orientation that isn’t internationally recognized and most of us that have better orientation will go work for companies abroad.

I don’t want to talk about CPN, because I’ll have a lot to say, but I’ll draw the curtain here. Thank you!