It’s yet another Monday and another month with the classrooms at all levels of education still empty. Uncertain and bored teachers and pupils (or students) are trying to adjust to the shock of having to abandon the school premises and learning for the most part for over eight long boring weeks.
While we have seen the rise (at least in popularity) of e-learning, the reality on the ground is that it remains just beyond the reach of the majority of the people. The disparity in access to quality education is something that even the government have failed to resolve for many years despite the allocation of huge sums under the Universal Basic Education [system/project/campaign]. Of course, the failure of the government in providing quality education access gave ample opportunity for enterprising individuals to begin private schools. For the most part, they are unregulated and proliferate every nook of the country – especially in the South. With the rise of private schools, government schools have come to be seen as substandard. Tha a depressing irony given the fact that the State Ministries of Education are responsible for setting and enforcing the standards that their schools largely fail to live up to.
The disruption caused by the pandemic and the national lock-down directives to the education sector is not something to gloss over. While it is a huge business shock for the entrepreneurs who have invested in private educational institutions, it also clearly presents an opportunity for a new brand of tech-savvy educational entrepreneurs.
This opportunity is not for the fainthearted. Among the myriad of structural challenges, any education entrepreneur will face is the stubborn reality that most Nigerian family cannot afford the costs of digital education. There is also the challenge of finding the right teacher talent. Unlike traditional brick-and-mortar schools, teaching online, whether it’s live or pre-recorded requires additional delivery and engagement mastery. After all, you will be talking to a camera and you may not be able to tell if your audience is engaged if you can’t see little Johnny’s face.
In 2019 Nigerian entrepreneur and founder of Konga.com, Sim Shagaya announced the launch of uLesson, a smartphone-based education product for students and pupils from basic education to secondary school levels. uLesson says it is “…creating a platform to revolutionise the way students learn and study for their exams in preparation for higher education and what comes after. We encourage them to embrace the learning evolution that comes with the current digital age. Parents or guardians should thus be willing to invest in this approach to help their children get ahead in school.”
Of course, a year later, uLesson found itself uniquely positioned to serve parents and guardians who had to figure out how to make sure their children or wards were still learning during the pandemic.
One expects to witness an influx of new players in the digital education space – and that is well and good. But the entrepreneurs who will succeed and scale their business will be those who are willing to embrace the complex challenges present in the Nigerian education system and truly create innovative, intuitive and affordable digital education solutions.