Onwugbolu Michael Tochukwu,a computer Engineering graduate of the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) , in this interview, highlights the problems with STEM courses in Nigeria, outdated methodologies used by lecturers and government attitude towards science and technology.
What is the role of NACOSS in Today’s University?
NACOSS is an acronym for Nigeria Association of Computer Science Students, its a student professional body with presence in almost all tertiary institutions in Nigeria (both private and government owned). NACOSS was founded by groups of students in July 1993 with the backing of the Nigerian Computer Society (NCS) as its parent body. It provides avenues for students (in any IT related field) to highlight and champion issues of interest in a coordinated and organized manner. NACOSS members (NACOSSites) are students studying at tertiary institutions in computer related disciplines including: Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Information Technology, etc. Each member is essentially a member of the Association’s local chapter in his or her institution. NACOSS aims to re – orient the Nigerian youth and project the IT profession through Seminars, Lectures, Symposia, Workshops and other related activities. The intention appears to be the active and the purposeful promotion of the study of IT and other positive forms of IT knowledge acquisition. NACOSS organizes capacity building exercises to enlighten the youths, the young people of Nigeria on how to become entrepreneurs using acquired IT skills and also to create platforms for neophytes, and gurus associated with the intriguing world of Information Technology to exhibit their products, services and software to businesses, industry and the general public. These forums are also directed towards encouraging the patronage of made-in Nigeria technology, software and services while also engaging participants and exhibitors positively. NACOSS events include intensive enlightenment of students by IT Industry players to create awareness and expose NACOSSITES to the reality of IT industry, the business environment and career growth requirements. Thorough discussion and interaction between students and experienced professionals, managers and policy makers lead to career guidance and mentorship for professional growth and successful entrepreneurship. Such events usually include consultation and deliberations on new and emerging world technologies and the need for local content development and addressing issues relating to the digital divide. Software exhibitions are one of the features of the events to encourage and reward NACOSSITES involved in software development. NACOSS aims to foster the growth of the IT profession and promotes the interests of the profession through its engagement with the youth. It does not engage in sex discrimination, and does not promote ethnicity, religion and other forms of nepotism or discrimination. NACOSS is committed to professionalism and youth empowerment through IT. It aims to connect members with the reality of industry and society in ways that will empower them and enable them to make a significant impact in their communities, locally and globally.
Can you tell us about the membership of your organization?
As of April 2012, NACOSS states that it is the largest and most organized student body in West Africa, with registered members of about Two Hundred and Fifty thousand (250 000) in well over One Hundred and eighty local chapters (and more unregistered) in different Institutions (Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education) across the six (6) Geopolitical zones of Nigeria.
Nigerian IT and Computer graduates seem not to be up to date in terms of the current trends in computing, how are you addressing this?
Well, I strongly believe that one of the greatest challenge in Nigeria System of education,especially in the Technology world is lack of conducive environment. I always make an advocacy that, IT innovation parks should be sighted at least in each geopolitical zone. It’s well known that if you train accounting students, you build financial institutions, if you train medical personnel’s you build medical facilities and training centres , then if we see the importance of IT in Nigeria there should be need for Innovation Centres, China of today started from somewhere and Nigeria Can start from somewhere. Let there be an innovation Centre, some technologies that is new to us today are already outdated in some countries, because there’s is no supportive research centres. The curriculum need serious attention, majority of the higher institutions are still offering some “outdated” courses and they have refused to upgrade. It’s hard for you to see a computer science graduate from especially public institution with a specialization, either in Digital Marketing, Networks, Hardware, Graphics, software engineering, etc. and every academic session over 10,000 (Ten thousand) Computer Science Students graduates from one higher institution or the other, the big question remains. Which company/firms are ready to absorb these graduates?, which innovation center in Nigeria can breed this fresh graduates?. Imagine what this country would turn to be if only 1/10 of these fresh graduates are actually useful to the IT industry. This country will build a silicon valley soon.
Nigeria computing education and syllables aren’t up to date. Nigeria computer graduates don’t have an idea on how programming skills and language are deployed, we are talking about a world that is moving away from hardware to cloud based solutions. Do you have up to date lecturers?
The fact still remains that most lecturers has bluntly refused to update themselves with the new technological trend, most of them uses the lecture notes they used in during their higher institution learning days to lecture these days. Then there is a great revolution in the industry, and have turned the student to be a book warmer. It’s all about giving me as I gave it to you (La cram, La pour, La forget) no good.
Well, it’s a big mystery, but the truth has to be said, there is nothing like a computer lab or research lab, talk more facilities of lab with internet connection for research work. I could remember the first time I entered a room that has a few dilapidated system was in my second year when we went for CSC 201 lecture and after that day there was nothing like a practical class again. It’s really embarrassing and I strongly believe this is also applicable to higher institutions in Nigeria. With my Position as the National President I have received lots of complaints about IT students complaining of issues of poor computer laboratories and practical courses, although we have limited intervention to this issues, but we as a body have tried to collaborate with many ICT training centres to organize very subsidised fees to up to 70% discount just to make sure that our members don’t come out of the higher institution half baked.
In terms of lecturers, it seems todays lecturers in Nigerian University are a bit archaic. Take a look at the Computer 101 lecturer and you will understand that the world has left us behind, are you offering sublime computing courses like cloud computing, Nano tech, and Artificial Intelligence?
All I have to advise is let there be drastic change both through the curriculum and also the lecturers. Let there be a checkmate to some certain things.
You are in NACOSS, what are the challenges you face and how do you think that these can be corrected?
Yes, we faced a lot of challenges, we organize a national software summit every year where all institutions are expected to come along with their best three project work. But the greatest challenges is that after this no innovation centres or investors to properly guide these young technocrats.
What are your aspirations?
- Making NACOSSities more valuable to the society before and after graduation.
- Increasing our collaborative bond with the IT industry
- Attracting new members to the Association
- Putting on a worthwhile and strengthening allied partnerships and exploring new avenues of ICT generation, just to name a few.
- Reviving and reactivating the dead arms of NACOSS
- Adding value to the life of every NACOSSITE (ICT wise)
Do you feel the government, especially federal and probably Rochas is doing enough to support NACOSS in FUTO ?
Government through some agencies are indirectly doing something so, but I will love to use this opportunity to make my little plea and contribution on behalf of the great NACOSS.
- Proactively address perception of quality of locally made ICT products and services by working with leading global quality organizations such as ISO, American Society for Quality.
- Establish a permanent National ICT Conference, which will include Software, Hardware, Hacking, Graphics competitions etc and also ensuring that Nigerian Youth and NACOSS are duly represented.
- Promote specialization in different areas of ICT in higher institutions and where possible provide funding for the setup of centers of excellence in selected universities and higher institutions. As many student’s embarks on various projects in their final years, I seek that the ministry concerned should start looking into every school best final year project. These could be brought to the Innovation centers for more improvement. I strongly believe that over a period of time being focused to the vision Nigeria will turn not only to be giant of Africa in ICT issues but also top 3 in the world as regards to ICT.
- Promote the creation of a minimum of six Software Engineering Centers of Excellence in partnership with Nigerian universities within the next two years. At least one in each geo-political zone. Each Software Engineering Centre shall produce a minimum of 100 Software Engineers annually that develop for leading operating system platforms using current programming languages and world class methods
- Promote the setup of the University of Information Technology to lead the study of and research in ICT.
- Establish technology incubation programs, start-up communities, ICT clusters and other IT development networks to stimulate the growth of the sector even at higher institution level.
Finally, what advice will you give to intending university undergraduates, especially the females to take up Computing as a course?
I love to advise them to keep the spirit going and never look back some day our voice will be heard. Technology is the next oil field of Nigeria Economy. As organization we organized annually a conference, especially for female IT lovers tagged: Gender Equality participation in ICT
“Well, it’s a big mystery, but the truth has to be said, there is nothing like a computer lab or research lab, talk more facilities of lab with internet connection for research work. I could remember the first time I entered a room that has a few dilapidated system was in my second year when we went for CSC 201 lecture and after that day there was nothing like a practical class again”
Culled from IT EDGE NEWS