10,000 radios will be distributed to students in Lagos State from today. This was revealed by the State’s Commissioner of Education, Folashade Adefisayo. The radios are the product of crowdfunding efforts that the commissioner initiated with several partners.
The radios form part of the plan to bring academic studies to more students, especially the indigent ones who live in the slums in the state.
Schools in Lagos and other states in Nigeria have temporarily shut down because of the Covid-19 pandemic. As such, state governments and education administrators are trying to devise and implement innovative ways of bringing education to students in their homes.
Challenges of radio as an academic learning tool
A comprehensive learning experience is a combination of visuals, texts, and audio, among others. Private schools and tertiary institutions are already using online classes on platforms such as Zoom, Google Classroom, Meet, and other digital platforms.
For students learning through the radio, they can only listen to the teacher as s/he teaches on the topic or course for the day. The teacher will not be seen, and neither will the demonstrations or illustrations. The students are therefore left to imagine for themselves what specific concepts or experiments will look like.
The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) captured the problems associated with radio as an academic tool for learning as:
- The non-availability of educational content in audio-visual formats
- Difficulties of countries to produce content in quantity and quality in short time
- The absence of pre-existing partnerships for the design and broadcasting of the educational content.
- The need for communication and collaboration between education specialists and the professionals of the audio-visual sector for the production of educational programmes.
- The lack of know-how and expertise in monitoring and evaluation of learning
Going by these challenges and considering our peculiar disposition as a country, the radio alone may not be as effective an academic tool as the commissioner would like to think. In reality, it can only try to reduce the difference between students who have access to online learning platforms and those who don’t have access to it.
Distractions during learning
Distractions are one of the challenges to be overcome with radio learning. Since there is no dedicated channel to educational content, students have to tune in at certain times.
Regular radio channels provide a mix of entertainment and other content unrelated to education. Aside from the distractions provided by the radio station being used to broadcast lessons, the demography of people who are likely to receive the radios are students from poor backgrounds and urban poor communities.
For this category of people, being at home means more participation in errands and house chores. As such, the times, when radio lessons are being broadcast may be the times they need to run errands.
As Aisha Saleh opined, “The radio I use is rechargeable or from my small phone, so if the battery runs out and there’s no electricity supply, it would be difficult for me to catch up with the lessons. Also, because you’re home, some parents expect that you do house chores and send you on errands almost every time and this could be distracting.”
Having a radio channel dedicated to educational activities would provide students with constant access to a stream of educational content at all times. This would make a radio set more valuable and helpful to the students, as against having one lesson broadcast at a fixed hour every day, otherwise, it could just end up as a way of helping students develop an affinity for the contents of Wazobia FM and the likes.
Is radio learning sustainable?
While the radio can be considered complementary to other efforts by education providers in the state, it is not a sustainable model. Students can not be assessed on radio, neither can tests, quizzes, or exams be carried out using the learning model.
Another thing to note for sustainability is how long the radio can be employed as a means of reaching the students while schools are locked. Since tests are not carried out and the content is for public schools across the State, measuring the effectiveness of the model for the target students becomes very tacky, and almost impossible.
The way forward
Besides the radio classes, there are also TV broadcasts of lessons for Junior and Secondary School students. There is also a Youtube channel where the students can catch up with the lessons. These are quite commendable especially since the UNESCO acclaimed that radio and TV programs ought to go together.
But to make it work even better, other countries have developed their models to provide, not only students learning but also intergenerational learning. This tends to keep even parents and other older relatives involved in the learning process.
In some countries, these programmes are conceived to provide intergenerational learning, including in local languages. They also include issues such as health and psychosocial well-being, both of which are important in supporting populations affected by the threat of COVID-19.UNESCO
Lagos and indeed, Nigeria could adopt this intergenerational model and make these broadcasts a whole family affair.
More forward-thinking efforts that can bridge the digital learning divide between students are needed. Partnerships with telcos and other organizations that can bring tele-tutoring closer to students across the board might be a better and more challenging target for crowdfunding efforts.
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