Education is one of the proven pathways out of poverty, however, education in Nigeria faces several barriers. To improve education in Nigeria, companies are testing virtual reality in classrooms and this is showing promising results. Using virtual reality in education in Nigeria may address several inadequacies in the education system.
The Current Situation
Education in Nigeria suffers from multiple problems. The Nigerian Government allocated 7.2% of its national 2022 budget to education, according to UNICEF. While this marks an improvement from 5.7% in 2021, it still falls short of the recommended 15-20% for education expenditure from national budgets.
The curriculums of Nigerian schools are outdated, Global Citizen highlights, as it is based on the 1981 Universal Basic Education program. “… Imagine teaching kids about floppy disks and 90s programming languages, but in 2020,” a Nigerian university lecturer tells Global Citizen.
According to the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), less than half of primary and high school teachers have teaching qualifications. “Nationally-recognized teacher hiring guidelines” do not exist and teaching in private schools is not well-regulated. Fortunately, around 90% of university lecturers in Nigeria have doctoral degrees as of 2021.
Corruption is rampant in the education sector. Global Citizen says that “paid-for certificates… sexual harassment, extortion and leaked questions” are common at all levels of education. In addition, schools allow abuses like flogging.
Violence threatens the attainment of education in certain parts of the country. More than 11,000 schools in Northern Nigeria have closed since December 2020 due to abductions and security issues related to the Boko Haram insurgency. This leaves approximately 1.3 million students without proper access to education.
On top of all that, gender and cultural issues affect children’s education in Nigeria. Girls have lower school attendance rates because of issues like forced marriages and cultural biases related to gender. In the northeastern and northwestern states of Nigeria, “29[%] and 35[%]of Muslim children, respectively, receive Qur’anic education, which does not include basic skills such as literacy and numeracy,” UNICEF reported. All of these issues have contributed to 20.2 million out-of-school children in Nigeria as of 2022.
A Virtual Solution
In December 2018, the UNICEF Innovation Fund invested in 13 startup companies that aim to use technological solutions to improve educational opportunities for children. Nigerian-born Judith Okonkwo founded one of these companies, Imisi 3D. Imisi 3D aims to “provide quality education tools through Virtual Reality (VR).”
Okonkwo believes that virtual reality will offer a more affordable and immersive experience for children. If schools are unable to afford real labs or field trips, students can just put on their headsets and dissect animals or explore the landmarks of specific countries. She also believes VR can help close the education quality gap between public and private schools.
Testing and Results
By March 2020, Imisi 3D had created “three educational VR models” and tested them on students and teachers from a public junior secondary school in the city of Lagos. While some issues came up, like students struggling to locate objects in the VR reality and students struggling to communicate what they saw in the virtual world, both students and teachers enjoyed using virtual reality in education.
In June 2021, the Journal of Education and Practice published an article about a study in Abuja, Nigeria, that tested virtual reality educational programs on 56 students across five junior high schools. The students’ ages ranged from 11 to 16 and girls accounted for 45% of the participants while boys accounted for 55%. The students enjoyed the VR programs and many said that the virtual world felt realistic and gave them a sense of ambiance.
Between the three types of programs the project exposed students to (video games, videos and images), students found the videos most intriguing and effective for learning. When asked which subjects virtual reality proved most helpful for, students cited the top three as geography and environmental studies, history and biology. Most students agreed that virtual reality made learning more fun and effective.
Virtual Reality Learning in Physics
Another study used 61 male students and 43 female students from two secondary schools in the Dutsin-Ma Educational Zone in Katsina State, Nigeria. This study compared students learning physics through conventional teacher-centered methods to those learning through virtual reality.
Just like in Abuja, students preferred virtual reality and had a much better understanding of physics when learning using virtual reality. Importantly, the study showed that female students had as good an understanding of physics as male students. This fact can encourage and instill confidence in females to participate more in education, especially in the underrepresented fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Barriers to Upscaling Virtual Reality in Education
While virtual reality is a successful teaching tool, there are issues the country needs to overcome to implement it on a mass scale. Schools need to have access to the proper hardware and software and establish quality internet connections. Both students and teachers need to have some basic understanding of how the technology works. There are also issues like financial and organizational challenges on the administrative level as well as the ability to create quality VR educational content for students. Despite this, virtual reality is paving an excellent path for the future of education.
Although there are several issues affecting education in Nigeria, the implementation of virtual reality could hold the potential to address some of these issues and set an example for the rest of the world.
– James Harrington