The Acting Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Dr. Suleiman Babatunde Ramon-Yusuf, last Wednesday, stated that Nigerian universities needed to deepen their digital literacy and for this reason the commission would within the boundaries of its regulatory authority raise an in-house team to understudy the details of a proposal by ICDL Africa, an International organisation rooted in Ireland, with a bid to piloting it to the higher education system.

He made this known when the NUC Management team received in audience the delegation from ICDL Ireland, which is dedicated to raising digital competences in the workforce, education systems and society, led by Charge de Affairs, Embassy of Ireland in Nigeria, Mr. Roland Morley, on a courtesy visit to the Commission.

He acknowledged that the presentation had generated a lot of interest which the Commission required to digest in order to understand the areas that the concept would add value to the Nigerian University System (NUS), stressing that NUC envisaged a system-wide impact on its adaptation. He nominated the Directorates of Open Distance and e-learning, Skills Development and Entrepreneurship and Research, Innovations and ICT to critically study same and come up with workable framework for further exploration of the proposal.   

Dr. Ramon-Yusuf had also informed the team that the commission had since 2009, initiated several programmes to integrate the development of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) into the universities line with global best practices.  He noted that the aftermath of the corvid-19 pandemic had disrupted the thinking of analogue academics which had subsequently metamorphosed into forceful adoption of digital platforms in the present age and making it an integral part of university education.

On this corvid-19 challenge, he explained that the NUC had helped in bridging the digital divide helping the analogue teachers to embrace the digital divide with lectures and meetings being increasingly conducted via Zoom and other dedicated platforms. He, however, acknowledged that what the ICDL was offering might be relevant to where the universities were and help the Commission deploy more digital technology in the NUS. 

The Acting Executive Secretary further informed that the Commission had been engaged in the area of capacity building for the NUS and is staff, with institutional and foreign-donated grants. He disclosed that some of the ODL Projects include developing the capacities of university staff through Open University of United Kingdom (OUUK), on the use of different aspects of technology for interaction with students.   

He said that the NUS had remained dynamic with 202 functional universities, comprising 49 federal, 54 states and 99 private universities, which the Commission was repositioning to meet global standards. He added that private universities would keep increasing in the next couple of years, expressing delight that despite being relatively young in the system, most of them had met world-class status in terms of facilities, ICT-compliance and stable academic calendar. 

He also stated that NUC was committed towards ensuring quality university education in Nigeria and had always pursued quality assurance projects in the NUS. Despite these accomplishments and operating within its lean budget, the Commission, he said, grappled with large system full of challenges and that as the regulating agency had ensured that quality was not compromised in the area of research, teaching and learning.

While introducing the Irish company to the NUC, the Charge de Affairs, Embassy of  lreland in Nigeria, Mr. Morley  used the forum to appreciate NUC for its regulating role in Nigerian universities, saying that a lot of collaborations had been entered into between some universities in Ireland and Nigerian ones, including Faculty exchanges with some Irish academics currently at the American University of Nigeria, (AUN) Yola as resource Fellows. 

In her presentation, Country Manager ICDL in Nigeria, Aisha Farouk, said that ICDL was a veritable digital literacy platform for access to university education which every country needed to embrace. She said that the company needed the collaboration of NUC to start investing in the students whose skills needed to be upscale for job placements.

She disclosed that two models of their product offerings include upscale of literacy skills of workforce personnel and the professional model which was specific to disciplines such as financial spreadsheet, digital marketing like social media products marketing. 

Contributing earlier, ICDL Project Manager in Africa, Ms Uju Ononye, explained that the digital tech. Company was a non-profit digital competence in education, workforce and society. She said that the programme had been active in more than 100 countries training people to become global ICT personnel.

According to her, ICDL had raised 22 digital, 16 million candidates and carried out above 70 million tests, adding that it had forged partnerships with Tertiary Education and Trust Fund (TETFund), bringing about transformative projects in the areas of ICT deployment in universities and polytechnics.

It had also collaborated with Babcock University, llesa-Remo, Ogun State, to adapt the model for their distance learning centre, while Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) used the platform to train their personnel.

She explained that the platform enable one understand concepts and even exposes younger generations on how to use the digital tech to make money, noting that its syllabus was also vendor-independent, promotes regular quality audit which is conducted internally and externally.         

At the meeting were NUC Deputy Executive Secretary, (Administration), Mr. Chris Maiyaki; Directors of Academic Planning, Dr. Noel Saliu; Accreditation, Dr. (Mrs.) Maryam Sali; Students, Mr. Sunday Essien; Executive Secretary’s Office, Mr. John Mairafi;  Acting Directors of  Inspection and Monitoring, Mrs. Lydia Umoroa; Skills Development and Entrepreneurship Ashafa Ladan as well as the Deputy Director, Human Resources, Malam Kabiru Abdulahi and Deputy Director, Open and Distance, Education, Mrs. Hadiza Ramallan.