Education is innovation; innovation is education. Simplicita.

That is the conclusion I reached as a participant at the end of the 37th Annual Conference of the Association for Educational Assessment in Africa (AEAA), themed “Innovations in Educational Assessment”, at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, between August 5 and 9, 2019.

The conference, which drew several scores of participants from 25 countries in Africa and beyond, including Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, The Netherlands, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, United Kingdom, Zambia and Zimbabwe, provided a window into the dynamics of education and the challenges of conducting examinations in our contemporary times. At the end of the conference, it became crystal clear that innovation is a sine qua non to rebooting our education in Africa, Nigeria especially, since the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, as posited by Albert Einstein.

At the opening of the conference on Monday, August 5, 2019, the President of AEAA, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of the Examinations Council of Lesotho (ECoL), Dr Litšabako Ntoi, emphasised the relevance of the conference to the continuous improvement of the education agenda as there is no way Africa could afford to remain behind at a time “the world is talking about the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR), which is a new chapter in human development, through extra-ordinary technological advancements.” She reiterated that educators and educationists alike cannot divorce themselves from such issues as Cybersecurity, Internet of Things, Big Data and Cloud Computing, which are some of the characteristics of the emergent 4IR.

The theme of the conference was lauded by the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education, Arc. Sonny Echono, who reiterated the need for Africa to catch up with the rest the world regarding the dynamic trends undergirding education which is the solution to human problems. “With the observed increase in unemployment and poverty in our continent, it is imperative to re-appraise and properly situate the relationship between education and national development,” he said.

The Permanent Secretary revealed that the Federal Government had developed a blueprint on “Education for Change” in order to accelerate the delivery of quality education to Nigerians. He also praised the Association for promoting educational development in Africa through enhancing cooperation among examination and assessment bodies and facilitating cross-fertilisation of ideas among scholars, professionals, institutions and organisations.

In the same vein, the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, Sir Chinyeaka Ohaa, stressed the need to maintain high standards of integrity because the quality of education impacts on the competence and lives of students. He especially maintained that it requires quality education bolstered by innovative technologies to provide solutions to the major challenges confronting Africa.

Speakers after speakers, including the hosting Head of the National Office, West Africa Examinations Council (WAEC), Nigeria, Mr Olu Adenipekun and the Chairman, Nigeria National Committee, WAEC,  Dr (Mrs) Lami Amodu, as well as keynote speakers like the Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof. Is-haq Oloyede; the Chair of Ekiti State Universal Basic Education Board, Ado-Ekiti, Prof. Francisca Aladejana; a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone, Ing. Prof. Redwood Sawyer and others, were unanimous on the imperative of the moment. This imperative is the need to deploy innovative technologies to improving quality education and maintaining the sanctity and integrity of examinations in the continent.

The emphasised imperative in my view is not just the responsibility of governments, policy makers and proprietors, it is equally the responsibility of teachers and educators at large. Teachers and lecturers today must be technology-friendly as they utilise online resources and social media to make teaching-learning more interactive and effective.

University teachers especially must take teaching and learning beyond the physical classroom to the virtual space so as to functionally engage students in their familiar space. As I do with my students, creating social media groups where teaching and learning take place will go a long way in carrying many students along as they are digital citizens who are always online.

By rethinking the contents of what is taught and exploring innovative methodologies and smart technologies, education will be more accessible or attractive to the largely distracted students of today’s Digital Age.

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