The first time I met Gov. Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, I came off with a feeling like I had just been hypnotized. It was at the launching of a book written by Salihu Moh’d Lukman titled ‘2015: Manifesto of Nigerian Opposition Politics’ at the Yaradua Centre in Abuja in January, 2013. He was given an opportunity to talk to the audience and talk he did. The crux of his talk was the need for Nigerian politicians and people to put their acts together so as to make this nation work. His passion, method and choice of words were the instruments of the ‘hypnosis’ that I was talking about. One minute, he would be whispering to get your attention; in the next, the decibels could reach high heavens. I was transfixed. In the end he concluded by saying that ‘Nigeria is the country that will show the world that blacks are human beings.’ The rousing applause said it all. But as I gradually came out of the trance, a small voice asked me, ‘Could he be for real?’
By launching Opon-Imo (the tablet of knowledge), a computer tablet that was designed and produced to meet the academic needs of all Osun State senior secondary school students, I have a reason to re-appreciate this unusual man. The launching took place at the Zenabas Half Moon Resort, Ilesa, on Monday, June 3, 2013. I was not there in person, but I was lucky to lay my hands on Aregbesola’s speech, a significant part of which I will share with you today. I just have one regret; which is that I did not know about this wonderful idea when I had the opportunity to head the Education sub-committee of the Kano Renaissance Think Tank. But I think it is not too late. Gov. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso must hear about this. Let me hand over the column to Aregbesola to explain this remarkable project.
‘The successful birth and delivery of Opon-Imo has been a difficult experience; but it is a happy story to tell; and I am delightfully pleased to tell it. The journey began from a trip I made to the Borough of Southwark in the United Kingdom in 2011 where I saw an electronic learning device while window-shopping in a bookshop at Dockland. And it occurred to me that we could build something like that and adapt it to our own purpose in a manner that would be unique to our circumstance. And then we went to work, and Opon-Imo is the product of our toil…
‘It is a first-of-its-kind standalone learning tablet in the world for self-paced study. It provides three major content categories vis-à-vis, e-library, virtual classroom, and an integrated test zone.The virtual classroom category contains 63 e-books covering 17 academic subjects for examinations conducted by WAEC, NECO and JAMB as well as non-academic life-enriching subjects such as History of The Yoruba, Sexuality Education, Civic Education, Ifa on ethics and morals, enterprise education, hints and tips on passing SSCE and ‘How to live a Healthy and Happy life’. This section also contains an average of 16 chapters per subject and 823 chapters in all, with about 900 minutes or 15 hours of audio voiceovers.
‘In the integrated test zone of the device, there are more than 40,000 JAMB and WAEC practice questions and answers dating back to about 20 years. It also contains mock tests in more than 51 subject areas, which approximates to 1,220 chapters, with roughly 29,000 questions referencing about 825 images.
‘From the foregoing, there can be little argument that Opon-Imo is a veritable tablet of knowledge that levels the learning playing field for all students from different social backgrounds. It allows students to learn at their own pace, wherever and whenever they choose. It provides robust and uniform learning content for all students, and offers a feedback mechanism for monitoring their performance.
‘…With Opon-Imo [which weighs 1.1 kg], learning becomes fun, easy and interesting. Because this tablet of knowledge is going to be distributed free to our students, it not only relieves their parents of the financial burden expended on learning materials, it likewise relieves the students of the burden of their book-laden backpacks… Opon-Imo has numerous other advantages. It can be solar-powered; it can record audio lessons; saves students the stress of copying notes and spares them more time to learn; facilitates early exposure of students to ICT; it has up to six hours of battery life; and its touch screen makes for easy use. To crown it all, this little device will greatly facilitate our free education policy by saving the state a lot of money that would have had to go into procuring text books on an annual basis. Indeed, the saving is humongous. Were the state to engage in the physical purchase of hard-copies of textbooks for the 17 subjects taught in our public schools, hard-copies of 51 audio tutorials, hard-copies of JAMB and WAEC past questions and answers for all subjects for a period of 10 years, it would (conservatively speaking) cost a whopping sum of N50.25billion.
‘In a world tilting inexorably towards ICT, Opon-Imo is a bold statement of our determination to qualitatively redefine public education. With Opon-Imo, we are certain to open the doors of good education to more of our students who would otherwise have been denied that priceless opportunity…’
I cannot agree more. I think it is also important to mention that the total funds needed to procure the e-materials were in the region of N200 million! I therefore make this public request to HE Gov. Kwankwaso to accept one more recommendation from our think tank: Let us borrow from Opon-Imo to develop a new tablet called ‘Allon Karatu’ for free distribution to every school kid. We can even call it ‘Allon Kwankwasiya’, for effect!