Ifeoluwa Odetayo, a secondary school student in Osun State in South West Nigeria now has something he treasures as much as his cell phone. It is the Opon Imo (Tablet of Knowledge), a hand-held computer tablet pre-loaded with educational resources that can ease her study.
Though the Opon Imo was only officially launched by the state government about two weeks ago, Ifeoluwa has had it for more than two months now, during which he has come to value it more than his physical textbooks.
“I treat it the way I treat my own phone. I treat it with a lot of respect,” said the pupil of Ilesa Grammar School, in an interview with The Nation at the launch.
Ifeoluwa is one of the 150,000 SS1 and SS2 pupils that the Governor Rauf Aregbesola administration is providing with the tablet in its bid to digitalise education as well as provide public school pupils with all the relevant textbooks and other materials to enhance performance in school and national examinations.
The tablet features an e-library containing 63 e-books – 57 covering the 17 subjects examined by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) for the Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) – and six others including a bible, dictionary, history of the Yorubas, Opon Ifa, and a book on enterprise education.
It also features a virtual classroom where the pupils can take tutorials; an integrated test zone, where they can access more than 40,000 past questions for the SSCE and Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations, and educational games like chess, scrabble and others that can develop their intellect and critical thinking skills.
With all these content packaged into the device that weighs just 1.1kg, 10 times less than the normal secondary school Physics textbooks, Aregbesola said the state is relieving the pupils of backache from carrying so many textbooks; the parents of the financial burden of buying textbooks for their wards, and saving the government at least N50 billion it would have needed to provide such rich content in hard copies.
It is no wonder Ifeoluwa handles the device like a treasured possession so nothing happens to it.
“I charge it all the time. When I am not at home, I keep it in its box,” he added.
Ifeoluwa said he finds using the tablet to study more interesting than his hard copy textbooks.
“I find it very useful – more than my textbooks. To be sincere, when one is reading textbooks one will get bored. This is more interesting. It is more equipped than our textbooks,” he said.
Ifeoluwa’s classmate, Temitope Alake, is already implementing a personal timetable using his tablet. He said he gets more knowledge from the device.
“I read from 5am to 6.30am in the mornings, and then I also read in the afternoons. For today, I have English and Biology on my timetable. I read English in the morning; in the afternoon, I will read Biology. The tablet gives me more knowledge,” he said.
The tablet has replaced hard copy textbooks at Ilesa Grammar School. Ifeoluwa and Temitope said teachers come to the classroom with their own and just instruct the pupils to open to specific areas.
“We use it in the classroom. All the teachers have it so they use it to teach us. Every student just clicks on the page the teacher calls and read,” Ifeoluwa said.
With the use of the tablets in schools, the Osun State Deputy Governor and Commissioner for Education, Mrs Titi Laoye-Tomori, expects a reversal in the abysmally poor performance in the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations from next year.
Mrs Yomi Mohammed, Head of Science Department at Ilesa Grammar School shares her hopes. Already, she has noticed her pupils are more attentive. She added that the tablet has equipped them with the relevant textbooks they needed, unlike before when not all of them had textbooks.
“They have been using it very well. It enables them to improve in their education because they have the different textbooks they need for the sciences. And after each topic, they have questions they can answer on their own,” she said.
However, the pupils are urging the government to decode some of the tablets as it is denying them of enjoying all its features. For instance, Ifeoluwa said because his tablet has been fully decoded, he can have access to the virtual classroom, view diagrams on his textbooks and take mock examinations in the integrated test zone. Not so for Temitope. He said he does not enjoy all the features because when he gets to certain environments, the device asks for a code he does not have.
“Some of us have this problem. The government should decode all the tablets so we can enjoy everything available,” he said.
The government has assured it has taken care of durability and power issues. Aregbesola said the tablet battery can last up to eight hours between recharges, while the device has been reinforced to survive rough handling by the young ones.