Make no mistake: there’s an awakening happening in the world. You only need to look at the protests that have erupted over the past few months to see what I’m talking about. In Nigeria, for example, recent police brutality protests have transformed into calls for change concerning Nigeria’s governance, according to BBC News. While the road to real and impactful change can be rocky and intimidating, it is a beautiful and vital part of human evolution. By allowing change, we can grow as a society in terms of education, technology, economy, law, and how we connect with others. I believe that a combination of immersive technology and education can shape the future of Nigeria, and eventually, progress human evolution and consciousness.
Life in Nigeria (It’s Not Quite What the News Says)
In order to even discuss the future of Nigeria in education and XR, one must understand the current state of Nigeria. Casting aside stereotypes and ignorant assumptions, Nigeria is quite an impressive country. It has over 520 languages, a population of over 205 million, and holds the title of biggest African economy.
A Bright Technological Future
Earlier this year, TechCrunch even released an article titled, “Nigeria is becoming Africa’s unofficial tech capital,” which shows just how bright the country’s technological future could be. VR’s future in Nigeria, like in many countries, is a work in progress. When asked what the landscape is like for VR content creators in Nigeria, XR creator Okoro Onyekachi Emmanuel said, “the VR landscape … is relatively untapped and underused. At first glance, it is primarily used for entertainment (cinema) in Nigeria, and even that is not common.” Taking a glass half full perspective, Nigerian entrepreneurs and visionaries have plenty of room to grow in the industry and come up with innovative solutions that can’t be found anywhere else.
Lack of Equality in Education
Education in Nigeria is still a work in progress as well. According to UNICEF, despite mandatory and free primary education, around 10.5 million kids are out of school. Northern Nigeria has particularly low attendance, and if we look through a gender lens, over 50% of girls don’t attend school. Add in issues like poverty, and it’s clear that there is a lack of equality in Nigeria’s educational system. So, how can Nigeria fix this?
The Power of Community
Call me optimistic, but I don’t believe Nigeria’s current educational problems will last forever. Why, you ask? Because of the power of community. When a community comes together to solve issues, it can create surprising and substantial change. When individuals like Onyekachi, who train students in slum communities on how to create virtual reality, give their time, labor, and expertise to a cause outside themselves, their community is better off for it. If we’ve learned anything these past few months, it’s that no single government or entity can solve society’s problems. In order for change to really take root, apathy and pure self-reliance can no longer be the default position. By “owning” our communities and taking responsibility for each other, solving community problems will no longer be a blip on today’s newsfeed; instead, it will be a continuous movement. While community action can take a variety of forms – protests, voting, pooling of resources, forming a nonprofit, awareness campaigns, and more – the underlying answer is always the same: education.
Education is Crucial for a Better Future
Onyekachi’s work is a testament to this belief. “Our training looks to stir up innovations and ideas from these young people on the many ways they can use VR, such as developing market-ready tools for their economic empowerment and protecting their homes from forced eviction by the state government,” he said. More education means more economic opportunities and fewer chances of being taken advantage of by the powers that be. And while XR technology is certainly not the only subject that Nigerian youth should be exposed to in the community’s efforts to improve education, it is a worthwhile one. As more and more children and young adults in Nigeria receive a well-rounded education, the future of the country can only change for the better.
How Education + Virtual Reality Can Help Shape the Future of Nigeria
While seamlessly combining virtual reality and education in Nigeria has its issues – namely, costly hardware is harder to purchase amongst the more impoverished population – the impact they will have on Nigeria, in the long run, is limitless. As I type, Onyekachi’s NGO, the Media Awareness and Justice Initiative, is running a hub that functions as a safe space for learning, innovation, and engagement for young people 18-35 years old. They’re currently raising funds to buy equipment that gives a hands-on practical approach to VR development and application, to develop continuous training sessions for young people from marginalized communities, and for overhead costs. Ultimately, their end goal is to expand and cultivate a community of young creators who will use VR to create health, education, and development solutions in Nigeria. Imagine: mini, low-cost VR labs across Nigeria that target marginalized youth from poor slum communities in urban and rural areas. The Media Awareness and Justice Initiative is literally developing their community’s leaders of tomorrow, who will undoubtedly go out and do the same.
A Beacon for Change, A Message of Hope
When asked what his vision for the future of VR was, Onyekachi said, “my vision is to see the use of VR in the development of key areas such as the communication, advocacy, and campaign sectors. For example, using VR tools for educational purposes, awareness creation, and business development.” The benefits of VR go beyond that of entertainment. As you can see, I’m not the only one who believes education and immersive technology will advance Nigeria’s populace to new levels of prosperity and consciousness. Nigeria may very well be the next XR trailblazer and the next beacon for change, but only if the community is ready to believe in the power of the people.