NITDA Academy for Research and Training (NART) is arguably one of the best IT academies for training and skills acquisition in the world today. The academy has been providing robust online training and research opportunities for many within and outside the shores of Nigeria, even though, the research arm of the academy is yet to be fully developed.
As a baby of circumstance and a proof to the saying, ‘in every adversity is a corresponding opportunity’, the NART was conceived and established during the COVID-19 lockdown when businesses and education institutions were on total standstill.
This rare ability to detect opportunity in adversity can only be sighted by creative and innovative minds such as the ones the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has enjoyed in recent times since the emergence of Dr. Isa Pantami, the current Minister for Communications and Digital Economy on the national radar. He was the immediate past director-general of NITDA and the brain behind the new normal at the agency.
While taking a clue from the minister and former DG, the current director-general of NITDA and his very experienced and dynamic management staff were quick to recognize the fact that education and skill acquisition are the best legacy and bedrock of sustainable socio-economic growth and development of any nation, and which cannot be allowed to suffer under any circumstances, and almost spontaneously responded to the lockdown debacle with the creation of NART.
According to the director-general of NITDA, Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi, the establishment of the NITDA Academy for Research and Training is one of the best things to have happened to Nigeria during the pandemic. Leading his dynamic team of experts, Abdullahi bequeathed to Nigerians a world class academy to keep everyone busy during the COVID-19 lockdown.
This innovation, which has accelerated the growth of IT in the country, is not only ingenious but equally captivating, going by the instant success the academy has recorded from inception and the acceptability it has enjoyed from far and near.
No doubt the academy has been meeting up with the objectives for which it was conceived, and these include but not limited to complementing the efforts of tertiary institutions in Nigeria especially when it comes to providing Information Technology-related education.
NART is doing this by focusing on developing marketable workforce with skills and knowledge that will compliment other efforts from various quarters. All of these are aimed at accelerating the sustainable digital economy drive of the government.
Constructively, the academy employs a hybrid training strategy using the pedagogical and andragogical learning techniques to get the best experience out of its enrollees.
According to Merriam-Webster, pedagogical is the “art, science, or profession of teaching; especially education”. This definition covers many aspects of teaching methods which include feedback and assessment. Pedagogical skills include capacity to plan, initiate, lead and develop education and teaching in a way that connect teaching to research in the subject of interest.
On the contrary, the andragogical learners are “self-directed”, they enter the programme with great diversity of experience and are ready to learn when they experience the need to know or do something. They are usually motivated by internal self-esteem. Such was the strategic combination that goes into planning the NART academy.
Capacity building and skills development is a strategic pillar in NITDA’s Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan (SRAP 2021-2024) and this was clearly given a thought when planning the academy with objective to allow participants upgrade their knowledge of IT and be abreast of emerging trends in IT programming and systems.
As a solution provider, the academy was designed to address and bridge the existing gap between academia-industry research dichotomy by turning most of the academic research that have been gathering dust in most of our tertiary institutions across the country into a productive industry tools for socio-economic development, especially the ones that focus on addressing prioritized national challenges such as security, digital service promotion, innovation and entrepreneurship among others.
NART is a world class learning platform that has employed the Dick and Carey instructional design approach to ensure effective learning outcomes. It becomes quite clear that the management of NITDA is vigorously pursuing effective and sustainable solutions to build capacity and skills of Nigerians in IT generally and emerging technologies in particular with the aim to drastically reduce the unemployment rate in the country.
By this method, NITDA is strategically getting our young population busy and engaged through information technology by exploiting the compatibility between youthfulness and technology.
Aside the academic and research programme is the vocational training which the agency has developed with newly formed curriculums. This vocational training centre is playing a central role in preparing young Nigerian for work by developing their skills while responding to the labour market needs.
Similarly, the agency, in line with the digital literacy and skills pillar of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy, NDEPS, is launching a nationwide ‘Digital States Initiative’, DSI. This initiative is aimed at equipping Nigerian youths with the necessary digital literacy skills that can facilitate the acceleration of Nigeria’s transition into a digital economy.
The projection of this programme, which is on-going nationwide, according to NITDA through NART, is to train about 540 youths from each state of the federation and FCT. This is being taken in phases with the recent conclusion of the 2nd phase registration, as widely advertised in the media from June 7 – 18, 2021, which targets Katsina, Kaduna, Borno, Bauchi, Niger, Nasarawa, Ekiti, Oyo, Imo, Bayelsa and Abia states respectively.
Selected participants from these states will receive strategic training in digital marketing, productivity to and content creation, among others. This intervention will empower many youths with intermediate digital skills that will be needed to drive the digital economy transformation in Nigeria.
Lucky Nigerian youths, through this training, will receive globally required and marketable skills to increase their employability and productivity to compete in the global employment market. The content creation segment of the training will promote online businesses especially on social media platforms with huge potentials for innovation driven enterprises, IDE.
What made NART a global brand is the partnership it has with established international IT corporations such as Huawei, CISCO, Oracle and Harvard training institutes. The academy is currently equipped with four categories of trainees, namely MDAs category, student’s category, general category and digital skills category.
Each of these categories have specialized courses imbedded in them. For instance, the MDAs category showcases courses like: Introduction to cyber security, HCIA-Cloud computing, 5G overview – mobile communication evolution, Oracle cloud infrastructure foundations-2020 certified associate certification, introduction to Packet Tracer, to mention just but few.
The best part in all of these is the fact that all these sophisticated, quality and world-class standard trainings and skills acquisition are absolute free of charge. With over 67 courses and more than 55,124 active training sessions, under the guide of over 10 instructors and in excess of 57, 911 active students, NART is indeed next to none in the continent and arguably in the world.
With this, the ball in now firmly in the courts of parents and guidance including educationists who come across this information to demonstrate moral obligation to bring the news about the existence of NART to all and sundry across the country.
What else is there to say than Kudos to NITDA, its management and strategic partners for the birth of NART and several other initiatives towards our national rebirth for sustainable digital economy?
Abdulquadir Apaokagi is assistant director in charge of external relations at NITDA. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.