FEMALE CHALLENGES IN ACQUIRING COMPUTER EDUCATION AT THE FEDERAL POLYTECHNIC, IDAH
Juliet C. Amadi
Department of Computer Science, Federal polytechnic, Idah, Kogi State, Nigeria.
Computer education and application of Computer skills in the knowledge-based society is ever increasing. It is in recognition of this that this study determined the challenges of female students in acquisition of Computer education using the Federal Polytechnic, Idah as a case study. The data were obtained from 72 female Computer science students through self-completion questionnaire and were analyzed using descriptive statistics. The results revealed that the respondents faced some challenges. These challenges were poor academic background, molestation of female students, negative perception of formal computer education, gender discrimination, among others. To ameliorate these challenges, the study, recommended introduction of computer science in all primary/secondary schools, campaign against female molestation, and award of scholarship to female computer science students among others.
Keywords: Challenges, female, computer, education.
Knowledge has great implication for the development of all economies. It is therefore every government’s priority to develop a knowledge-based economy through increasing access to educational opportunities (Nwizu, 2005). The priority given to education was emphasized by World Bank (1998) when it stated that with the emergence of global knowledge-based economy, governments are increasingly willing to invest in education. Education is the gateway to knowledge and access must be granted to all those who require it, especially at the tertiary level. Tertiary education in Nigeria is faced with a lot of challenges in the 21st century. These challenges according to Saint (2000) included, developing a knowledge-based society and providing life-long learning to enable the people to acquire skills and maintain competitiveness within rapidly evolving economies. Nwizu (2005) reported that these challenges can be met when access to tertiary education is opened to all those who need it.
The computer education and application of computer skills in the knowledge-based society is ever increasing. The usage of computer education is enormous such include Internet application, Geographic Information System (GIS), Programming, data processing, among others. The world is currently in a paperless age through the use of computers, most especially in developed countries. For developing countries like Nigeria, computer education becomes very crucial and relevant. For Nigeria to integrate and sustain herself in this information technology era, she needs to train people who are able to apply technological skills relevant to information, monitor technological trends and keep abreast of new developments in this area. It is the realization of this pertinent utilization of the computer and how substantially it has contributed to socio-economic and human development of the industrialized and developed countries of the world that the Federal Government of Nigeria began to lay emphasis on computer and science education. Thus, in 1987, an ad-hoc committee was set up by the government, which finally produced the National Policy on computer literacy (Okpoko, 2005).
From the desire to increase computer education among the citizens, the Nigeria Governments decided to encourage computer education programme in Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education. Computer education in tertiary institutions in Nigeria means the ability to identify, operate and manipulate the software and hardware of a computer system so as to achieve a desired goal. In recognition of the role that computer education can play in the country, the Federal Government of Nigeria also promulgated Decree 43 of 1993 establishing the Computer Professional of Nigeria (CPN) to encourage, promote and regulate computer education in the country.
Given the foregoing discussion, this paper sought to identify the challenges faced by females in the acquisition of computer education using Federal Polytechnic, Idah as a case study.
The aim of this study is to identify the problems encountered by females in acquisition of computer education in the Federal Polytechnic, Idah and make recommendations based on the study findings.
The study population consisted of 87 females of NDI and NDII students of Computer Science in Federal Polytechnic, Idah, Kogi State Nigeria out of which 72 female students responded. All the female students were used for the study. The instrument used was self-completion questionnaire (see appendix 1). The instrument was first validated by experts in computer science education. The reliability of the instrument was determined through pilot test using 5 female students of the Department of Computer Science, Kogi State University, who were not part of the study. The instrument was administered to the respondents in the Department individually by the researcher. Data generated for the study were analyzed using descriptive analysis involving simple statistics such as frequency, percentage, etc
Results and discussion
Table 1 Problem of female Computer Science students in Federal Polytechnic, Idah.
Problem No. of Frequency Percentage (%)
students (fi) P=fi/∑fi*100
Background (PAB) 72 40 8.5
Methodology (PTM) 72 50 10.7
from the opposite
sex (D/M) 72 57 12.2
Education (NPFCE) 72 42 8.9
Early Marriage (EM) 72 32 6.8
(GD) 72 38 8.1
(IC) 72 35 7.5
Feminity (F) 72 35 7.5
Lack of Personal
Computer (PCs) (LPC) 72 35 7.5
Financial Problems (FP) 72 32 6.8
Domestic Problems (DP) 72 35 7.5
Ability in Women (LCA) 72 38 8.1
Total 469 100
Table 1 indicated the problems enumerated by female Computer Science students at the Federal Polytechnic, Idah. The response rate was very high, 83% (72 out of 87 female students). Disturbance/ molestations from the opposite sex has the highest frequency of 57 respondents (12.2%) and the least problems mentioned by the respondents were early marriage (6.8%) and financial problems (6.8%).
The challenges expressed in Table 1 included; poor academic background, poor teaching methodology, disturbance/molestation from the opposite sex, negative perception of formal computer education, early marriage, gender discrimination, inadequate computers, feminity, lack of personal computers, financial problems, domestic problem and low comprehensive ability in Women. These Challenges are discussed as:
Poor Academic Background
The decay in the standard of education is most noticeable in the area of science and technology especially in the primary and post primary educational levels. This decay has a multiplier effect at the tertiary level. 8.5% of the respondents indicated that poor academic background has contributed to their poor academic performance. One respondent who attended a public school stated that the unavailability of required science equipment hindered the practical lessons and the knowledge of science received was theoretical.
Poor Teaching Methodology
Campbell, (2004:) reported that women learn programming from being shown rather than reading programming books and computer science being a practical course should be taught with more emphasis on practical work. This point has equally been highlighted by 10.7% respondents as a major problem hindering their progress in the study of Computer Science.
Disturbance/Molestation from the Opposite Sex
From the Table 1, this challenge has the highest percentage of 12.2%. The male lecturers and students are most guilty of this offence thereby making the female students more vulnerable to this type of molestation and harassment.
Negative Perception of Formal Computer Education
As a Computer Scientist, one is expected to have an in-depth knowledge of the science of computing, be analytical and constructive in reasoning and be able to model physical phenomena or real life situation using computing application. A lot of people have negative perception of computer science as they look at it from the operational point of view which is only an insignificant aspect of computer science. 8.9% respondents stated that a female who studied computer science is often regarded as mere typist or secretary.
6.8% of respondents stated that early marriage is one of the problems affecting females in computer education and females are more vulnerable to early marriage than males and more likely to be denied educational opportunities.
8.1% of respondents emphatically stated that females are victims of inferiority complex due to the societal discrimination of the female gender and this affect their performance in Computer education.
7.5% of the respondents stated that the laboratory is not equipped with enough computers; 100 students in a class and only about 12 computers to service them are grossly inadequate and that even out of the few Computers available, some were not functional.
Female body according to 7.5% respondents requires maintenance and this maintenance involves a lot of time. They also stated that lot of females spend more time to appear good than they do in their studies and since science, in particular computer science, requires a lot of study time and practice for perfection, it becomes a problem for female students who would rather spend more time looking good than studying.
Lack of Personal Computer (PC)
7.5% of respondents indentified lack of PC as their problem. This confirmed recent study in Scotland which found that college women were less likely to own a computer than their male counterparts; this may be due to unequal financial resources. Access to home computers, however is still problematic due to competition with male family member (Gunn, 2003). This is important because students can get as much access to a computer in the weekend at home as in an entire year at school (Linn, 2005).
6.8% of respondents stated that to acquire knowledge entails a lot of financial commitment. This poses a big challenge to them. This is because their families either do not have the financial capability to support their education or they prefer to educate the boys (gender discrimination).
7.5% respondents who were vulnerable to early marriage stated that they became committed to family matters instead of education. They also reiterated the fact that females are the shelter of the house and therefore incline to domestic responsibilities. The females focus more on domestic work than studying and this affects their academic performance. The saying that goes thus “practice makes perfect” holds here and since the science demands a lot of practice, it therefore translates to poor performance where constant practice is lacking.
Low Comprehensive Ability in Women
8.1% of respondents identified this issue as a challenge. This confirmed several findings (Deremer, 1990; Dyke & Smitter, 1994; Houle, 1996; Jennings & Onwuegbuezie, 2001).
The acquisition of Computer education in tertiary institutions is a prerequisite for re-focusing industrialization through engineering technology and national development. In respect to this, the study indicated that female students in quest to acquire computer education in tertiary institutions face some challenges. These challenges are lack of personal computers, negative perception of formal computer education, molestation of female students, and gender discrimination among others. And that these challenges need to be addressed in order to enhance female acquisition of computer education in tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
To ameliorate the challenges faced by female students in Computer science. The following recommendations are made:
Introduction of computer science in primary/secondary schools
The introduction of computer science in all primary/secondary schools will prepare students especially female for better understanding of the subject of computing. This means that both genders can manipulate computer at very tender age, especially if the teaching methods are very sound and involves a lot of practical lessons.
Campaign against female molestation
Check should be put in place in institutions of higher learning to monitor such menace as harassment and molestation from the opposite sex. This check can be in form of campaign against female molestation, sensitization of females on ways of tackling such issues, meting appropriate punishment on deserving male offenders.
Computer education among Nigerians
To an average Nigerian, there is no difference between a person who studied Computer Science in higher institution and a person who went for a six months training in a Computer School. Nigerians need more enlightenment on computer education. Government and Non-governmental Organization (NGO) should organize enlightenment campaign to encourage formal computer education. Females especially those in authority should brace up to educate parents on the need to give equal education to both male and female especially in the area of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Organizations and Corporate bodies should organize symposiums, seminars e.t.c to educate the populace on the need for formal computer education.
Provision of computers
Schools, primary, post primary or tertiary, should be well equipped with adequate Computers that are functional and maintenance of such Computers should be carried out from time to time. Government can make computers and accessories readily available to individual who require them by subsidizing the cost. Government (Local, State, and Federal) can provide laptops (PCs) to schools (tertiary institutions) at affordable costs.
Scholarship to female computer science students
Scholarships, grants, loans e.t.c. should be made available for female students especially those who are denied the opportunity to be educated. Gender discrimination in education is prevalent due to lack of funds in educating every member of the family. If these funds are made available by the governments in the form of scholarships, grants, loans etc, then a large number of females will have equal opportunity to be educated especially in the area of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
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