Thursday, March 16, 2017

Education: National Open University of Nigeria and its Harbinger of Uncertainty.



Although education is of strategic importance to Nigeria’s growth and development; and at the core of her millennium development goals, but still a lot of work is begging for attention in that sector.

Nevertheless a giant stride was some time ago achieved especially in the tertiary level of her education system and that is the resurrection of the National Open University of Nigeria in the year 2002, by President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.

Established way back in 1983 by the government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari
 but became moribund shortly without any cogent reason at least in the public domain.

It revival, however, came at a time when there was a growing need for paradigm shift from conventional campus based university education to a more unconventional open, flexible and long distance mode which is the practice in many countries around the world.

Informed by the country’s growing population and of youths especially, who are year in year out frustrated by their inability to access university education through the existing conventional means with all its systemic inadequacies.  .

The Open University is a unique system which allows students to accumulate credit units based on their intellectual capacity and financial strength; and at the same time gives them the latitude of maximum of eight years to complete their course of studies.

Other attractive waivers include being able to drop course(s) especially around exam time for whatever reason.

Permission to carry a maximum of 24 credit unit load per semester provided the student has the capacity to handle the attendant pressure.

The only caveat being that, if badly flunked, the student will be denied access to similar opportunity in subsequent examinations.

Unlike what is obtain in the conventional set up, the system allows for freedom to retake missed examination papers the following semester or as deem convenient to the student without any negative implication on the student’s CGPA..     

From inception fourteen years ago, it has grown steadily both in fame and fortune in relation to its pioneering mandate of delivering qualitative and cost efficient university education to the country’s teeming youths and adults as well who remain ever thirsty for university education.

From the era of its founding V.C, Professor Olagbemiro Jegede, poached from the Open University of Singapore who steady the ship of this flagship university despite storms of financial constraints, dearth of infrastructure and administrative bottlenecks that are characteristics of public institutions in Nigeria at take off.  

He was succeeded by the equally effective Professor Vincent Ado Tenebe who achieved a milestone of first two semesters per session in the year 2014 and onward.

Before then, it is on record that the school could only do a semester per session and it was due to no fault of his predecessor who operated under a most stifling condition.

Those who are familiar with the school will attest to the seamlessness of its working across faculties and departments in recent years.

Especially for a school that runs largely on information technology, doing anything on-line is usually tear-free and that is kudos to its I.T department and the web operators, Cyberspace Technologies.

For these reasons, the school became quite popular and students enrolments simply sky-rocketed.

Today, the school proudly boast over 120,000 students and counting; it currently runs programmes in the following seven faculties namely:

It's second to none in sub Saharan Africa and followed closely in second spot to the University of South Africa in student's population or enrolment, programmes on offer, and reach.

From the scenario described above, it is clear that the school is having the best of time and there is no stopping it from reaching all enviable mileages.

Then on board came bespectacled Professor Dr. Abdalla Uba Adamu, who holds double professorships in Science Education (1997), and Media and Cultural Communication (2012) from the Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria.

An appointment which, many believe is meant to reflect the country’s federal character in principle and practice.  

Though his appointment caused a mix reaction when it was announced by President Muhammadu Buhari on the ground that it did not followed established procedure governing succession of Vice Chancellors in Nigerian university.

It was, however, allowed to pass.

The other snag is that he did not come from the Open University system.

Would that proved his undoing?  You never can tell.  

After a year or so in saddle, things are beginning to unfold which to a large extent are contrary to expectations of consolidation of sterling achievements by his predecessors.

Within a touching distance of the second semester examination of his Vice Chancellorship in 2016, he mulled and experimented with the idea of replacing the school website which practically made it impossible for many students to properly register on their portals.

The question on the lips of many then is what is wrong with the site in operation?

If none, and could not have been because the site has served the school since inception, then this is only an attempt to stamp his visionary footprint on the school’s sand or merely to help himself to some coins.

It’s a common knowledge in Nigeria that appointment of this nature is usually seen as ascendancy fraught with self aggrandising opportunities.  

Affected students had to resort to manual registrations; something long thought to be history in the school.

Additionally, tutor marked assignments (TMA) was equally affected.

During the examination proper, grading was surprisingly done over hundred instead of the customary seventy.

In the current 2017 academic session, it officially became public knowledge that the old sit www.nou.edu.ng has been discarded for a new one with the domain name www.nouonline.com.

And that is fine by stakeholders who neither have a say in the day to day running of the school nor foresee any glitches cropping up with its working.

A transition ran into a hitch.
But who in the 21st century does something like that without adequate arrangements for data movement from the old site to the new one. 

Now uncertainty pervades the air with special regards to senior students.

For no cogent reason many of them were oddly not captured by the new system, and they were still being made to go through manual registration in which particulars like I.D card or anything to identified them as bonafide National Open University of Nigeria’s students were been demanded.  

If that is not ridiculous for a school which long pride itself as forerunner in the digital adaptability where pushing the boundary of education is subject, I wonder what it is.    

After the initial submissions, it does appear that many still cannot be traced on the system, and another round of information was required.

This time states of origin, local council arrears, sex, and date of birth were itemised.

But as members of technology savvy generation, you wonder where the data are simply gone.

Without much ado, it smacks of gross incompetence and visionary gamble on the part of the school management led by Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu to say the least.

Another example of institutional corruption which had long bedevilled the country for which a war is been waged by the current administration.     

In addition to all of these challenges, the school site has always been down due to what insiders claim to be maintenance exercise.

And for a site not up to three months going through routine maintenance nothing can be most unbecoming.

Above all, it has only led to increased sense of anxiety and frustrations in the minds of concern students.

And they can only watch as the drama unfolds while fervently praying for speedy solution.

For indeed, they have no one to whom to appeal except the V.C, Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu whose responsibility it is to ensure the smooth running of the school who so far has but proved to be a harbinger of radical changes which only breed uncertainty and frustrations as by-products.    .  
   



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