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Odefemi Oluwajoba: Drop in educational standards: I’ve noticed it in OAU, but who stops the slide?

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Odefemi Oluwajoba: Drop in educational standards: I’ve noticed it in OAU, but who stops the slide?

By Odefemi Oluwajoba

“As is my custom, I closed my books, put out the light, switched off my phone, kissed my rosary, cuddled my pillow and soon fell asleep.”

And thus Aziza Reginald began his post in The Scoop. I cannot claim to follow that same ritual in lulling myself to sleep as I continue in my 4th year of studying law at Obafemi Awolowo University.

My ritual probably goes more like: I close my books, walk about one kilometer back to my hostel as I’d gone in search of a quiet place to study to avoid my usually overcrowded room. I try to get something to eat, check my phone to catch up on any worthwhile event that may have occurred and may catch my interest. As my mood dictates, I may or may not check on two or three verses of the scripture, switch off my lamp because there is no electricity and then prepare my mind for the following day’s activities until I reach dreamland.

Lucky enough for me, at this stage of University life, my lecturers hardly have need to fix early morning classes that requires me to make use of the lamp again before daybreak. Often, I open my eyes when the light of the day is just coming in all its eye-catching beauty, ready and strengthened for a full day’s work.

However, the day’s beauty never takes away the ills that still affect the education sector of the nation, which is just a tiny reflection of the many troubles that face Nigeria.

Aziza has made comments about some students’ attitude that need not be deliberated on anymore. Likewise, he has discussed at length about many lecturers’ sense of achievement at the failure of their students which I need not dwell on. Rather, I’d like to make note of some issues which he, in his Cambridge hostel, no longer has the misfortune of facing day after day.

First is the issue of electricity. It used to be something to boast of for Ivory Tower residents, even as recent as three years ago that electricity delivery on campuses in Nigeria was the ideal and which the rest of the country looked to and marveled. Nowadays, this is no longer the case. Students of OAU thought they had seen the worst last semester when electricity became a toy-like thing for the operators, to an extent that the light could go off and on for as much as ten times in a day. This semester, it is even worse. We have had two “one-week” blackouts on campus since we resumed in late August and as I write this, there hasn’t been a flash of electrity in the last 36 hours. What a thing to endure as a university student when a lot of what you need to succeed is contained on your laptop.

I already mentioned that I have to walk a considerable distance in order to access a quiet and conducive environment to study what the lecturer has taught for the day as well as make further research. The reason for this is not far-fetched – the over population that is common place in Nigeria university hostels. The worst part is that respite doesn’t look like it is on the way. Instead, the future looks bleaker as more and more people seek tertiary school admission yearly.

However, the issue of welfare – as important as it is for the well being of a student – is miniscule when juxtaposed with the main purpose of university – learning. It is very unfortunate to see Professors dishing out notes to students in the present time, same which they served to their students ten years earlier, without so much as a correction of the facts that changed within that time frame. Added to the university administration’s similar failure to update infrastructure to prepare students for the new challenges that are being encountered in the world, it is little surprise that the elite companies keep rejecting Nigeria university products as half-baked. It has become a regular occurrence that these companies send even the best graduates to schools outside the shores of the land for courses that will “prepare them for work”.

It hasn’t always been like this. It is a really sad statement to make that “our fathers used to have it better”. But that is the plain truth. Nobody is saying that we should revert to the old times, when food was provided for the students by the management or when students didn’t have to do their own laundry. Those are the minor things. What we need are changes and improvements in the more important things. My school recently had a hike in student fees and to say we haven’t seen even a hint of similar increase in standard is an understatement. I bet no student (or parent) will complain about a reasonable increase in fees if they are assured of a substantial improvement in services.

On the issue of lecturer’s laziness and refusal to update their methods, the solution shouldn’t be so far away. Obafemi Awolowo University recently concluded a lecturer assessment interaction on her portal. What if the lecturers that got the lowest ratings are given a warning and then kept in watch for improvements? Failure to get improved ratings in subsequent assessments should then lead to dismissals or demotions. Or was the assessment programme just for aesthetic purposes?

Furthermore, the issue of “half-baked” or “fully baked” graduates is not the job of the school administrators alone. Many organizations like JCI, AISEC, etc are already putting in place avenues for students to get more skills outside of the classroom while still on campus. It is the responsibility of each student to see where he fits and what additional skills he can learn. Along this line, we have computer skills acquisition, language learning and many more, but is it too much to ask for such to be included in the curriculum? After all, it is commonly stated that no knowledge is ever lost.

The 2015 elections are drawing ever nearer and any aspirant for any post who overlooks education and the schooling population in his plans and preparations has already failed. At this point, every aspirant (especially presidential) ought to know that a solution to our many education institutional ills is paramount to a greater Nigeria that we all want. A serious aspirant will thus do well to provide an education sub-committee in his campaign team to avoid continued embarrassments like the recent high failure rates in both the Nigerian Law School Bar Part two final exams and the WASSCE 2014.

Any further suggestions from me for addressing the problems in the education institutions will only be provided if I am drafted into a campaign team that so wants me. For now, I’m going to drop my pen and switch off my lamp hoping to wake up not only to the beauty of the sun but also to the great news that electricity has been restored and that my electronic-age, electricity-controlled university world can kick off again.

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