NOUN students’ protest and matters arising

By 12:09 Tue, 24 Nov 2015 Comments



It seems that as Nigerians we are always seeking

world class infrastructure without the desire to

make world class inputs. Nothing echoed this

antithetical desire as much as this week’s petition–

supposedly signed by students – calling for the

sack of the vice chancellor of the National Open

University of Nigeria (NOUN) Professor Vincent

Tenebe and other top management of the

institution.

A statement signed by the Congress of NOUN

Students accused the management of not

responding to their claim that the institution has

become a “den of endemic corruption”. Maybe one

will also offer no response upon the realization

that the entity being described has no relationship

with where one presides over. But again, the

management should for the sake of reducing

ignorance, educate the student leaders and

perhaps their sponsors about the reality of the

quality of education that NOUN is delivering

despite the limited financing available to it. This

explanation would be useful for several reasons.

First, there is that copycat tendency in some

people. It could just be that the Congress of NOUN

Students is out to replicate its own version of the

#feesmustfall protest that recently crippled several

South African universities over astronomical rise in

school fees. From the Nigerians perspective, a

simplistic view would be to conclude that

#feesmustfall protest 10 – 15% hike in school fees

for the 2016 academic year but the larger picture is

to appreciate that the hike means an average of

N700, 000.00 for each student.

Should the NOUN students be looking at replicating

the protest going by their recent moves? it is best

they also compare their overall fees with what

obtains not just in South Africa but in other

countries.

The second reason the management has to

consider is the mere fact that the leadership of

NOUN, since inception, has been superlative in the

discharge of its duties. NOUN moved from being a

concept, whose practicality and implementation

was earlier doubted, to becoming a reliable

institution. It even caught the attention of former

President Olusegun Obasanjo, who became a

proud student, finished his degree and remained

an ambassador of distance learning in Africa.

The management has been able to place the

institution among Nigeria’s top 25 universities. It

has also secured Senate’s approval for its

graduates to take part in the National Youth Service

Corps (NYSC) programme. These are achievements

the management of NOUN, under Professor

Tenebe has to celebrate more than it currently

does so that Nigerians and their prospective

students can appreciate the efforts they are making

to provide quality manpower for the nation.

Furthermore, the university should create

awareness on the relationship between the fees it

charges and the quality it turns out. People often

desire free education. The reality however is that

education is never free. Someone or some entity is

paying for or subsidising education whenever

students are able to get it for free.

Another angle to this is that people should have

realised by now that the word “cheap” and “quality”

should not occur in the same sentence when they

describe education. What the Congress of NOUN

Students want, going by their statement and

petition, is to either have “cheap” or “free”

education. It is interesting to note that they made

no reference to the quality of what they are getting

out of distance learning, which affords many of

them the opportunity to combine career growth

with education.

One of the things the Congress of NOUN Students

is not comfortable as indicated in their statement is

the increase in the fees charged for research

projects. Perhaps, a starting point would have been

for the leaders of this Congress to take a few

minutes to do a Google search with the phrase

“project research fees” or “research project fees”

and then take a further few minutes to skim over

the search results.

They would then find that it is not a trend that is

only associated with NOUN – other Nigerian

universities charge the fee. If these students have

the energy and patience to click on the links from

the search query, they will further discover that

project research fee averages N70, 000.00 at

institutions that charge them.

A suggestion for these students would thus be that

they should hold NOUN management accountable

to ensure they get quality supervision for their

projects upon the payment of the prescribed fees.

Also, while at it, they should actively explore the

possibility of getting businesses and companies

interested in funding their projects by working on

viable research problems that have industry

applications.

On the issue of course materials, which the

students said they do not get on time, a workable

suggestion is for the student body to work with

management to have all materials digitized and

distributed through the institution’s portal or via

mobile apps, since the era of hardcopy study

materials has all but fizzled out anyway.

Enterprising students should be happy to take up

the creation of such platforms as a challenge.

On its part, the Professor Tenebe-led management

of NOUN must realise at this point that

succumbing to erroneous demands from students

is not an option here. If the management

succumbs once then it will never stop giving in

until the progress it has made in recent years

becomes eroded.

Yes, the students have threatened “peaceful

protests” if the management of the school is not

fired by President Muhammadu Buhari but the

threat should not derail the school from delivering

on its mandate. It should also not force the school

to abandon the trajectory that has seen its profile

rise to be the first choice for those who desire

tertiary education through distance learning.

Ibekwe, an educationist, contributed this piece

from Enugu.


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