NIGERIA, a developing nation conscientiously aligned with the civilized countries across the globe on education strategically to remain a relevant team player; otherwise, it would be left behind.
This formed the basis for establishing the first Open and Distance Learning institution in the country in line with MDGs of the United Nations on education. Thus, synchronizing Section 18 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) was birthed by the Act of the National Assembly and its academic programmes accredited by the National Universities Commission (NUC) accordingly.
Unfortunately, NOUN is confronted with strong resistance by cabals with diverse interests in the conventional system on account of its massive impacts as a new university with overwhelming population of over 300,000 active students and about 90,000 in the alumni record just in few years of its existence including senior government officials, working-class and others on post-graduate studies. To some academia, NOUN plays the role of a spoiler with its open mode of admission as practiced overseas, as it drastically reduces the mammoth crowd queuing for admission yearly into universities alongside the huge amounts payable on admission brokerage, as NOUN provides a viable option with no stress as long as prerequisites are met.
Prior to its establishment, securing admissions into conventional universities were nauseating and as cumbersome as ascending Mount Kilimanjaro. Sadly, it wasn’t that candidates didn’t meet the benchmarks but deliberate plot for enriching private pockets and enthroning nepotism even at the expense of merit, which ultimately favours the private universities. Even with good scores, students will struggle to fall in either Vice chancellor, Registrar, Dean, Minister, Senator’s list or other unknown lists to secure admission on highest bidders’ basis, and this has over the years frustrated millions of people from academic pursuits. In some occasions, eligible students spend up to seven consecutive years subscribing to JAMB and its forms. Regrettably, many that couldn’t, out of frustrations, abandoned education and signed up for other occupations.
As a result, private universities including religious schools leverage on the aberrations to excessively enrich their pockets through high tuition fees. For example, to study law in a private university costs between N1.2m and N1.5m (per session) for the same courses outlined by the National Universities Commission (NUC) for faculties of law in Nigeria and even overseas. By the ‘special’ admission lists system and high tuition fees existing in government and private universities respectively, it is indisputable that titanic cabals are strongly on ground, fantastically positioned in determining the pace thereby frustrating ambitious citizens from actualizing their dreams for academic pursuits. As only the few favoured by them are offered admissions in government institutions, others financially buoyant opt for private universities or jet abroad leaving the helpless preys that are in majority in frustration.
But is NOUN actually spoiling businesses as assumed in some quarters? The university established by the federal government in line with Section 18(3) CFRN is objectively to bring education closer to the people and ultimately not conservative or profit-driven. For example, NOUN liberally opens wider doors to people to embrace education with the same course outlines, syllabus, materials and books used in the conventional universities. Why then the squabbles; the illicit incomes accruing from admissions, handouts and lobbying for unearned grades. In NOUN, students only know their lecturers for facilitations who are different from examiners, hence absolutely impossible to strike any deals for grades unlike in the conventional sector. Hence, the options are clear; either to diligently take the bull by the horns or chicken out as dropouts.
To buttress this, NOUN faculty of Law which the Council of Legal Education (CLE) refused to admit its students into the Nigerian Law School with allegation of inadequate learning-facilities remarkably, defeated in its first and only participation, all conventional universities including state, federal and private universities approved and adjudged to have the best facilities in the country with University of Benin in second position, in a national Moot-Court competition, and flew the country’s flag in a global contest in India in 2012 leading to resentments and protracted malice; a rejected stone became the chief cornerstone. What a paradox!
By implication, the cabals’ gang up against NOUN may never cease, regrettably, vindictively aimed at frustrating government’s initiative which brings succor in the polity, to pave way for nepotism and corruption thriving in the conventional setting. As it stands, despite some lapses, NOUN unequivocally provides the panacea to corruption, intimidations and exploitation prevalent in the nation’s education system. The closing remark or question is, could education reasonably, be over-politicized and anachronistically positioned in a developing nation like Nigeria with pull-down syndromes and blackmails rather than concerted efforts towards enhancing productivity and service-delivery?