Gabiel Dike, Bianca Iboma; Jet Stanley-Madu; Fred Ezeh, Abuja; Gyang Bere, Jos
The proposed plan by the Federal Government to add extra year to undergraduates in the Nigerian University System (NUS) studying certain courses has stir controversies, with students asking the Buhari administration to perish the idea.
The students are demanding to know who will foot the bill for the extra one year they will spend on campuses if the proposal is forced through.
Instead of the proposed one year, students’ want government to give special grants to the institutions to purchase the required learning facilities and laboratories items which in turn will boost learning and research and thus enhance their skills.
Last month, the Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwukah, suggested that university graduates might have to spend extra year of studies in a bid to make them employable.
The minister, who made the proposal at the two-day retreat for governing councils of federal universities organised by the National Universities Commission (NUC) in Abuja, explained that the suggestion was based on the fact that many Nigerian university graduates were not good enough to be employed by industries.
Students reacts to FG plan
Rather than additional year, a 300 level student of Nasarawa State University, Naomi Luka, suggested that Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) be strengthened so that undergraduates could use the platform to acquire the needed experience and competence.
She reminded the government that students in some disciplines do three to six months Industrial Training (IT) in second and fourth year respectively, in addition to the mandatory one-year NYSC. These are several opportunities that any student could use to develop his or herself abilities and capacities. She rejected the proposal, insisting that it could force students to take to the streets to register their disapproval and that might attract local and international embarrassment for the government.
Rex Henrrietta, ND II, Mass Communication student, Delta State Polytechnic, Ozoro, said extending the undergraduate programme is not as important as improving the quality of higher education. Like others, she asked: “If the programme is extended by a year what benefit will it add to the student? How will it improve the students learning skills and what effective support will the government give to the students?’’
On the financial implications, she explained that every year students struggle to pay their fees, some even fail to complete their degree programmes due to financial constraints.
“Most parents take loans from micro-finance bank in order to foot the bill of their children in higher institution which can be very demanding. If government is extending the academic year, they should consider the economic hardship being faced by the masses.’’
She recalIed that her siblings participated in the NYSC with fond memories but observed that the challenge is how to overhaul the scheme with the introduction of friendly policies that will arouse corps members’ interest.
But Alex Onwunso, a 400-level Mass Communication student of Babcock University, Ilisan-Remo, Ogun State, is ambivalent about the planned additional one year.
“If it will have any positive impact on the lives of students and the educational system, why not? But since it’s coming from the Federal Government, forget it, the students won’t benefit from it, therefore, it’s not welcomed,’’
Esther Adeleye, 400-level Mass Communication student of Babcock University Ilisan-Remo, Ogun State disclosed that the plan is not a welcome idea as many students whose programme are four or five years have prolonged session due to strike and asked what happens if the extra year is approved and the staff unions decide to go on prolonged strike
“Considering the financial situation of the country, parents and students will pay additional fees, which might not be comfortable for some. For me, NYSC is not necessary but if the scheme must remain then the government should look for more innovative ways to improve on the scheme.’’
A Mass Communication student of Kwara State Polytechnic, Chisom Eze, said if the Federal Government should implement the five and six year programme, it would be detrimental to the students.
She admitted that it will cost additional school fees and accommodation stress.
“We will buy exercise and text books. Our parents are already too overburdened. This idea would amount to more burden on them.”
She also backed the scrapping of the NYSC because “It amounts to wasting students’ time.’’
A 100-level student in the Department of Mass Communication, University of Jos, Jude Dagwam, described the proposed extension as an exercise in futility if practical measures are not taken to provide conducive learning environment with modern technological facilities.
“To my mind, the idea is not a welcome development in the educational system in Nigeria because I cannot spend four years in the university during which I will undergo industrial attachment and spend another year doing the same thing without positive effect.”
Dagwam position was reechoed by Racheal Bala, a 400-level student of NTA College Jos, an affiliate of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, who vehemently opposed the.
She agreed that certain programmes that involve human lives deserve adequate attention and time but said Federal Government should not generalise the extension on all courses as it will be a counter productive without the required facilities.
Bala insisted that if government succeeded in the implementation of the “obnoxious proposal”, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) should be scrapped and the stipends meant for it should be given to graduating students to make them self-employed.
A student of Remedial Science Department, UNIJOS, Samuel Mordecai Temitope, was sad when he got wind of the proposed extension. His hope was to get admission to study Medicine and Surgery in the University of Jos after the remedial studies.
“That proposal is not welcome because most students are faced with financial challenges, our parents do not have the capacity to train us in schools, some of us are struggling on our own to end a living and if they are increasing duration of programmes, they are putting more burden on us and our parents.”
Stakeholders divided over FG plan
As far as Dr. Ama Onyerinma, educationist and executive director, Live Abundantly Empowerment Initiative, in considering the proposal, many questions have to be dealt with.
“If they are extending their course of study, is it going to increase the quality of learning and skills acquired? Will the graduates be better prepared for the workforce? A lot of graduates are not employable, they flaunt their certificate and not creativity; would the extension bring about innovative learning skills?”
Regarding the financial implications of such an extension, she asked if government would provide some stipends for the extra year the students would be in school.
“There are graduates without skills. When they go for the NYSC, they should provide skill acquisition centers to train them in business. Once they are acquainted with a business idea and they can developed it then the issue of unemployment would have been curb to some extent.’’
Chairman, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) and HOD English, Army Cantonment Boys Secondary School, Ojo, Mr. Tajudeen Oladipupo, traced the crisis in the education sector to policies introduced without the involvement of stakeholders in their formulation.
“The educational system is facing a lot of challenges because the basic needs have not been provided and they want to sneak in another policy. What value would an additional academic year add and also will they provide the students the basic needs to carter for their academic needs. This extra year comes with an extra burden except the government is ready to put money to assist the students because it will not be easy for them. I will suggest that the NYSC scheme should not be scrapped, rather it should be overhauled to make it vibrant. The scheme has provisions for the corps members to develop their skills, the unemployment situation in Nigeria is not caused by NYSC but the inability of the system to create job for the youths.’’
An educationist and girl child advocate, Anosong Bookish, supports the proposal by the government to add extra one year for undergraduates to acquire workplace experience.
“I have seen the effect of poor education in Nigeria. I run a school in Karu, Abuja. Last year, I terminated the appointment of two teachers for display of ineptitude. I am also planning to sack another one in no distant time for the same reason. These are people who claimed to have obtained Bachelor degree in education. Their case is unbearable and I was left with no other option than to terminate their appointment. These people could not defend their certificates. One of them could hardly make one good sentence or write correctly. It is totally amazing how bad it has become.”
Another educationist, Lina Emorkidi, is afraid that the decision might increase the academic and psychological burden on the students.
“It is true that the standard of education in Nigeria has dropped significantly. It is largely systematic and not the fault of the students. Adding extra year might demoralise a lot of students and could discourage many from seeking university education.
In Nigeria, students spend five or six years on a four-year programme due to academic and non-academic workers’ strike, late admission and other numerous challenges. Employers worsen the matter when they put age bracket to new job opportunities.
“I suggest that we review our curricular to align with the 21st century world. You don’t need five or six years to obtain bachelor’s degree in some disciplines in developed countries because of the quality of curriculum and other support services.”
Educationist, Mrs. Lawrencia Eto, described the proposed extra year as one of the myopic decisions that will take the nation backwards, adding that the problem of the sector is not the period spent in school rather, poor facilities and infrastructure to make teaching-learning effective.
“Considering our unstable political situation, the length of period being proposed might even be multiplied because of strike. And this will bring more hardship on the undergraduates and their parents leading to so many vices. The cost implication will be enormous on parents as well as government,’’ Eto noted.
Similar, the Proprietor of Mac Pat Royal Academy, Iba Town, Ojo Lagos State, Mr. Onumajuru Malachi, kicked against the proposed extra year.
“If government should enhance quality learning, ensure proper instruction, there is no need extending the undergraduate years in tertiary institutions,’’ she reasoned.
A senior lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, UNIJOS, Dr. Taye Obateru, believed that the way out of the rot in the sector and improve the quality of graduates is for the Federal Government to invest in the provision of modern learning facilities in various tertiary institutions.
He explained that increasing the duration of programmes will not solve the perennial educational problem until Federal Government genuinely implement some recommendations made by Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
He noted that the incessant strike by ASUU was out of the quest to improve the quality of education where sufficient manpower development is made, adequate facilities are injected into the system and lecturers are motivated to carry out their duties.
Registrar, Theological Collage of Northern Nigeria and former registrar, Plateau State University, Bokkos, Dr. Daniel Kim, challenged the Federal Government to lay a solid educational foundation from primary to secondary schools by giving adequate training to teachers if the country must produce quality university’s graduates.
“The proposed extension will not make any different in terms of quality of graduates because it is what you put in that you get out, the most important thing is to train the trainers. It is a known fact that we don’t have good teachers at the foundation level, particularly at the primary and secondary schools. Some of them do not have the methods of teaching as it was when we had teachers colleges.
For Dr, Kim, extension of programmes will not solve the problem. However, if the Federal Government could address the issues of strikes by ASUU, even if it cannot be eradicated completely, that would impact the educational standard.