“In the past, people had a bad impression of the university with regards to cultism among other things. But to the glory of God, that era has gone…
Okey Sampson, Aba
A former senator, Mrs. Nkechi Nwogu, who hails from Abia State, is currently the Governing Council chairman of the University of Calabar (UNICAL). She speaks on issues bedeviling the education sector.
Did your appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2017 as UNICAL chairman governing council come to you as a surprise?
I wasn’t expectant. Rather, it came as a surprise because I am somebody who has been in the banking industry all my life and in the last few years in the National Assembly, I was privileged to chair the oil and gas committee. These two areas were the places I was expecting to be appointed. But when this one came, it came as a big surprise and I accepted it, I found it very interesting. In the university community, you meet people of different shades of thinking because of their level of academic exposure in different field of endeavor. It has made me, as the chairman of the council to sit up and ensure that I am able to chair the council with a view to providing good leadership in the management of the resources of the university which is one of the prime responsibilities of being chairman of a university council.
There has been relative peace in UNICAL, what is the magic wand?
I would say that it has been a collaborative effort between the management of the university led by the Vice Chancellor, Prof Zana Akpako and his team including the council. What we did was to read the riot acts to the students. In the past, people had a bad impression of the university with regards to cultism among other things. But to the glory of God, that era has gone, even though there was an ugly incident where two students who are not on campus were killed as a result of cult related activity. I thank God that there are few things that have completely died out. One is that no student has been blackmailed or result withheld because he/she didn’t buy lecturer’s handout. Such things are no longer prevalent in the university. It has already being achieved before I came onboard. The first thing I did when I came on board was to have a town hall meeting with every staff of the institution because I said that I would apply a bottom to top approach in our council administration in finding out what the needs of the university are. We take the ones that we can do immediately and the ones that can be done later. It has never been done in the university and in the meeting, I gave them the assurance that I will run an open door; that the council will like to work with them so that we will be able to introduce policies that will bring about positive changes where it is required in the university and that has really brought good working relationship between the staff and management.
How is the university embracing new media in teaching and learning?
The University of Calabar is among the few institutions that have embraced e-learning and it is expected to reduce teacher-student physical contact. E-learning is already in place but it hasn’t covered all the faculties and departments; it is a gradual thing. In some departments, students don’t need to go to class and there is an e-learning board where they go and download what has been taught and read at their own pace and time. But they must conform with the date of the exam because the date of the exam is not staggered.
What areas do you think needs urgent attention in the education system?
My perception then as a politician and now as the pro-chancellor of UNICAL is completely different. Now, I am a participant in the world of academia and I have seen that there are things that needed to be improved upon, one, is the processing of exam results/collection. Situations where students collect their results manually from year one to the final year should be jettisoned. I do hope that every university in Nigeria should be able to give students their results on the go. Why should a student come to collate their results from various departments. Up till now, there are no totally reliable means of collecting students’ fees without compromise. What I mean is that the system of school fees collection, even though it might be through ICT, it is still not that effective as to ensure that students who hasn’t pay their school fees will have no business sitting for exams and collecting their results.
The system should be able to detect that a particular student hasn’t paid his or her fees. There are few other things in the university that needs to be tightened so that the university can improve physically because if you go to some universities, you will see that there is need for collaborative efforts. The number of students attending universities and using its resources, including UNICAL doesn’t correlate with the fees collected. So, there are so much leakages and I will be glad to see that universities will introduce systems that should be able to capture students from the day an admission is offered to him or her till the day he or she leaves the school.
What would you like to be remembered for as the pro-chancellor of UNICAL?
I would like to be remembered for introducing new things in the university. I came in and I met seven committees and I felt that there are some areas that were left unchecked and unutilized. My prime function is to ensure that the university improves their lot through improved income generation. I saw areas that were ought to be brought into the income generating unit. I had to bring them onboard. We created five more committees headed by committed and dedicated council members and they are unraveling things. Like I told you earlier, bureaucracy in federal universities makes it possible for universities to tolerate wastages which is not good. Wastages account for poor funding in the university. Universities are poorly funded and since Federal Government alone cannot provide the needs of the institutions, we have to look inwards to see how to run the affairs of the universities without lowering standard. That is what I want to be remembered for. I also want to be remembered for ensuring that there is open access to all that are involved in the university. Be it in the lowest or higher cadre. For now, I want to be remembered for ensuring that there is a smoother relationship among the staff, students and the management of the university.