12th June, 2012
By Isaac Asabor
Mr. X finished his primary education nine years ago. His parents seemingly begged him to undergo an apprenticeship in carpentry but he bluntly refused. What spurred his parents’ decision then was not far-fetched since they were living below the then existing poverty level. Annoyingly, he left for Lagos where he did almost all imaginable menial jobs.
While performing all sorts of odd jobs, he almost died of starvation as he had to save enough for his tuition fee in a continuing education centre towards the General Certificate of Education, GCE. Happily enough, he passed all his papers including typewriting.
With his GCE certificate, he secured a job as a Clerk/Typist in a prominent bank where he gained the experience to become a student member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers and triumphed in its examinations. He later, in his career, observed that there is an element of discrimination between professional and academic qualifications just exactly the same way there is discrimination between HND and B.Sc qualifications in our contemporary labour market.
Having realised that he stands at a disadvantage during promotional exercise in his office with only professional qualification, he started planning how to acquire either an executive post graduate degree or undergraduate degree in any of the management sciences. It was at this point of his ambition that the dilemma he was in dawned on him. How could he have resigned from his lucrative banking job for a full-time degree programme? Assuming he resigned, it would have exposed the foolhardiness in his disposition since there was no guarantee that he will automatically get a job after his full-time degree course.
The plight of Mr. X is not imaginary or isolated. It is one way or the other shared by many Nigerians, even with this writer in the past. Many are losing their senses as they daily ruminate over how and why they should resign from their place of work in pursuit of full-time degree programmes in the universities. The fear of resigning one’s appointment, especially for anyone that is already married, is too psychologically dangerous, more so, when the thorny atmosphere in the job market is considered.
A friend of mine once remarked that the fear of joblessness is the beginning of wisdom. Many Nigerians were once in a fix on how to advance the wellbeing of their parents, brothers, sisters and other kinsfolk, on the one hand and the society at large on the other hand. It was at this point that the acquisition of good education through part-time studies came in handy. Today, it is very obvious that they took a wise decision.
Happily enough, some universities in the country now have distant learning centres in some cities, especially in Lagos. Even some foreign universities too, are not left out in this healthy vogue of making education available to all.
I must confess that I am a beneficiary of the opportunities thrown open by one of these distance learning centres, or satellite campuses, as some would derogatorily call them, and that I have never been a push over while interacting or socialising with those that studied full-time. It would be recalled in this piece that most of our leaders studied for their GCE ordinary and advanced levels through correspondence colleges like Exam Success Correspondence College, Walton Tutorial College, Rapid Result College among several others that existed when our post offices were truly offering valued services to Nigerians. Some of our leaders did their preliminary law programmes through external or correspondence study method provided by ivy league universities such as Cambridge, Oxford and the like.
Considering the foregoing analysis, it is therefore disappointing that Professor Julius Okogie, the executive secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC) was reported in the media to have recently told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that “activities of institutions offering part-time programmes were giving the education sector a bad image and raising questions on the quality of graduates produced.” However, when his comment is viewed critically, one would discover that it is a faux pas. After all, there are many full-time students that are literarily gathering bags of “carry-overs” since they were admitted into the universities.
It is pertinent to opine at this juncture that sleeping and waking up within the confines of a university is not the only way available to become educated. With the present cutting-edge technology, knowledge can also be imparted through the use of handouts and/or audio-visual materials. The world is literarily running when viewed from a technological sense, therefore, it is auspicious for our nation to join the world in the race of holistic advancement. All over countries in America and Europe , part-time and correspondence mode of studies appear to be the vogue. Personally, what is expected of NUC as long as part-time issue is concerned is to seek ways of moderating the system from year to year. This seeming lamentation of NUC executive secretary did not start today. The predecessors of NUC secretary such as Dr. Peter Okebukola did the same.
No doubt, most students studying through part-time know what it takes to acquire university education. The reason for this is that some of them have tasted the good, the bad and ugly sides of life. It therefore goes to say that they are often serious in their studies like full-time students contrary to general belief. In my personal view, those who often see part-time students as dullards are committing a fallacy known as fallacy of composition in philosophical logic. The fallacy is of the assertion that a constituent is bad does not imply or mean that the whole is bad. If a part-time student is found to be a dullard, that does not translate to mean that all part-time students are dullards. We should not forget that dullards equally abound in our full-time campuses.
NUC and its executive secretary should please find a better way of regulating part-time campuses of our universities instead of calling it a bad name in order to hang it.
•Asabor writes in from Lagos. Email: [email protected]