It is imperative that an institution of a higher learning understands its onus of delivering qualitative education to its students. However, when certain issues truncate the effectiveness of academic activities, it becomes of problem for discourse.
To this effect, an interview with Dr. Gabriel Ottah, the Head of Department, Mass Communication, Kogi State University, discusses the issue of Revisiting the Educational System in the country.
Israel Arogbonlo, Aro Olubusola and Achor Ojonimi report.
Why do we need to revisit the educational system of Nigeria?
Educational standard or system in Nigeria whether it is improving or declining is a two-way thing. Well, we have a good system but two things are solely responsible for the crash in the system. These are mismanagement and incompetency that have crept into the system. We have plans in budget but executing these is a major problem, owning to the political system and other sectors that have been mismanaged overtime. For instance, the West African Examination Commission (WAEC) result that was recently released gave us a decline in the general performance compared to last year when we had 52 percent as against this year’s 49 percent or so. Hence, we have a decline in this sense and it is better for stakeholders in the education sector to consider revisiting the system. Though we have a good plan, it is not properly executed. Put succinctly, the teachers have their roles to play, the parents who take care of their ward, also have their part to play, Governments who have to provide an enabling environment for the students’ education, also have their part to play. For instance, in some higher institutions lecturers who do not merit the position are assigned. This may lead to poor delivery in class, non-attendance of classes, intolerance of students questions and intimidating students in and outside the class. We also have issues of extortion of students by lecturers among others. Then, on the side of the government, there should be more commitment towards paying workers especially teachers in due time. Despite governments’ efforts, it has not been able to pay salaries as at when due in some states like Benue, Kogi, Bayelsa and Edo. Non-payment of salaries put lecturers and teachers under severe pressure and it affects their performance. The sad reality is that students are the direct beneficiaries of the problem. They graduate without being adequately prepared for the challenges ahead in the labour market. The cumulative outcome is the problems we witness in society. Our prayer is that government should succeed so it would pay us in due time.
Having identified the problem for revisiting the educational system, what do you think is the way forward?
Well, governments at all levels should give education the needed priority and attention by declaring a state of emergency on education. Though it is hard thing to achieve, the government should adopt the strategy of Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el–Rufai by removing all the unqualified people in the educational sector and bring on board those capable of doing excellent job. It is a good way to start. They should go all the way to Primary Schools, Secondary Schools and tertiary institutions and replace teachers who are not qualified, because you cannot give what you do not have. Also, they should ensure an enabling environment to make our educational standard better otherwise there is a looming danger.
Being the Head of Department might not have been a planned phase for you but what has been your experience so far?
I became the Head of Department 11th month ago. I came after the Seven months old strike and before then, we had also been on a three months strike. As a matter of fact, I assumed office under pressure and had a lot of challenges to address. Even when the strike was called off, the matter was yet to end because the strike left some of us with the option to come back to the university while some people did not come back. Those who did not come (over 130 lecturers) were relieved of their lecturing for refusing to come back while some of us who had different opinion and came back. It was not easy. For instance, we have a situation where some departments had only four or five lecturers left until the State government employed new members of staff. Though our own department was not badly affected by the sack, we already had our own challenge before the massive sack. For example, our former Head of Department, Rev Dr. Chika Asogwa left not on account of the strike, but it was a minus. Within the same period, Prof Ezekiel Asemah and Success Ojih left respectively. Those trio left in addition to the fourth person, Ben Onoja who left on the account of strike. Later, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), sanctioned the university and that delayed us in a way. I must say those were part of the challenges that led to the delay in forwarding results that we had in the department. God is helping us and we have been making serious move to see that the results are released. By the grace of God, we have overcome all these and waiting to put final touches to the backlog of results still left. The Vice Chancellor was very quick to respond to our situation and now, we are on top of the situation. You should know that issues about results are treated with utmost managerial secrecy and commitment. So, you don’t expect me to tell you more than this. They are sacrosanct, purely secret and treated with care. To be sincere with you, I am not answerable to any student but to the management that put me in office. That’s all about the challenges and we are working so hard to rectify the problem. On the experience as a head of Department, I must confess it has not been easy, but I am delighted in all.
You actually talked about your challenges so far, has there been any happy moment as the Head of Department?
Well, I will not even say I have a sad moment not to talk about having a happy moment. Anyway, I have been doing my job and must not satisfy everybody. I am glad I have been able to achieve something tangible since I resumed office as the Head of Department. So, I have no sad moments.
From the just concluded African Communication Festival organized by the department in relation to the course MAC 109, would you briefly describe your experience about the event?
Thank you very much. Talking about the African Communication Festival (AFCOMF 2018) that was held last week, I would say it was delightful and the students did exactly what I wanted. My belief is that tomorrow they grow into maturity by imbibing the African culture, which they did through African Communication Festival, cutting across African dance, African open market, we saw the town crier in action before the small group African Communication pattern, that is, in form of storytelling done by the old man. These are African perspectives in communication different from the mass media we have today that the audience is scattered all over. So, we Africans should be proud of what God has given us even as we use the modern day technology. Then, talking about my experience on what have made me to like African communication perspective, maybe I should say I grew up in the village and I am a living witness of the African culture before I came into the university setting. I saw that link which is already missing especially considering our young generation who are no longer interested in the African way. For instance, there are some ladies in this 21st century who do not know how to wear a native attire and that is the more reason they would employ someone to dress for them on their wedding day, where they must put on the native attire without imbibing the African culture. As a lecturer, I have been so passionate advocating a difference in the aspect of African culture. Recently other varsities began to copy from us some of the African Communication Systems we celebrated. Schools such as the Federal University Oye, Ekiti State (FUOYE) did theirs this year. It was the former Head of this Department, Rev Dr. Chika Asogwa who took it there; and gradually other varsities in Nigeria would begin to follow this landmark. So, when you talk about my experience, it is my thought that I used to inculcate the ‘Africaness’ in the young generation. Today, students should be more interested in promoting the African culture. I believe have not got to the top. With God, I would get there. It would be credited to me and the Department of Mass Communication of Kogi State University as the starters of the practical extension of the course African Communication Systems in a festival. To this effect, I have written a textbook (the 2nd Edition) to champion this course.