By Jerome-Mario Utomi
Separate from the awareness that the euphoria which heralded the epoch appointments of Professor Lillian Imuetinyan Salami, a home economist/nutritionist and former Dean of the Faculty of Education, as the second female vice-chancellor after Grace Alele Williams, and the 10th substantive vice-chancellor of the University of Benin, Edo State, Nigeria, has faded and jeer overtaken the cheers of expectation while fears have displaced reason, resulting in an entirely separate set of consequences, irrational hatred and division, I must say that the recent news report that the students of UNIBEN, September 14, 2021, blocked the Lagos-Benin highway in protest over imposition of, but now reversed N20,000 late registration charges by the school management, did not come to be as a surprise.
Rather, like the generality of Nigerians who earlier believed that the appointment of a new VC, a few years ago will usher in fresh breathe too and save the students and their parents from financial emasculation, the recent protest convinced all that nothing has changed in the university’s love for visiting their students with unjust laws/policies.
As we know, a just law is ‘a man-made code that squares with moral laws or the laws and uplifts human personalities, while an unjust law on the other hand is a code that is out of harmony with moral laws.’
This assertion is predicated on two separate but similar realities. First was a similar protest by students of the school dated Friday, November 1, 2019, to register their grievances over the poor state of infrastructures and incessant fees charged by the school authorities.
The second reason enjoys a link with the first (the 2019 protest) but stemmed from the content of my earlier intervention/ reaction to the appointment of Professor Lillian Imuetinyan Salami as the school’s new VC; that was in 2019.
Aside from congratulating the new VC, the piece, which had as title; Tasks ahead of Professor Salami, the new VC of UNIBEN, highlighted how in recent time the institution has defined leaning too narrowly in a manner devoid of process and outcome fairness; got preoccupied with revenue generation without consideration to the students comfort or wellbeing; identify errors among students without beaming searchlight on internal occurrences.
It concluded by reminding the new VC that if she does nothing about this, it simply means our youths, and the nation by extension is faced with a bleak future.
Conversely, if she is able to correct the above challenges; it will be her most powerful accomplishment for earning new respect and emulation.
Presently, the impulse in the school particularly the recent protest and student’s description of the decision of the university management as harsh, as it did not take into consideration “the unfavourable economic situation in the country, explains that the institution is still characterized as a neck-deep in an inordinate circle of fees and should be ready to harvest from students baskets of protest.
More than anything else, the present happening stands as emblematic prove that the school management is still unmindful of the fact that ‘if learning must persist, teachers must also look inward, reflect critically on their own behaviour, and identify the ways they often advertently or inadvertently contribute to the institution’s problems and then change how they act, it more than anything else points to the fact that nothing has changed.
Admittedly, Nigerians and of course the global community particularly development professionals do not think that what the federal government is doing when it comes to perennial underfunding of public universities is the best way to encourage education in the country as such failures/failings and shortfalls daily impedes lecturers from carrying out scholarly researches, truncates academic calendar with strike actions, lace Nigerian universities with dilapidated and overstretched learning facilities with the universities producing graduates devoid of linkage with the manpower demand by the nation’s industrial sector. This partly explains the dilemma of public universities administrators.
But when one juxtaposes the above fact with the ongoing challenge particularly, the now reversed late registration charges; one will discover that if what happens in other universities is a challenge, that of UNIBEN is a crisis.
To support this claim, let’s listen to the UNIBEN VC as she talked about the reversal of the N20,000 late registration charges; “It is important to mention that this reversal in position will not break the University of Benin. I fundamentally believe that there are very few decisions that are irreversible and this is definitely not one of them. At this time, the N20,000 late fee is reversed and it is a closed case.
“UNIBEN is resilient and we will continue to move forward with a strong conviction to ensure that the university reaches its full potential as a premier academic institution,” she added.
The above comment naturally elicits the following posers; if the school leadership knows that reversing such a position will not break the University of Benin, why did they come up with it in the first instance? If they (as they claim) are aware that UNIBEN is resilient and will continue to move forward with a strong conviction to ensure that the university reaches its full potential as a premier academic institution, why are they overburdening students with a circle of fees?
Is the underfunding of tertiary institutions in Nigeria by the federal government UNIBEN-specific? If not, why are they in the habit of transferring such aggression to innocent students and their parents?
As the students noted, why is the school management not bringing into consideration “the unfavourable economic situation in the country before slamming N20,000 late registration charges on the students? Why can’t they (management) look for more civil/creative ways of generating income for the school without overburdening the students and their parents?
While answer(s) to the above is awaited from UNIBEN leadership, another argument by the VC that cannot hold water when faced with embarrassing fact is her statement that; “Early registration is critical for effective operations of the university; it provides insight into the students’ volume/demand and allows for smarter planning to ensure that we have enough staff, courses and funding supporting our students accordingly. It is important to note that in the past, other non-financial interventions in attempts to urge early registration have failed.”
If that is the true position, it may again necessitate the question as to the logic/reason behind outrageous and out of order acceptance fees charged by the UNIBEN management?
Take as another illustration, presently, new students pay about N63,000.00 for Education, Management and Engineering faculties, while Medical students are made to cough out about N75,000 as acceptance fees.
Comparatively, while UNIBEN charges the above, other federal universities such as; the University of Lagos (UNILAG), the Federal University of Petroleum and Resources (FUPRA), Warri, Delta State and the Federal University of Agriculture (FUUNAB), Abeokuta, Ogun State, receive amounts that are far low. These are verifiable facts.
By this analysis, the UNIBEN’s clumsy and discomforting attitude to the fresh students is led bare. Against this backdrop, the question that, begs for an answer(s) is; how did UNIBEN arrive at the above fees in the first instance?
I hold the opinion that the university needs a new vision and students-friendly reforms and policies that will re-engineer quality and affordable education.
Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org/08032725374.
Oyo SUBEB Moves to Curb Fire Outbreaks in Schools
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
To curb fire outbreaks in public schools and protect the children, the Oyo State Government has taken steps to collaborate with relevant agencies.
On Tuesday, fire gutted a Grade ‘C’ customary court building in Omoyeni Memorial Primary School, Ode-Aje, Ibadan, the state capital.
On Wednesday, the Executive Chairman of the Oyo State Universal Basic Education Board, Dr Nureni Aderemi Adeniran, was at the school premises for an assessment of the unfortunate incident.
While sympathizing with the headship of the Customary Court over the incident, Mr Adeniran commended the school community for their contributions in putting the fire under control.
He hinted that the board will partner with the Ibadan South-East Local Government, under which the customary court is, adding that the building ravaged in the inferno would be rehabilitated as soon as possible.
“We commend you for being proactive and your quick intervention, which prevented this fire outbreak from spreading to classes here.
“The board is so grateful there was no casualty and that this happened when pupils had left school,” the Oyo SUBEB chief said.
He tasked headteachers to ensure effective monitoring of classes and offices to guard against any illicit connection of electrical appliances and acts capable of causing the fire, charging them to be extra-vigilant in their environment and report any activity that may pose a threat to schools.
“I enjoin you to ensure you monitor whatever these children are doing, and make sure all appliances are put off after school hours,” he appealed to school authorities.
The Chairman also emphasised the commitment of Governor Seyi Makinde-led administration to improving security in all schools, maintaining that all citizens must contribute to the safety of schools in the state.
5 Ways Technology Can Ease the Stress of the ‘Back to School’ Rush
Detty December is over and students, teachers and parents alike are all trying to get through the mad rush of Back to School and get back into the swing of things.
Parents, who are just settling back to work after the restful holiday, face multiple tasks such as beating morning traffic to get their children to school on time, making sure that daily school supplies are lined up and ready to use, while also taking time out of their busy schedules to help their children with homework, among other things.
For parents trying to ease their Back to School stress, here are five ways that technology can help:
Set reminders with Assistant: Setting reminders is a smart way to remember all the things that are important for school- from lunches to school events. You can easily create reminders with the help of Google Assistant. Using your mobile device or phone, simply say, “Hey Google, set a reminder”, or “Hey Google, remind me to dry clean my children’s uniform at noon tomorrow.” Google Assistant will go on to set a reminder and send you a notification when it is close to the time.
Beat the traffic with Maps: You can get real-time information about traffic jams and delays using Google Maps, helping to plan better routes for school runs. Parents preparing to take their children to school every morning can make use of Google Maps to check for alternative routes and the Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) to ensure they get to school before the bell rings.
Complete homework with Search: Not all parents are subject matter experts but they do often have to play the role of designated tutor, or help out with homework. In some cases, parents have forgotten how to solve simple math problems or they may not have the answers to some basic science questions. A quick search on Google can help find solutions to difficult questions. Parents should, however, allow their children to generate the answers to their homework questions before searching Google for the answer.
Watch video tutorials on YouTube: YouTube is great for watching explanatory videos that are fun, informative and educational. For example, parents can watch videos that reveal how to solve a quadratic equation and brush up their knowledge to help their children with their homework. There are also a variety of educational videos for children that can help parents tutor children who wish to learn more beyond their school work.
Keep kids safe with Family Link: Children today spend more time online than ever before. As such, it is important to help them develop healthy online habits and make sure they are protected from ills such as online predators and cyberbullies. Family Link allows parents to set digital rules to help guide their children as they learn and explore online. The app helps children make good decisions about what they do on their devices and even shows teacher-recommended apps that can be added to their devices.
It can be overwhelming for parents to balance their own professional endeavours with the demands of their children’s rigorous education but technology can sometimes help to lighten the load.
Firm Partners A.G. Leventis to Promote STEM Education
By Adedapo Adesanya
As part of its commitment to inspire young minds, STEM METS Resources Limited has partnered with A.G. Leventis to impact the next generation through Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Robotics workshop for schools in Apapa Local Government Area of Lagos state.
The partnership is a long-term commitment to educate, empower and elevate young minds while also ensuring accountability through measurable outputs.
STEM METS Resources, a social enterprise dedicated to enriching young minds is an indigenous company geared towards providing world-class services that are skillfully designed to equip Nigerian children and youth with the necessary skills set to compete and succeed in the global space.
In the modern global economy, STEM is closely linked with a country’s economic prosperity. Developed countries that have become global leaders have relied heavily on the hard work and innovations of scientists and engineers.
To ensure consistent economic prosperity, it is necessary for developing countries such as Nigeria to focus on STEM education.
Now more than ever, there is a need for Nigeria and Africa to expand the capacity and diversity of the STEM workforce pipeline to equip the younger generation with the requisite skills for jobs of the future.
Also, with the pandemic outbreak in 2020, a lot has changed in the workforce. The resolve to work and learn remotely introduced global cross-functional teams.
This has reinforced the need to educate the next generation to help them compete on a levelled playing field against their international contemporaries in the global job market.
Commenting on the partnership, Ms Jadesola Adedeji, the CEO of STEM METS said “Technology is an integral part of a nation’s accelerated growth and stabilized economy which then makes STEM education a top priority in the educational system.
“Exposing these young minds to it at an early age is a guaranteed way to build a generation of innovators and thinkers who will sustain and strengthen the evolving position of Nigeria and Africa at large.”
On her part, Ms Seun Oni, the Group MD of A. G Leventis noted that “The future is digital, and we believe that strategic partnerships such as this will provide a conducive learning environment around STEM and ensure a ready pipeline of skills for young minds.
“Through various trainings and workshops, we remain committed to supporting the educational journey of children in our host community and preparing young champs for the future of work in the global space.”
STEM METS Resources is a long-term partner in improving Nigeria’s STEM education system through the provision of innovative and alternative educational learning platforms and continues to equip children and youths with the required skill set to compete in the future global workforce.
Over the years, more than 10,000 young minds have benefitted from the various workshops, holiday camps and weekly enrichment camps.
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