By Chinonso E. Oluagbara Esq
Recently, the nation’s highest students’ umbrella; National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) finally broke her silence over the travails of their counterparts at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) precisely the refusal of the Council of Legal Education to admit NOUN law graduates into the Nigerian Law School for vocational training since five years after graduation. The students’ authority frowned at the predicament and consequently issued a three-month ultimatum to all stakeholders which by calculation terminate in August, 2018. By the communiqué, the association had patiently, deliberately waited to allow the authorities resolve the conflicts amongst themselves specifically to equitably consider all existing students and graduates but in futility.
Amazingly, all the civilized nations Nigeria looks up to, respectively have strong and productive Open and Distance Learning institutions offering law degrees. For example, law school by correspondence existed in United States since 1890 when Sprague Correspondence School of law eventually merged with Blackstone Institute to become the Blackstone School of law. Others are the American Correspondence school of Law of Chicago; Columbian Correspondence College of Law in Washington DC; New York Correspondence School of Law in New York, to name but a few. Yet, their graduates are admitted into the Nigerian Law School.
Nigeria as a developing nation conscientiously aligned with the civilized countries across the globe to remain a relevant teammate. This formed the basis for establishing the first Open and Distance Learning institution in the country like others. Thus, synchronizing with Section 18 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, NOUN was birthed by the Act of the National Assembly and its academic programmes accredited by the National Universities Commission (NUC) accordingly.
Unfortunately, NOUN is confronted with strong resistance for personal interests from those in the conventional system on account of its impacts as a new university with overwhelming population of over 290,000 active students and about 85,000 in the alumni record just in few years of its existence including senior government officials, working-class and others on post-graduate studies. To some myopic persons, NOUN with its open mode of admission as practiced overseas plays a spoiler as it drastically reduces the mammoth crowd queuing for admission yearly into universities alongside the huge amounts exchanging hands illicitly on admission issues.
Prior to its establishment, securing admissions into conventional universities were as cumbersome as ascending a mountain. Sadly, it wasn’t that candidates didn’t meet the benchmarks but deliberate plot to enriching private pockets even at the expense of merit. Even with good scores, students struggle to come in through some special lists to secure admission, and this has over the years frustrated millions of brilliant brains from academic pursuits. In some occasions, eligible students spend several years subscribing to JAMB for admission. Sadly, the weak ones due to frustrations abandoned education for other undesirable careers.
Consequently, private universities including religious schools leverage on the aberrations to excessively enrich their pockets through high tuition fees. For example, to study law in a private university costs over a million naira per session for the same course outline released by the National Universities Commission (NUC) for faculties of law in Nigeria. By the ‘special’ admission lists system and high tuition fees existing in government and private universities respectively, it is indisputable that titanic cabals are positioned to be frustrating ambitious citizens from actualizing their dreams for academic pursuits.
But is NOUN actually spoiling businesses as conceived in some quarters? The answer is NO. Federal government pursuant to Section 18(3) CFRN established NOUN objectively to bring same quality education closer to the people. For example, NOUN opens wider doors to people to embrace education with the same study materials and books used in the conventional universities. Why then the squabbles; illicit incomes accruing from admissions, handouts and lobbying for unearned grades. In NOUN, students only know their lecturers for facilitations who are different from examiners, hence absolutely impossible to strike any deals for grades unlike in the conventional sector. Hence, the options are clear; either to diligently take the bull by the horns or chicken out as dropouts.
To substantiate this, NOUN Law graduates who were refused admission into the Nigerian Law School with allegation of inadequate learning-facilities outstandingly, defeated in its only participation, all conventional universities including state, federal and private universities adjudged to have the best facilities in the country in a national Moot-Court competition, and flew the country’s flag in a global contest in India in 2012 leading to resentments and protracted malice; thus, a rejected stone became the chief cornerstone. What an enigma!
By implication, the cliques’ gang up against NOUN may never cease, regrettably, vindictively aimed at frustrating government’s initiative which brings succor to the polity, to pave way for nepotism and corruption thriving in the conventional setting. As it stands, despite some lapses, NOUN unequivocally provides the panacea to corruption, intimidations and exploitation prevalent in the nation’s education system. The unavoidable question is, could education reasonably, be over-politicized or anachronistically positioned in a developing nation like Nigeria with pull-down syndromes and blackmails rather than concerted efforts towards enhancing productivity and service-delivery? To sum, as NANS have unwaveringly risen up in solidarity against the injustices and persecutions of NOUN law graduates, a stitch in time they say saves nine.
Oluagbara wrote from Lekki, Lagos.