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NOUN students’ protest and matters arising

It seems that as Nigerians we are always seeking
world class infrastructure without the desire to
make world class inputs. Nothing echoed this
antithetical desire as much as this week’s petition–
supposedly signed by students – calling for the
sack of the vice chancellor of the National Open
University of Nigeria (NOUN) Professor Vincent
Tenebe and other top management of the

A statement signed by the Congress of NOUN
Students accused the management of not
responding to their claim that the institution has
become a “den of endemic corruption”. Maybe one
will also offer no response upon the realization
that the entity being described has no relationship
with where one presides over. But again, the
management should for the sake of reducing
ignorance, educate the student leaders and
perhaps their sponsors about the reality of the
quality of education that NOUN is delivering
despite the limited financing available to it. This
explanation would be useful for several reasons.

First, there is that copycat tendency in some
people. It could just be that the Congress of NOUN
Students is out to replicate its own version of the
#feesmustfall protest that recently crippled several
South African universities over astronomical rise in
school fees. From the Nigerians perspective, a
simplistic view would be to conclude that
#feesmustfall protest 10 – 15% hike in school fees
for the 2016 academic year but the larger picture is
to appreciate that the hike means an average of
N700, 000.00 for each student.

Should the NOUN students be looking at replicating
the protest going by their recent moves? it is best
they also compare their overall fees with what
obtains not just in South Africa but in other

The second reason the management has to
consider is the mere fact that the leadership of
NOUN, since inception, has been superlative in the
discharge of its duties. NOUN moved from being a
concept, whose practicality and implementation
was earlier doubted, to becoming a reliable
institution. It even caught the attention of former
President Olusegun Obasanjo, who became a
proud student, finished his degree and remained
an ambassador of distance learning in Africa.

The management has been able to place the
institution among Nigeria’s top 25 universities. It
has also secured Senate’s approval for its
graduates to take part in the National Youth Service
Corps (NYSC) programme. These are achievements
the management of NOUN, under Professor
Tenebe has to celebrate more than it currently
does so that Nigerians and their prospective
students can appreciate the efforts they are making
to provide quality manpower for the nation.

Furthermore, the university should create
awareness on the relationship between the fees it
charges and the quality it turns out. People often
desire free education. The reality however is that
education is never free. Someone or some entity is
paying for or subsidising education whenever
students are able to get it for free.

Another angle to this is that people should have
realised by now that the word “cheap” and “quality”
should not occur in the same sentence when they
describe education. What the Congress of NOUN
Students want, going by their statement and
petition, is to either have “cheap” or “free”
education. It is interesting to note that they made
no reference to the quality of what they are getting
out of distance learning, which affords many of
them the opportunity to combine career growth
with education.

One of the things the Congress of NOUN Students
is not comfortable as indicated in their statement is
the increase in the fees charged for research
projects. Perhaps, a starting point would have been
for the leaders of this Congress to take a few
minutes to do a Google search with the phrase
“project research fees” or “research project fees”
and then take a further few minutes to skim over
the search results.

They would then find that it is not a trend that is
only associated with NOUN – other Nigerian
universities charge the fee. If these students have
the energy and patience to click on the links from
the search query, they will further discover that
project research fee averages N70, 000.00 at
institutions that charge them.

A suggestion for these students would thus be that
they should hold NOUN management accountable
to ensure they get quality supervision for their
projects upon the payment of the prescribed fees.

Also, while at it, they should actively explore the
possibility of getting businesses and companies
interested in funding their projects by working on
viable research problems that have industry

On the issue of course materials, which the
students said they do not get on time, a workable
suggestion is for the student body to work with
management to have all materials digitized and
distributed through the institution’s portal or via
mobile apps, since the era of hardcopy study
materials has all but fizzled out anyway.

Enterprising students should be happy to take up
the creation of such platforms as a challenge.

On its part, the Professor Tenebe-led management
of NOUN must realise at this point that
succumbing to erroneous demands from students
is not an option here. If the management
succumbs once then it will never stop giving in
until the progress it has made in recent years
becomes eroded.

Yes, the students have threatened “peaceful
protests” if the management of the school is not
fired by President Muhammadu Buhari but the
threat should not derail the school from delivering
on its mandate. It should also not force the school
to abandon the trajectory that has seen its profile
rise to be the first choice for those who desire
tertiary education through distance learning.

Ibekwe, an educationist, contributed this piece
from Enugu.

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