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Bridging the educational gap

Until recently, the quest for youths in the country to secure admission into tertiary institutions has been a herculean task. ‎It was a battle for…

Until recently, the quest for youths in the country to secure admission into tertiary institutions has been a herculean task. ‎It was a battle for survival, especially for those who are committed and relentless to proceeding with their academic pursuit.
Severally, youths in the country have expressed concerns and have conveyed their frustration on this predicament. Parents also could no longer hold on as it almost became a national embarrassment for the nation to facilitate workable means for the ambitious youths.
This led to introduction of other measures by government but little or no attention was given to the fact that some of the universities are over-stretched. Should we consider reduction in UTME score or introduce preliminary studies before main entry into the institutes?
All these were laudable options. Yet, it seems ineffective considering the increasing population of students seeking admission annually.
Although, Nigeria has over 120 public and private conventional universities, but it is unarguable that they are far from meeting the educational needs of the country’s teeming population. The illiteracy level in the country remains very high.
Incidentally, this has caused proliferation of private universities among those labelled glorified secondary schools. Truly, this might not go well with the private university undergraduates but it seems to be a clear escape route from the embarrassing situation.
Annually, millions of youths seek admission into Nigerian Universities. Out of this, a fragment eventually gets a chance.  So these shortfalls among ‎several reasons led to the establishment of an academic system capable of bridging the gap. Most importantly, the system known as Open University which enables youths and even working class whose tight schedules at workplace have deprived most people from acquiring higher education.
The recent exodus of Nigerians seeking higher education to the National Open University many analysts have concluded is not all about the difficulties posses by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB)  and university authorities in securing admission or the flexibility of the work and learn mantra of the open distance learning, the innovations, transparency and accountability of the present management counts too.
The Federal Government under leadership of former President, Shehu Shagari launched the idea of a National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) on July 22nd 1983.‎ Since then, efforts have been made to execute some of its outline mandate but little or none was achieved.
Primarily, mandate of the NOUN‎ is to ensure provision of a conducive teaching, learning and research and development environment for staff and students; ensuring efficient and effective utilization of academic resources and ensuring the compliance of the university’s academic and logistic operations with international practices on open and distance learning models as it relate to academic matters.
According to reports, the NOUN from the initial 15,000 students enrolment figure met under leadership of Prof. Vincent Tenebe on assumption to office about five years ago, rose to 400, 000, with active students in the range of 180, 000.
Over the decades, NOUN has not only experienced turbulent times, in a competitive market, but more interesting, it has survived it, as evident in its manifest visibility on the national scene.  To a large extent, various people across board including ‎Nollywood artists, civil servants and most importantly youths increasingly enroll in the school.
‎The VC, while sharing his vision for the varsity said; “NOUN is more concerned about the entire Nigerians and especially those in the rural areas, those boys and girls on the streets, who have necessary academic qualifications for university admission.”
Upon appointment as Vice Chancellor, Tenebe met a promising institution like NOUN at the verge of extinction. The portrait of the varsity was smeared to the extent that aside the stigmatization imposed on it by conventional universities in the country, lack of accreditation of courses, the non-inclusion of graduates of NOUN in the Law School and NYSC scheme were some of the multiple bruises suffered by the university. Public interest waned and students’ enrolment into NOUN was on its record low.
So far there have been increased accreditation of courses, expansion in academic programmes  and the uncommon interest of even elder statesmen and high academics in acquiring NOUN’s open and distance learning  education.
The stigmatization reduced significantly when the former President, Olusegun Obasanjo enrolled ‎at the University while advocating for other notable Nigerians to follow suit. He went ahead to also commence his doctorate degree programme to convince the public National Open University has come to stay.
Tenebe and his team at NOUN ensured that its graduates no longer suffer any stigma arising from improper packaging of the varsities’ policies and programmes. Tenebe has set out the modalities for NOUN graduates to now participate in the mandatory one-year NYSC scheme.
To concretize the deal, the varsity leadership has sealed an agreement with the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), to henceforth issue admission letters to every graduate eligible for the NYSC scheme after the payment of prescribed fees by NOUN.  By implication, with effect from the next academic session, NOUN graduates below the age of 30 will be proud participants in the NYSC programme.
It is expected that in no time, the National Open University would break further barriers and new frontiers beyond national boundaries, projecting the nation’s image in good light and promoting good and quality education.
Muhammadu Tanje, a public affaifs analyst, wrote from Bwari, Abuja

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