Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Nigeria: Trapped UniAbuja Students Need Help

Nigeria: Trapped UniAbuja Students Need Help

 For the umpteenth time last Tuesday, students of the University of Abuja (UNIABUJA) protested against non-registration of some of its courses. Last year, the National Universities Commission (NUC) suspended courses in the faculties of Agriculture, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and Engineering for not meeting the requisite pre-qualification requirements. Professional registration bodies such as the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) and the Council for Registered Engineers in Nigeria (COREN) also adjudged infrastructure and training in the university sub-standard. However, considering the plight of the students and their future, the NUC resorted to transferring some of the students to other institutions whose facilities were up-to-date and gave conditional accreditation to Agriculture. Worst-hit have beenMedicine studentswho could not secure concessional admission to sister universities.

Established 26 years ago, UNIAbuja was envisioned as a model ivory tower befitting the nation's capital city. In 2005, the history of the institution was altered forever because the then vice chancellor, Prof. Nuhu Yakubu, and the University Senate took a gamble by creating these four new faculties at a go without authorisation by the regulatory agency, the NUC. Unhappy about this impunity, the NUC formally warned against the move, but the authorities ignored the warning and continued to enroll students until the irreversible sanction of last year. Since inception, these four programmes have consistently failed all verification and accreditation assessments of the NUC and, as a consequence, are the cesspit of crisis that has given the university no rest.

It was irresponsible, therefore, for the university authorities to have keptadmitting students into these courses, seven years after the initial warning, without caring whose ox was gored. The institution has been buffeted by a rash of other vicessuch as corruption, inept leadership, prostitution, politics and ethnicity. These have deepened the adversity that would have been mitigated by concessional funding like the special grant of N2 billion it receives annually from the federal government in addition to its statutory provisions. It is a ribald joke that the university allocated 11,800 hectares of land for its permanent site still operates largely from its temporary location in Gwagwalada, where students receive lectures under trees, with library and research materials grossly insufficient to meet the yearnings of any 21st century ivory tower.

Successive ministers and the NUC have not been able to address the UNIABUJA conundrum. The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), too, keeps listing these courses in its brochure annually;it has kept issuing admission letters to prospective students to be trained in these "failed" programmes. Parents and guardians also continue to sponsor their academically weak wards to study there. Now, everyone should help the students who have spent close to a decade in the university without knowing if they will be awarded a degree or not or if the certificates will be worth anything.

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