Date Published: 10/28/09
e-Varsity: RSUST Example By Tony-Anthony John
“Those who stick to an order, often times, resist the wind of change, no matter how well-intended it may be.” – Lekia B. Christian, Leader, NDCAV
Change, they say, is not static. But, I would say, it could be static to those who are visionless and non-reformists. This scenario is apparent at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, RSUST, Nkpolu, Oroworukwo, Port Harcourt, Nigeria, which has moved towards an electronic mode of learning.
RSUST, being Nigeria’s premier University of Science and Technology, has carved a niche for itself, by coming after Universities of Ilorin, Lagos and Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, that have already adopted e-system in their learning. Currently, the institution runs the largest ICT Academy, housing over 450 computers.
This is the brainchild of the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Barineme B. Fakae. That dream of having e-functional system came to fruition through the support of the state governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who is determined to create standard in the education sector.
Prof. Fakae came on board as the Acting Vice-Chancellor of the institution on Wednesday, November 14, 2007, before his substantive appointment as the Vice-Chancellor on Monday, August 11, 2008. His recognition by the Rivers State Government for the exalted seat followed his overwhelming performance as the Rector of the state-owned Polytechnic in Bori. His year there sanitized the institution from cultism, examination malpractice and other anti-social activities associated with higher institutions.
Barely two years in office, RSUST has witnessed tremendous transformation; infrastructural development, improved academic standard. Quite more pronounced is the exposure to computer appreciation as both the staff and students can now boast of. A remarkable stride RSUST has made is the introduction of e-method for Post-UME Test, which proved critics of the system wrong during the test and when the result was result.
There is no doubt the institution is working in tune with its vision which is: “to establish a world class, unique and uncommon university that will be structurally and philosophically oriented to solve the practical and peculiar challenging problems of the region.” Similarly, the mission of the present RSUST states that: “Rivers State University of Science and Technology, RSUST, seeks to offer men and women a unique educational opportunity and experience for the pursuit of learning in the relevant branches of knowledge,” seeking among others, to “encourage and promote excellence in original, creative and scholarly research (basic and applied) in festering a learning process with problem-solving content; and improve the appreciation and development of the region’s abundant physical, natural and social resources, as well as advancement of her rich cultural heritage through an approach and strategy anchored on excellence and creativity.”
In this era of computer age, the greatest disease that would befall someone, especially a literate person, is lack of computer knowledge. Information is economical, vital and delicate. Therefore, it requires to be handled with care. And without the computer, information gathering, processing, storing and retrieving, would always be distorted.
Institutions and other establishments where an automated system is in operation would attest to its transparency, time-saving and other efficiencies. It is germane that our institutions of higher learning, particularly the tertiary ones, adopt e-learning. It guarantees fairness and dependability.
Nigerian society needs reformists if we must escape from the problem of corruption. But, the unfortunate thing is that, those we put in positions of trust are never to be trusted. Quite a few of them are. According to Thomas Babington Macauley, a social reformist, “the voice of great events is proclaiming to us, Reform, that you may preserve.” Governor Amaechi, who is an apostle of sustainable development, knew that he would need a reformist like himself to drive the vehicle of excellence and creativity which is the aspiration of the founding fathers of the RSUST.
There is no doubt that for a positive change to take place, one is likely to be confronted with some obstacles. Some of them could be too dreadful that a chick-livered person at the position might decide to throw in resignation letter. What the leader of the Niger Delta Coalition Against Violence, NDCAV, Lekia, opined about reform has been the problem facing this country. But, the doggedness of Prof. Fakae, who refused to allow his vision for RSUST to die after his experience in the hands of his abductors on Sunday, September 14, 2008, has brought this recognition to the ivory tower.
The Senate of the University, in line with the innovation, made it compulsory for all the students irrespective of their courses of study, to be computer literate. They are to acquire a Certificate of Competency in Computer before graduation. This is a laudable programme and too commendable. It is my belief that experienced instructors to impart this knowledge in the students are handy, so that the desire of the University for the students is actualized.
To resuscitate the decayed education sector in Nigeria is not by paper policy. Policies should be made to suit in the trend of things. Currently, computer usage has taken over virtually all human endeavour and it would be a very big mistake if government does not start now to look into it. Moreover, whatever policy on education should be marched with actions, as can be seen in Rivers State. The situation on ground at RSUST should be a pride to all products of the institution; students and Rivers indigenes.
RSUST should be a big challenge to all institutions of higher learning in this country, whether government-owned or private. Major stakeholders in the education sector, who witnessed the RSUST e-method for Post-UME Test, would attest to the innovation being able to curb examination malpractice, impersonation and other vices.
I have identified paper work as the bane for cultism in our institutions. A situation where a student would not attend lectures, even exams, yet, at the end, you see the student scoring higher marks than those that have spent all their time and energy reading. It is a bad practice which endangers education in our society. But, with an automated system of learning, coupled with enhanced administrative operation, standard and academic discipline is achieved. Also, statistics of the students and records of the institution are guaranteed and secured. The era of admission and examination racketeering would be over. Selling of results by lectures, falsification of results by students, delays in the issuance of transcripts and certificates by the school management are bound to be over.
Moreover, it would enable the institution to know the number of students in a department, and the number of students occupying hostel rooms. Wherever ICT is in place, it always makes a difference, just as it is making at RSUST. Problems associated with improper data handling, inefficient processes with manual and undue bottlenecks, lack of synergy and integration of processes are conveniently solved and less time-consuming.
Actually, people resent reforms because of laziness, fear of losing their jobs and fear of exposure. But, in real sense of it, reforms bring about standardization, competitiveness, quality and satisfaction. We must realise that a creative, information-based system, is a productive agent of change. It should be commended, encouraged and emulated by others.
Within two years of Prof. Fakae’s administration, RSUST has embraced the best practice in school administration, record management and ICT compliance. It is the manifestation of the consciousness of the new order in education. Education is the bedrock of a society. It is quite unfortunate that Nigeria’s education, daily experiences setbacks, pathetically from the government.
Federal Government is its Vision 20:20, should copy RSUST, use it and address the need to develop our students in higher institutions. Experience in computer would make our potential graduates be useful to themselves after graduation. I would say that lack of computer knowledge makes securing good jobs difficult for the unemployed.
Since experience in computer is invariably among the criteria for employment, the federal government should make an inclusion of ICT in the school curricular, possibly at all levels. The three tiers of government, corporate institutions, philanthropists, old students associations and other concerned agencies, should come to the aid of students, by exposing them to opportunities that will broaden their horizon on computer usage.
They major problem that will likely confront the students after their graduation in e-learning, is sustainability. To ensure the purpose is not defeated at end, the federal government should subsidize the price of computer for easy affordability.