How Open Is The Open University Of Nigeria?
The reality of an exponentially growing global population has over the decades mounted severe pressure on social amenities and public infrastructures, and education being the fundamental foundation of any enviable social development has also being affected by this sad reality.
Rising to this occasion, policy makers across the world conceived the idea of transferring knowledge through a non-conventional system of higher education which will still retain the relevance of university education and its structure – although students would necessarily not have to be physically present in lectures. This system was to be dubbed the “Open and Distance Learning Mode”.
In Nigeria, the open and distance higher education mode had its take-off in 1983 with the establishment of the National Open University, but barely a year after its establishment, it was suspended by the then government. The reasons for such action are perhaps still unknown.
By 2001, the federal government of Nigeria resuscitated the model and this received much applause from conscious citizens who expressed high hopes that qualitative higher education would be democratized in the country through the National Open University of Nigeria.
Till date, the National Open University of Nigeria is the only specialist provider of open and distance learning at tertiary level in Nigeria and the West African sub-region, but the question to ask is how far and well has it gone in fulfilling the mandate of making higher education more accessible, flexible, and qualitative to the growing Nigerian populace?
From slow academic calendar to lack of basic learning resources, inconsistent academic policies, bureaucracy in administration, high cost of programmes and overall insincerity of purpose on the part of the school, the current system and structure of the National Open University of Nigeria leaves much to be desired.
After thirteen years of operation, it is rather bothersome that the Open University of Nigeria has only conducted convocation once despite the countless matriculations it has conducted. Students have continually groaned at the slow pace of the institution's academic calendar, a situation which has forced many to withdraw from the system.
For those who have resolved to graduate with a certificate, the challenge for them is the non-availability of basic learning materials particularly - course materials which are expected to be delivered through the CD-ROMs, Radio and TV Broadcast, Mails, Textbooks and other platforms given that the university operates a non-conventional system.
It is absolutely terrific that the institution owned radio station has in the last five years paraded itself as a unproductive entity, which gallantly provides nothing for the yearning learning community but outright junk. The station has gained round in commercial music promotion as against elevating education and knowledge sharing even with its weak transmitting signals in Lagos State.
By its establishing mandate, the National Open University of Nigeria should admit about 500,000 applicants, but at the moment it only has a student number of 120,000, yet there are no plan in view to expand the capacities and structures that will make this mandate a reality, not even with the recent scrapping of satellite campuses across the country by the National Universities Commission (NUC).
As the only specialist provider of open and distance learning at tertiary level in Nigeria, the National Open University of Nigeria must stand up to the reality of a growing populace with the quest for knowledge acquisition which is aided by technological innovations if indeed the open and distance learning more is to achieve much success in this country.
The institution should for once look off from the paraded achievements of yesteryears and focus on increasing the knowledge and capacity of the Nigerian populace particularly the work-force.
Learning programmes and policies should be locally adapted to meet up with our home needs, instructional materials should be delivered as promised using appropriate media, and there should be a flow of information between the institution and its students.
Workers capacity to handle diverse issues as peculiar to the open and distance learning model should be increased through result-oriented trainings, workshops and seminars and conferences.
The media undoubtedly plays a crucial role in knowledge transfer and societal advancement, the university should as a point of imminence overhaul its radio station, generate better educational contents, up-skill presenters and increase its transmitting bandwidth for better reception across Lagos and the nation at large.
If Nigeria must make any socio-economic development across boards, then education being the bedrock of such developments must be taken seriously and the reality is that conventional educational system cannot address this educational challenge, thence the Open University of Nigeria must act swiftly and positively to deliver this nation.
TOLA EMMANUEL, is a Lagos-based legal practitioner and social commentator.