The proposed legislation on delayed degree certificates - Nigerian Tribune

By The Citizen

It is good news that the House of Representatives has initiated a Bill which will make it mandatory for the nation's universities to issue certificates to students who have graduated from them. A newspaper reported last week that the House passed for second reading, a Bill to amend the National Universities Commission Act in order to make it mandatory for universities to immediately release the certificates of their graduating students.

The Bill is reportedly motivated by the agonies of graduates who, many years after they have completed their degree programmes, are unable to collect their certificates. Considering this absurdity, the proposed Bill has come at the right time. For example, it will be recalled that a few months ago, graduates from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka Medical School petitioned the Senate to the effect that four years after they completed their degrees, the university was yet to release their certificates. Nor is this an isolated case. Some newspapers quoted the Vice Chancellor of the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Professor Saburi Adesanya, as saying two years ago that up to 40,000 students of the university had not received their certificates six years after graduation. It is to Adesanya's credit, however, that he quickly set about correcting the bizarre situation by ensuring that most, if not all, of the affected students received their certificates subsequently.

There is no doubt however that the issue has increased to alarming proportions. As former Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Professor Ukachukwu Awuzie, recently put it 'I feel bad to know that some of our graduates will have to be parading the streets with statements of results rather than their certificates for years in search of jobs or as a proof to further their education'. It is distressing that at a time when knowledge has become a crucial economic and political resource globally, and when universities are competitively showcasing their strengths in order to attract international students, Nigerian universities are still mired in the kind of dysfunction whereby graduating students have to wait for several years to receive their certificates. The minimal obligation, let us face it, that universities owe their former students is the timely release of their examination results as well as their certificate, which is the legal and authentic evidence that they have successfully completed their programmes.

One of the reasons why the anomaly of delayed certificates persists is that sanctions are not meted out to institutions as well as lecturers who are implicated in the malaise. To the extent that the Bill specify sanctions for those who fall short, to that extent it is welcome as a corrective policy.

On a broader note, however, the nation's public universities have long surrendered to several woes such as truncated calendars, examination leakages and rackets as well as what in popular parlance is called 'sorting' which refers to below-the-table deals between students and lecturers in which cash or sex is exchanged for marks. These ugly practices appear to be more pronounced in universities offering part-time degrees and satellite campuses which are usually poorly managed. Given that a nation is as good as its educational system which indexes its place in the global innovation hierarchy, it is condemnable that Nigerian universities continue to sanction habits that query the value of university degrees and the quality of their instruction. The universities must not merely reflect societal decay but rise above it and show the light for others to follow.

It is gratifying that the nation's lawmakers have begun to take steps that will reduce the anomie in its university culture, evidenced by wanton delays in the issuance of certificates. The policy deserves society-wide support considering that too many graduating students have become victims of poor ethics and lax governance standards in tertiary education. Regarding the affected universities, it may be worthwhile for them to revisit their staff-student ratio with a view to ensuring that they are not biting more than they can chew in respect of the population of their students. For, obviously, overworked and over stretched academic staff are unlikely to be able to give their best to a surging population of students who stretch them to their limits. Furthermore, there is no reason why the compilation and efficient administration of examinations and marking should not benefit from information technology for instance through the creation of centralised databases that would track individual students.

We commend the lawmakers for the initiative and hope that all stakeholders will put in their bits to ensure that the policy is not aborted.