HOW ABU IS HELPING ITS STUDENTS TO COPE WITH ACADEMIC MORAL CHALLENGES
•An aerial view of a section of the main campus
The tortoise said that he saw a ripe oil palm nut and passed not because he does not like what is good but because he had no knife to cut the bunch with and carry it home. At Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, they would not only have given him a sharp knife with which to cut the fabled ripe oil palm nut, they would also have taught him how to pluck it without much hassles.
That's exactly what the university administration, the Faculties, the Departments and Institutes are doing for its teeming students said to number about 40,000: teaching them how to cope with academic/moral challenges of life.
Take for instance, the Guidance and Counselling Centre of the Students Affairs Division. Located near Amina Hall, opposite the Basketball Court (at Kongo Campus, the centre is located behind the Transit Camp), it provides a wide range of counseling and psychological services to help students cope with academic career, personal, spiritual and study problems which interfere with their education or studies.
To meet these needs, the centre offers to students and staff, variety of services like career counseling and career library (where students could read about different types of career and their prospects as well as get information on overseas post-graduate studies).
Apart from this, the centre coordinates recruitment interviews by government, ministries, parastatal, commercial enterprises, oil companies and organizations such as banks wishing to recruit undergraduate and post-graduate students for employment. The centre also organizes part-time jobs like academic coaching, ironing, baby-sitting, gardening and car washing, for needy students who could work and still study.
In addition to all these, counseling on financial management is usually offered to students/staff on how to spend their money wisely. Workshops are also organized, from time to time, for students, on how to study, how to write C.V and attend job interviews and on effective parenting for the married among them.
SOME PROBLEMS STUDENTS FACE
Speaking in an interview with Education Review, the Coordinator of the Centre in Samaru Main Campus, Dr. S.A. Adisa, noted that 'some of the problems which students commonly bring to our office include misunderstanding with roommates, financial problems, courtship and marital problem, feeling of isolation and depression, career problems such change of course, lack of concentration, lack of interest, anxiety about exams and ineffective study habits.'
Adisa who works together with Dr. Mrs. V.T. Adidu and other committed counselors said they are glad to lend a helping hand to students in whichever way they can, just to make their stay at ABU as comfortable as possible.
Abubakar Rasheed from Plateau State is a new student just admitted into the university to read Biological Science. In a chat, he said he is happy to have been offered admission because he has to start facing challenges by studying hard. On why he chose ABU, he said, 'because I realize it is the best university.' Asked how, he said before he joined the university he had heard enough good stories about ABU from both the past and present students. He looks forward to a happy and exciting time while he is in ABU, he said.
For Miss Joy Oche, a final year student of the same department, from Benue State, the environment and the academic standards of the university are the main attractions. 'My dad finished from here,' she said. 'So he is the one that pushed us into applying to ABU for admission. But now on my own, I have found out that he didn't make a mistake. He made a good choice. Their standards are high and anywhere you go, when you mention ABU, everybody thinks very good of the school and its products.'
Adepoju Bola, a 300-level student of Mathematics/Education, from Oyo State, says: 'Before I gained admission, I wanted UI and ABU and I said anyone that clicks I will attend. Eventually, ABU clicked. I like everything about ABU – its academics, teaching, lecturers and teaching methods. Most of the lecturers use demonstrative method of teaching. And they are lively and friendly when they are teaching. As you can see, the environment is superb. It is a clean environment.'
Yahaya Kadiri Kazeem, an ex-student of Chemistry, from Ondo State says: 'I like the structure but there is a lot of stress in it. Everything you do is just too tedious. Nothing seems to be easy here.' Asked why it is so, he said he doesn't know, 'maybe it has to do with the management. The administrators that admit students should have done that based on the facilities available. So, they crowded us. Anywhere you go, there is crowd. I don't know why it is so. Just as I'm standing here now, I am here for my statement of result and I don't even know the whereabouts of the person that is supposed to give it to me. And, I do come here almost every day. From the day that I started registration to the day I graduated, it's been hectic, to even collect my results. But the academics programmes are okay. Put in hard work and you will get good result. I like the peaceful atmosphere. It is really encouraging. The school is peaceful. You can go out any time. There's no harassment. We are very free. The lecturers are hundred per cent good.'
INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION SERVICES
A total of 3,085 Masters and Doctorate students on Saturday, November 20, took the Matriculation oath of the university at the main auditorium of the School of Postgraduate Studies. Of this figure, 2,700 were Masters students while the Ph.D students numbered 325. As many as will be in need of any of the services mentioned, will, no doubt, find in the Guidance and Counselling Centre, a trustworthy partner.
For sure, the Guidance and Counselling Centre is not the only unit committed to making the students' stay at ABU a comfortable one. Others include the Kashim Ibrahim Library where Professor Zakari Mohammed, the university librarian, is in charge and the Institute of Development Research where Professor Pindar Izah is holding court.
One of the action plans contained in ABU Strategic Plan for 2008-2012 talks about 'digitization of the library systems' and the putting into effect 'a LAN/WAN for the effective working of the University's information and communication systems.'
Education Review asked Mohammed how far he and his team have gone with realizing this lofty goal. 'We have the LAN (local area network) within the library building which you can comfortably access,' he informed. 'The next stage within the next two weeks is that if you are within the university, wherever you are, you should be able to access our collection. We are going to put it in the university network and we are going to do it in such a way that if you are outside the university, you should be able to access our collection and also whatever service you think we can provide. I pray you come in January, God willing, then you will see what I am talking about. I will want to tell you that already we have an active web link within the university where you can have access to other services we are providing and one of those services is digital access to our materials which is already on the local area network.'
In his speech, read on his behalf by Professor Kabir Bala, the University's Director of Academic Planning and Monitoring, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Abdullahi Mustapha, at the Postgraduate Students matriculation held on that Saturday, November 20, encouraged the students, 'to learn to write good research proposals that would attract funds from international donors.'
RESEARCH AND REMINISCENCES
One of the benefits that a post-graduate student is likely to enjoy at ABU is that he or she stands the chance of being involved in some high profile researches being conducted by the Institute of Development Research.
'Our research teams are usually headed by professors,' notes Izah, the Director of the Institute. 'But there are younger lecturers and researchers. There are post-graduate students. Sometimes we involve undergraduate students in the sense that if you have a good student who is approaching his final year and he or she wants to do a research in a particular area that you have an ongoing research, you can bring him or her in. They help you in collecting the data and they also get data for their high degree projects and so we don't have a permanent staff at the Institute of Development Research. We draw our staff from the various departments. We like to see ourselves as a multi-disciplinary research institute. We draw researchers from various faculties and departments related to developmental issues. We have researchers from the Economics, Sociology, the Political Science, Agriculture, from Law, History and so on and so forth.'
Ahmadu Bello University was founded in 1962 as a regional university by the Northern Nigerian Regional Government. But in 1975, it was taken over by the Federal Government, along with other regional universities like Obafemi Awolowo, University (then University of Ife), Ile-Ife, University of Lagos and University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
From a modest beginning 48 years ago, the university has been transformed into the largest and the most extensive of all universities in Sub-Saharan Africa.
'It is the only university campus where you could see the mixture of virtually everybody in Nigeria,' Bitrus Galmaka, the Chief Information and Protocol Officer, observed in a chat with Education Review. 'I'm sure it is only in ABU that you have what I may call mini-Nigeria. Pick up our admission list, for instance, and see the mix of names. Students are admitted from all over Nigeria. ABU is the one and only true Nigerian university. Other universities, whether in the North or in the South, have been swallowed up by sectional interests; their admission list reflect the kind of area where they are located. But not ABU. That's the first thing that really attracts you.'
Adisa, the guidance counsellor, concurs. 'ABU is a mini-Nigeria because right from time, they have admitted students from all the 36 states of Nigeria, including African countries like Niger Republic, Liberia, Cameroon and so on,' he said. 'Just last week, I was joking with some of the Palestinian students who graduated from this university. Two of them are now medical personnel. And, some of the Cameroonians are also members of our staff now. That's why I said it is a mini-Nigeria. If you look at the statistics, there's no local government or states that is not being represented here.'
Galmaka continues: 'The architectural beauty of the campus speaks for itself. I'm not rushing into the academic programmes because every university tries to say that it is the best but among ourselves we know each other's position. But I can assure you, ABU is on top. I'm sure that's why the former President of this country, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo ensured that almost all his children went through ABU. It was deliberate. He knew he was not sending them to a rag-tag university.'
ONE MAN'S MORBID FEAR OF THE PRESS
In the course of gathering information for this piece that you are reading on ABU, I ran into one Bala Achika. A secretary in one of the institutes, he seemed not to have purged out of his system the old fears that civil servants have about journalists or Press men and their works.
When at first one of the information officers assigned by Galmaka to take me round to see some university key officers that I had earlier expressed my interest in seeing and talking to, were at his office, he had welcomed us warmly and told us where to find his boss, a professor who was said to be lecturing somewhere on the campus, at that moment.
But the moment he got to know through further questioning, my identity and, my mission, during our second visit, his attitude suddenly changed. At that moment, we became personae non grata.
'You want my Oga to talk to the Press?' he queried the Information Officer that brought me to the office. 'Okay, where is the written directive from your department authorizing him to do so?'
The officer explained that his presence with me was enough reason to believe that the university authority was solidly behind what I was doing. No way, he countered. As far as he was concerned, without a written authorization, the Protocol Department could deny tomorrow that they sent me if any of the university officers that I am interviewing is misquoted and trouble comes out of the publication.
Told that no trouble will come out of the publication as it is intended to promote the good image of the university, Achika refused to be re-assured. 'You brought the Sun to come and interview my Oga?' he queried the information officer, his bright eyes darting from me to the officer and from the officer back to me as if he was searching for the answer to his question on our faces. 'Ah, don't you know that the Sun is a very influential paper that is read all over Nigeria and anything that you publish in it will be read in Abuja?'
Turning to the officer with his palms spread out, he pleaded, in a mixture of Hausa and English: 'Please o, I'm getting closer to my retirement age. I don't want anybody to sack me before my time just because I spoke to the Press.'
Don't laugh. Some institutions, ministries, departments, parastatals, government establishments do have in their system dyed-in-the-wool sticklers to civil service rules and, fearers of the Press. As for his fear about the publication putting someone in trouble, we leave you to be the judge.