CRISIS CONTROL AT UNIVERSITY OF CALABAR
A SIMPLE notice of resumption of academic activities issued to the university community and the public by the authorities of the University of Calabar after a shutdown last session has raised more posers on crisis management capacity of officials in some of the country's tertiary institutions. Ideally, the institution will be better off if it can avoid prolonged periods of campus closure that only engenders systemic decay.
From all indications, the recall notice to complete the 2010/2011 session seems to complicate the students' crisis. Surely there must be better ways to manage the crisis. An adjusted calendar of about two or three weeks should have been enough, instead of the advertised two and a half months. It is curious that the students would be further denied learning opportunities for that long, after a prolonged forced campus closure. The Registrar's advertised memo stated that the Senate approved that students return to campus on January 6, 2012 for lectures to commence on January 9. Degree examinations are scheduled to begin just 29 days after, on February 6. Session's examinations are to hold from February 13 to March 10, 2012. Essentially, information on the new 2011/2012 academic session will be at a later date.
The rescheduled time-table is bound to elicit probing questions as to the motive of the university authorities. Is this a deliberate attempt to keep students away from learning? Why should decision on a students' protest be delayed to the long-term detriment of many innocent students in the community? Is the university's action in support of scholarship? What statement is the school trying to make with such a dislocated school calendar? Certainly, the university has not played the ivory tower role expected of it, with such decisions that would unjustly punish innocent students. In the circumstance, this is one disciplinary measure too much for the system.
Most worrisome in the new arrangement is the very short period – 29 days – allotted to lectures and tutorials before the examinations. What would the students have learnt within the short spell to justify a degree certificate? Will 29 days including weekends marked for academic activities be the equivalent period lost to the crisis? At the end of the day, can the students be justifiably credited with complete learning? Can they be rated along with students from similar institutions of higher learning who received instructions throughout the session?
This is one decision that the Senates of other institutions should not copy. Keeping campus' gates under locks and key for long is not an acceptable culture in university management, and neither is it ideal to control crisis, as it leads invariably to worse problems. More ingenious ways should be devised to allow for a full academic session such that the university community and graduates of the school would be proud of the degrees being awarded.
It is not surprising that academic degrees being awarded by Nigerian universities have recently come under scrutiny for acceptance internationally, while graduates from these institutions are subjected to further crucial tests to determine their capacity, a complete departure from the past when our degrees were widely respected.
The Calabar authorities need not condone indiscipline by students in whatever form. Discipline is part of the learning process and sanctions should and must be applied as and when due. But the reality is that only an insignificant few students are driven to excesses or are engaged in anti-social activities on occasions. In effect, the majority of others should not be unjustly punished (by being kept away from school for long periods) for the misbehaviour of the few.
University authorities should be more proactive in dealing with students' affairs, especially if they could lead to disruption of academic activities. They should always engage the students in constructive dialogue, relate with them as necessary to stem possible violent protests or other serious infractions. By taking ill-advised steps, the officials would only be playing into the hands of proponents of a counter-productive radical overhaul of the university system by the government.
Higher education in the country needs to be returned to the era of quality, as against the present undue attention to quantity. Academics and university authorities are major stakeholders in the survival of higher education and promotion of research. It is high time officials stopped the derision graduates from the country's universities are exposed to internationally as a result of a defective system. It is their duty to build human capacity and not to weaken it. Only by that consciousness can the slide in higher education be arrested.