NOUN, Distance Learning and the Conventional Education in Nigeria.

 
Historically, in the terrestrial world, the only constant thing in life is change. This could be horizontal or vertical; positive or negative; vocational or otherwise. This is also to a large extent, consistent with natural law which chronicles movement in living things including trees. Interestingly, this concept of movement which connotes change is primarily taught in schools due to its inevitability.

The schools didnt stop there, up to tertiary levels, computer applications have been specifically embraced as a compulsory course for all disciplines under the regulation of the NUC (National Universities Commission) in pursuit of the world as a global village. This indeed is remarkable.

t’s in this vein that the long-existed analog system of telecommunication in Nigeria (Nitel) gave way to the wireless Global System for Mobile communication popularly known as GSM, which incontrovertibly makes communication a lot easier and effective. The corporate world is also not left out, as it clearly accepts that change is inevitable in life. This is evident in the online banking services as against what used to be the face of the banking system in Nigeria. Perhaps, you’ll recall the old system of banking which limits customers operations in the particular branch the account is domiciled. Needless to mention the newly introduced ATMs, internet-banking systems and lots of other innovation in the sector.
Furthermore, the office file-storage systems which used to be characterized by heaps of files from one file-cabinet to another is gradually replaced by advanced technologies through the computer storage facilities with ease and reliability. All these explicitly point to the fact that change is part of life. It also reminds me of Econet’s critical statement upon incorporation in Nigeria in 2001 through its first slogan “…change or be left behind”. At that point, many didn’t quite clearly understand its dynamic philosophy as against the popular pertinacity.  Since then, the company has strategically repositioned itself in diverse dimensions in order to align with the contemporary trends in the world.
Even in the automobile world too, the story is not strange either. For instance, the old “flat-boot”brand of Mercedes Benz that for several decades pertinaciously exercised dominion on all roads with absolute confidence to reign in perpetuity couldn’t but yield to the inevitability of change. 
Similarly, in religious circle, the conventional paper scriptures formally used to be held in high esteem to the extent that some fanatics religiously sleep with it under the pillow is gradually phasing out as majority particularly the educated class now go for e-formats either in laptops, ipads, iphones or smartphones, among others. As a matter of fact, this innovation makes things quite a lot easier as searches are conducted in different versions just at a tip of the finger, and notes taken without the conventional notebooks or jotters and pens. That’s the power and dynamics of change.
Sadly but succinctly, a great number of people are unconsciously allergic to change, and would strenuously work against it until the force of nature forcefully entrenches its supremacy. Remarkably, the INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) signed-up to change during the recent elections through the introduction of biometrics devices otherwise known as smart-card readers as against the conventional manual system. Immediately after the elections, Covenant University migrated to smart-card reader for examinations in line with the concept of change.
Some years ago, for instance, when ipads were scarcely seen on people, at a convention of the Full Gospel Business Men’s fellowship, the guest speaker, a lawyer by profession, requested for someone to read a scripture for him. Amazingly, a banker who stood to read from his ipad was turned down as according to him, the e-scripture is not as powerful as the “conventional scriptures”. Splendid, the meeting continued as the misunderstanding didn’t cause commotion. Eventually, we met early this year in another convention of similar convention, without mincing words; change has fully taken its course on him. He used a superior version of ipads that accepts voice commands on searches, reading and note-taking. Remarkably, that’s the inevitability of change.
Today, with the formal introduction of the ODL (Open and Distance Learning) system in line with the United Nations policy on education, the concept of change is rapidly taking its course in the education sector in Nigeria. The Open and Distance Learning system which at the moment is exclusively under the jurisdiction of the NOUN (National Open University of Nigeria) with study centres in virtually all the states of the federation and Federal Capital Territory has so far brought quality education within the reach and doors of all and sundry pursuant to section 18 1999 CFRN on Educational Objectives of the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principle of State Policy. This is premised on the open admission policy of NOUN to eligible applicants, irrespective of “connections”or the “conventional cut-off marks or Vice Chancellors or HOD’s list” as prevalent in the conventional universities which painfully and unjustifiably deprive majority the right to education.
Interestingly, eminent lawyers that studied either through the distance learning or part-time system, and incontrovertibly distinguished are numerous including Sapara Williams, Sir Akintoye Ajasa, Eric Moore, Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, Prince Adeleke Adadoyin, Charles Dadi-Onyema, Chief Rotimi Williams, Chief T.O.S.Benson, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, Sir Udo Udoma, J.A. Phil-Ebosi, Fatai-Atanda Williams, Chief Chika Ikpeazu, Kayode Eso, Chief Remi-Fani Kayode, G.C.M. Onyiuke, and Chief Afe Babalola,SAN among others.
Ostensibly, the open admission policy of NOUN is explicit; nevertheless, the high standard adopted by the school makes its graduation impliedly restricted.  This has earned it a nickname as “open in admission but closed in graduation. This slogan is indeed justifiable when the school examinations are in contradistinction with that of the conventional universities in Nigeria. Perhaps, it may interest you to note that despite the thousands of students that applied and matriculated in the School of law since 2004, only about (5) five percent had so far been graduated with the Bachelor of Law degree of the university due to its exclusively rigid and strict adherence to the principle of quality education through open and distance learning. Several students who are unable to meet up with these high standards silently withdraw on daily basis as the system does not make provision for compromise of any kind.
To meet up with these challenges, the students of the School of Law apart from the regular facilitations/lectures provided by the university, stressfully deploy at unbelievably high prices most of the erudite lecturers in the faculty of Law of the neighbouring conventional universities across the nation, including the University of Lagos, Lagos State University, ObafemiAwolowo University, University of Benin, University of Port-Harcourt, University of Abuja, University of Ilorin, University of Nigeria, Anambra State University, Awka, just to mention but a few, on a private arrangement basis for intensive lectures at scheduled convenient times. Even these deployed lecturers, in most cases, frown at the examination questions of the school questioning if they’re for master degree programme in Law. The record is indeed res ipsa loquitur (fact speaks for itself).
The recent International Moot-Court competition glaringly won by NOUN School of Law duly contested by all universities in Nigeria including federal, state and privately-owned universities attest to these claims. Consequently, NOUN School of Law ably represented the entire universities in Nigeria (faculties of law) in 2013 in India. Indeed, the contributions of the grand-patron of the LAWSAN (Noun Law Students Association), Senator Kanu Godwin Agabi, SAN in ensuring that the students are duly molded both in character and ethics of the profession cannot be over-emphasized. The learned Senior Advocate in collaboration the Dean of studies, Professor Justus Sokefun work tirelessly to seeing that the products of the school do not in anyway fall below the standard of their counterparts in the conventional and foreign universities both in knowledge acquisition and character. Presently, he’s supervising among others, moot-court competitions among all the study centres across the nation with amazing prizes to be won.
Of course, the victory of NOUN at the National Moot-Court Competition wasn’t a surprise to NOUN as it’s so far, the only Faculty/School of Law in Nigeria that has its moot-court sessions in the premises of courts unlike other universities that conduct in the campus. Above all, NOUN’s moot-court is conducted under the supervision of practicing senior lawyers who diligently inculcate the ethics of the profession in preparation of the vocational training at the Nigeria Law School. In Port Harcourt Study Centre, for example, a learned Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Dr. Sam Amuda, SAN is the Moot-Court Director.  Hence, the victory in the national competition was meritorious, and well deserved.
Unknown to many, in NOUN School of Law, most of the students are already holders of Bachelors’and Masters’ degrees in various disciplines including Masters in Business Administration from different conventional universities both in Nigeria and abroad, and some in fact, in managerial positions in different sectors of the economy. Some are Medical Doctors, Quantity Surveyors, Engineers, distinguished serving Senators and Honorable Members of the House of Representatives and counterparts in States Houses of Assembly, senior Police officers, Army personnel, Clergies, Politicians, Bankers, Chartered Accountants, Stock and Insurance brokers and reputable entrepreneurs across the nation.
Apart from the usual trainings, seminars and workshops often organized by the School of Law, deducibly, a large number of students in the School of Law had already been molded as professionals in various disciplines. Some have severally undergone senior management and corporate trainings both in and outside the country.
Recently, the passionate concern of the Council of Legal Education on the quality of aspiring lawyers from Nigerian universities was explicit following the previous Nigerian Law School examinations in which only 3,418 out of 7,176 candidates passed. Note that the examinations were sat for exclusively by students from the conventional universities. If not, NOUN could be an exception as it is adequately equipped having been exposed and accustomed to both conventional and radical way of learning through the Distance and Open Learning system, hence at an advantage and ahead of others.
The merits of the ODL which NOUN is adequately actualizing are endless. The distinguishing characteristic lies on its principle of liberalization of education without subjecting students to the whims and caprices of the lecturers as prevalent in some of the conventional university system. Of course, in NOUN, students proudly complete their respective credit units and get graduated without knowing who the examiners are, apart from the facilitators who in most cases are not the examiners. Unbelievably, examination scripts are interchanged across all the various study centres in the country. By this gesture, examination malpractices are drastically reduced.
This also eliminates the usual students’ molestations, harassments and intimidations prevalent in campuses by selfish lecturers who turn the campus as their fiefdom against the helpless students, and failure to reciprocate accordingly, will keep the victim in campus in perpetuity except by divine intervention. With NOUN Open and distance learning system, illiberality in the education sector is incontrovertibly, a history. That’s a remarkable breakthrough that deserves commendation in Nigeria.
Logically, it ought not to be a subject of debate to question the high quality of education being offered through the Open and Distance Learning system for someone who intends to do thorough justice. As it stands, NOUN is the only university in Nigeria in which students are impliedly under compulsion to finish the semester’s scheme of work prior to entering into examination hall. The reason is not far-fetched; with the course materials both on print and online, every student is on his own in terms of private studies since examiners are usually like spirits that cannot be identified, hence excuses like “we have not treated this or that” are directed to no one and therefore untenable.
The high standard of NOUN as a matter of fact, cannot be over-emphasized. During the recent convocation ceremony in which the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Vincent Ado Tenebe in his address explicitly emphasized the flexibility nature of the school. He sympathetically narrated how one of the senior members of staff in the school that studied law and supposedly to graduate was barred by one course from graduation. Immediately, my guest asked me disappointedly, “what kind of school is this?”Of course, my response was accurate and succinct, “that’s NOUN for you”.
This therefore propels students to ensuring that the semester work-loads are dedicatedly covered as many times as possible, as the examiners are usually unknown, talk less of what to expect in the examinations or the usual “areas of concentrations”unlike the conventional universities. Another feature of the university that cannot be over-emphasized is the provision of e-library apart from the conventional Law-library and the general library for the entire students in the school. With the e-library, students particularly of the school of Law can with designated security codes conveniently assess and source for information and embark on researches on journals, law reports, law books, encyclopedias and others just on the go even at home and place of work.
By and large, the high standard adopted by NOUN particularly in the School of Law is evidently mind-blowing and should be sustainably encouraged as it is done in the developed nations of the world. No doubt, change is constant and traditionally, new inventions are rarely appreciated at inceptions, and therefore usually take strong wills to embrace. The NOUN apart from high knowledge acquisition which is obviously, a statement of fact, also has adequate structures and highly competent personnel in place for molding and producing world class law graduates with capacity to confidently compete with their fellows across the globe.

Carl Umegboro, Public Affairs Analyst is the National Coordinator, NOUN Law Graduates Forum, and also erstwhile Chairman, LAWSAN Governing Council.
 

 

 

Published By: EDITOR

CARL UMEGBORO is a prolific writer, public affairs analyst and an Associate, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (United Kingdom). He holds a Bachelor of Laws degree (LLB Hons) and a renowned columnist in all national newspapers in Nigeria, Africa Press Reviews, TheWorldNEWS and numerous foreign media including Park Chester Times, New York, USA. Umegboro is a regular guest-analyst to many TV and radio programme on crucial national issues. To send your opinions, articles and reports to the Admin, contact: +234 (0) 802 318 4542, +234 (0) 705 710 1974, +234 (0) 817 318 4542. Email: carl@carlumegboro.com, umegborocarl@gmail.com

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