By Bello Orwell
When this global public health crisis is over, schools and universities around the world would certainly be expected to reopen. Our prestigious Ahmadu Bello University will not be left behind.
ABUSITES, as we call our proud selves would be excited at the prospect of returning to continue our normal lives in this diverse and multicultural environment.
However, given the fact that experts around the world believe that the world may not be the same again soon, there will be the need to develop new lifestyles and social structures to live with the aftermath of this disease that has put the clock on a halt everywhere.
There would be need to continue to avoid large crowds while we maintain physical distancing. But what happens to our classroom population? Certainly, the Faculty of Education in Ahmadu Bello University would be a good reference point to explore this million Naira question.
Just like Nigeria’s education sector, Faculty of Education in Ahmadu Bello University has sadly become a big bold symbol of uncontrolled congestion and resultant massive failure. Perhaps the university management is not aware, as it is the major apologetic excuse of people in power when confronted with evidence of failure.
The ABU Faculty of Education is like Nigeria to Africa in terms of population, a giant dwarf! A giant from afar and a dwarf on a closer look. A statistical data I had the privilege to go through indicate that ABU has a population of about fifty thousand students.
The ABU Faculty of Education has the largest percentage of this population, with about 25% of the entire student population. The next largest Faculty in terms of population is that of Engineering with about 12%, followed by the Faculty of Physical Sciences, which has about 10% of the student population.
Note that the student population in the analysis above does not include the thousands of students on Long Vacation courses (LVT) programme, otherwise that would have given the Faculty of Education, a probably higher percentage of the population than what it already has.
While I am unable to obtain statistics for staff distribution across faculties in the university, the situation on ground is sufficient to suggest that the academic staff is way too few for the student population in the Faculty of Education.
For instance, undergraduate project supervisor to student ratio could be a good indicator. The ratio is mostly 1 supervisor to about 30 or 40 students. To make the work easier on the supervisor, the students are divided into groups of mostly not less than 5 students each to work on the same project topic.
You can imagine how a high quality undergraduate research would be conducted and duly supervised under such and overpopulated atmosphere.
When an exam is conducted at the Faculty level, you can imagine the hell that these lecturers at the Faculty of Education go through to mark the scripts without much error. If your script gets missing, the best piece of advice I would give you is to wait for the next semester to sit for the course again.
However, if you are the patient and determined type, you could still register for the course while you keep going around in search of the missing script. If it is discovered, congratulations!
In my 200L, when results were released, I was declared absent in one of the Science Education courses (EDSE). However, it was puzzling that on the fateful day of the exam in question, we sat for two courses at the same time, the EDSE and a course from the Faculty of Physical Sciences.
The result of the Physical Science course came out, and I had a B grade in it. I signed separate attendance for the two courses. So I was seriously disturbed. I kept going to check with the course lecturer for over two months, there were times she sent me out of her office, but I kept going back to plead with her to help me check for the script because I knew how much I studied for the course and what I did in the exam.
When she finally checked, my script was discovered, and I had a cumulative score of 68% which was a B, just two points away from an A. I thanked her, and she apologized to me for the oversight.
I understood it was a normal thing for student scripts to get missing. After all, only a very few members of staff work very hard to compile the results of thousands of students, in addition to their teaching job. So it is normally expected that they would take an unusually long time to compile and release the results, and massive errors would definitely not be ruled out.
When it comes to Teaching Practice (which is Faculty of Education’s equivalent of Student Industrial Work Experience or Industrial Attachment), that is another bitter experience that almost every student who has passed through 300L or 400L in some departments would have an interesting story to share about.
The situation of supervisors to student ratio is similar to that of undergraduate project supervision. The result of this Teaching Practice should not be used to assess students’ pedagogical abilities.
For instance, when I did my Teaching Practice, there were 14 of us (Student Teachers) from different sections of science education under the supervision of a single lecturer in the same school.
It was interesting to see how a Biology Education lecturer could supervise or evaluate a Physics or Mathematics class in aenior secondary school to come up with a valid, credible and acceptable assessment.
When he came to my class, after listening to my introduction of a supposedly 40 minute lesson, without opening the lesson plan I had submitted to him, within just less than five minutes (which he spent filling up the evaluation form), he had already concluded that my class was boring even when the students were actively participating in the teaching process.
And that was what he wrote on my evaluation slip, which qualified me for a C grade. My conclusion was that, what a person does not understand would always be boring and uninteresting to him.
I do not blame the lecturers in this faculty for all these anomalies, they are merely putting their best to keep a sick system alive. But innocent students have always been the victims of this systemic failure, of understaffing and lack of adequate classrooms and lecture halls.
It is logically expected that a faculty with student population of the Faculty of Education should have at least decent number of staff, lecture halls and offices. But some have argued that most of the courses in the Faculty of Education, especially science education, are taken in other faculties.
Then what happens to education courses? Where do students sit to receive lectures for education courses? What about students in arts and humanities education?
The fact is as long as students exist in a department or faculty, there is a need to provide them with a conducive classroom environment and adequate staff to teach and guide them through the course of their academic journey. And there should be no excuse for this.
Now with the global public health crisis of Coronavirus disease, universities have been shut down all over the country. Health experts have identified avoiding large crowd as one of the key preventive measures.
It is also expected that by the time universities would be reopening a certain vaccine or viable preventive measure must have been discovered.
However, my concern is how does an overpopulated faculty like that of Education in ABU (where it is practically impossible to enter a lecture theatre or hall without direct body contact) cope with an airborne and contagious disease of this nature? May God protect us from a health crisis of this nature.
With Professor Kabir Bala’s recent assumption of office as the new Vice-Chancellor of this University, given his pedigree and body language, much is expected.
This article is therefore not an attempt to present ABU or Faculty of Education in a negative light, it is, however, an appeal for due attention and place of prominence to be given to this faculty.
Coincidentally, it happens to be the engine room of knowledge and a mother to all other faculties, indeed the University itself falls under the Ministry of Education. So it is only proper that the mother is not allowed to bleed to death by the fruits of her womb, her very own children.
Therefore more lecturers and lecture halls are needed to the mother of all faculties alive. For ease of administration, it may also be important that a large department in the Faculty, such as Science Education be upgraded to the status of a Faculty.
The student population and the numerous sections in the department should qualify it for such an upgrade, which should come with bigger more staff and more lecture halls.
–Bello Orwell is the pen name of a deeply concerned Abusite. firstname.lastname@example.org