By Bello Orwell
In my last opinion piece published here on theabusites.com, I was able to paint a conservative image of my dear giant mother, Faculty of Education in Ahmadu Bello University. I was able to project the possible look of the faculty in the eventual aftermath of this global public health crisis of the coronavirus disease pandemic.
Indeed, many Abusites have identified with the experiences shared in the article, some have pointed out that the reality in the faculty is worse than what I conservatively painted.
My response to this group of disgruntled Abusites is, ya all know we can’t completely strip in public the old and dirty wrapper of our dear mother, the mother of all other faculties, the engine room of knowledge.
One of the numerous emails I received as reactions to the previous article reads;
“Science Education as a department is handling the work of about seven different departments and is seriously in need of manpower to handle the population of [their] students. I pray someone informs the VC about the challenge the departmental staff are facing and as a result some of the students are affected in one way or the other.”
This will serve as the background to the continuation of my series of articles looking at some of the challenges confronting the Faculty of Education here in ABU Zaria.
While the Faculty of Education is extremely huge in terms of the student population, and proportionately small in terms of academic staff and infrastructure, the most glaring symbol of this imbalance is the department of science education.
This department has seven different sections; Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Geography, Computer Science, and Integrated Science. With each section having as many students as the equivalent department in the Faculties of Physical Sciences and Life Sciences.
That is almost the entire Faculty of Physical Sciences, with the exception of Biology which is from the Faculty of Life Sciences. Biology Education is another interesting topic of discussion for another day.
I think the population of students in Biology Education alone is likely to be more than the entire students of the Faculties of Veterinary Medicine and Pharmaceutical Sciences combined, and this is no exaggeration, it could rather be an underestimation on a closer look. Yet that is a single section under a department!
Last year’s second semester examination serves as a proof to this sad predicament in the department of Science Education. All the 400L students trooped out en masse for the EDSE434 exam. All the few venues within the faculty were already occupied. So for an exam that was supposed to commence by 2.00pm, there was no certainty that it was going to hold that day.
You needed to see the look on the face of the departmental examination officer, he looked tired, dejected and disturbed; he was going helter-skelter and making calls in search of possible venues for the over thousand students to sit for this exam. The students were also tired.
Someone like me was already losing the stuffs I have crammed to the hustle for venue. I was like how can one take so much time ‘jackin’ and come for exam to find out that there was no venue?
While this frustrating thought was going on in my mind, a lecturer came to announce that we should move to the Faculty of Social Science Multipurpose Hall, that the exam was going to hold there.
From Long Hall to the Faculty of Social Science Multipurpose Hall distance of which is about half a kilometer. Behold the great 400L students of Science Education, the future teachers of science in Nigeria, or Northern Nigeria, walking down to the exam hall.
When we finally got to the exam hall, about an hour was taken for the invigilators to arrange us in the huge lecture hall. If you have ever been to this large capacity hall you know it is the largest single lecture hall in ABU.
But we filled it up completely with no single space left, just 400L students of Science Education department. I later on learnt that it wasn’t the only venue for the exam. This should give you a rough idea of our population size. So we finally got to start a 2.00pm exam a few minutes to 4.00pm.
I have had to think and ask myself; why is the faculty, or the department of Science Education like this? Why do we have to struggle pushing ourselves to enter both lecture and examination halls? Why does it look like no one is doing anything serious about it? And I have had to ask some of my friends and class mates these same questions.
Our answers to these questions rotated around these logical assumptions; first is that of social stratification which presupposes that most of the students in the faculty of Education, and Science Education specifically come from that strata of the society which has no voice in Nigeria’s political scheme of things. I hope you understand what I mean.
Second assumption is that most of the students in this department could not secure admission to study Pharmacy, Medicine or any of the so-called ‘marketable’ courses. This assumption therefore, is based on the fact that most of the students in the department did not apply to study any of the Science Education courses.
Some of them are students who have been withdrawn from other faculties like Medicine, Pharmacy, or Veterinary Medicine. Therefore because they have been dumped and condemned to become teachers, the assumption is that they don’t deserve any good learning environment.
For this category of students, it is assumed that admitting them to study in this department is a huge favor to which they must be grateful by silently enduring their hard and harsh learning conditions. These are assumptions, but I challenge any academic anywhere to prove them wrong!
How can we live up to the ideals of the founders of this great institution, which according to Sir Ahmadu Bello is; “…to be a world-class university comparable to any other, engaged in imparting contemporary knowledge, using high quality facilities and multi-disciplinary approaches, to men and women of all races, as well as generating new ideas and intellectual practices relevant to the needs of its immediate community, Nigeria and the world at large.”
If education, and science education is relevant to the needs of the immediate community of Ahmadu Bello University, which by pragmatist rhetorical deconstruction is the entire Northern Nigeria, then there is the need to ensure that irrespective of the race or social misfortune of the students who find themselves in the faculty, and department, high quality contemporary knowledge is imparted to them using high quality facilities and multi-disciplinary approaches. This is the only way we can ensure that the dream of Sardauna Sir Ahmadu Bello does not follow him to the grave.
While I assume that the leadership of the faculty must have been working hard to call the attention of the University to improve the situation in the faculty, it is evident that no visible result has been yielded.
And now I hear this loud rumour that the new Vice-Chancellor, Professor Kabir Bala is a construction wizard, that he loves building structures and systems to end existing human sufferings. I do not know or believe this to be true. But here is Department of Science Education sir; I offer it to you as a specimen.
Do your construction magic and let the hardship of the students come to an end. You can solve the structural problem here by building classrooms and lecture halls to meet up with the large student population.
You can address the problem of system and administration by upgrading the department to a faculty and converting the various sections of the department into new departments. While this is going on, additional manpower should also be employed to meet up with the student population.
If you do this, I have no doubt in my mind that Sardauna will be proud of you. And we the students of the department and generations of students to come would never forget you.
–Bello Orwell is a deeply concerned Abusite. Email: email@example.com