Opinion: Ending The Search For Access To Quality University Learning – My...

Opinion: Ending The Search For Access To Quality University Learning – My NOUN Experience

By Opinions | The Trent on July 14, 2014
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by Umar Bashir Ali

The National Open University was initially established on 22nd July 1983 as spring board for open and distance learning in Nigeria. The Government suspended it on 25th April 1984. However, its tremendous and unassailable role in tackling the country’s educational problems including access, equity and education for all became so evident and consequently its resuscitation was begun on the 12th of April 2001.Since then, National Open University has achieved a lot by catering for the continuous educational development of Professionals such as Accountants, Bankers, Lawyers, Doctors, Self-employed, Businessmen and Women.

The idea here is not to give a detailed history of Open University of Nigeria but the aim is to educate the teeming populace of Nigeria of the importance of education through Open Distance Learning(ODL) provided by National Open University through its latest technology driven portal NOUNILEARN as the world is fast changing as a result of daily transactions being carried out via ICT(the use of emails, e-banking, e-learning, e-library etc) in order for Nigerians and Nigerian students to be able to compete with their foreign counter parts.

This piece on Open University and NOUNILEARN could not have come in a better time than now especially when the Federal Government through the supervising minister of education Barr. Nyesome Wike has reiterated its commitment in providing quality education to and for Nigerians. Wike who himself at the Open University Convocation held on Saturday 18th January 2014 stated that “ If everyone in Nigeria is educated, the fight against corruption will be easier. Open and Distance Learning is a tool to achieve this. We believe that with this, we can strive to be like other countries “

National Open University is a Federal Government Institution and offers a wide range of courses accredited by the National University Commission and its certificates are acceptable anywhere. I have the opportunity of being a student of Open University of Nigeria and I stand a better chance of telling you that despite the numerous challenges, my voyage at Open University so far has been revealing. Just like Conventional Universities, courses run for the normal duration. A four year course runs for eight semesters while five year course runs for ten semesters which is obtainable in Conventional Universities. What I find amazing is that the course materials are designed by qualified professionals, professors, doctors who are qualified in their various field of study after which the end result you cannot get in other Universities. Also the issue of strike which affects students plan for the future is non-existent in Open University.

At the National Open University, the facilitators, counselors, and staffs are so friendly and down to earth that you have that feeling that you do not have any problem that cannot be solved when it comes up. This has gone a long way to further strengthen the relationship between students and the authorities of Open University of Nigeria. Also you can sit comfortably and interact with them via phone, email and the use of internet. With the new portal, students can now receive lectures online and interact one on one with their friends and facilitators.

NOUN has libraries with books and computers with internet connectivity. Available also are classes for facilitation, modern toilets, and moot court for law students, large halls for exams, seminars and offices. As a result of all these, NOUN students have distinguished themselves in their various fields. For the School of Law, we have facilitations which include having the best Legal Practitioners as facilitators who guide us through moot court processes and also encourage us to visit courts from time to time to see how cases are tried by courts and to learn practical courts procedures after which we are divided into chambers and cases assigned to us to take up as counsels for the purpose of moot. This has helped us a lot as this is evident from the news which made headlines on various news medium “NOUN outstanding Law students to represent Nigeria In the US” posted on Wednesday, march 27th, 2013 by daily independence newspaper. Once again I use this medium to call on the Council of Legal Education to do justice as there really can be no peace without justice.

The new NOUNILEARN portal is IT driven. It solves the whole issues students encounter in their effort to get quality education not just via ODL but also in Conventional Universities. This is because you do not have to live in hostel, fight for seat in already filled classrooms to get linked up with Facilitators who are readily available when needed. Students can now take lectures online, download videos which are instructional, participate in class discussions online and other activities lined up for social interactions with other students. This is an attempt to breakdown the NOUNILEARN holistically which is similar to other apps like facebook because you can upload your picture, send messages, chat etc all geared towards bringing quality education through ODL by the use of ICT to all Nigerians.

The 3rd Convocation of National Open University of Nigeria sees the Visitor to the University, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan GCFR stressing that the Federal Government would continue to provide the enabling environment to enhance Open and Distance Learning as a way of providing access to quality education for Nigerians. He explained that education being the bed rock for development was a basic requirement in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in order to make life more meaningful.

Also the Chairman of the Convocation Lecture and the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Julius Okojie OON reiterated that ODL had come to stay in Nigeria and that NOUN was the hope for ensuring equal access to education, as it was flexible and cost effective. Professor Okojie pointed out that Open and Distance education could not be effective without ICT and to demonstrate Governments commitment to the development of ICT in the University system, the Nigerian Research and Education Network (NgREN) domiciled in the NUC was established.

Delivering the Convocation Lecture entitled “OPEN AND DISTANCE EDUCATION FOR DEVELOPMENT, UNITY AND DEMOCRATIC TRANSFORMATION OF NIGERIA” former United Nations Envoy, Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari said that the ODL had the potential for massive spread of higher education among a large number of Nigerians, who might find it difficult to attend Conventional classes due to certain constraints and challenges.

As I reach the end of this piece, I want to categorically state that I concur with the summations of the Vice Chancellor of the Open University, the supervising Minister of education, the NUC Chairman and Professor Gambari in advocating for transformation of Nigeria via ODL in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

National Open University and the new NOUNILEARN designed for all Nigerian students of all age is the one place for all Nigerians yearning for Quality education as the future looks bright for Open Distance Learning in Nigeria.

I end this piece with a quote from Chief Olusegun Obasanjo  -Former President of Nigeria who was at one time a student of National Open University of Nigeria. “Education must be at the core of our nation’s development and poverty reduction strategy. The inescapable consequence of the cost of lack of education includes eternal poverty, unemployment and low income.”

Umar Bashi Ali is a 200 Level Law Student of National Open University of Nigeria.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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