When the National Open University of Nigeria NOUN was established, many Nigerian workers who were not to fortunate to acquire university education before going into employment embraced it with their whole heart, but the price of this second chance seems to be telling on the student workers. ABDULSALAM MAHMUD reports
Mrs Nkechi Ferdinand, 38, is a mother, a civil servant working at the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology and a student of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). She was not so fortunate to have gone to the university before seeking employment. Now she has to contend with home making, office work and academic work.
For her, each day is a nightmare. She’s got so much on her table, juggling homecare including taking care of five children, office work and study.
“Taking care of five children in addition to my official duties are already neck-breaking, but now I have to add to that my academic work. You can imagine what I go through every day,” she said in a tone that betrayed her helplessness.
She came to the decision of going back to school when she realized that for her to grow in her present employment, she needed to improve on her academic level.
“When I was told of the opportunity of acquiring a degree through the Open University, I jumped at it,” she said. “At that time, I was not thinking of the challenges I would likely face in terms of meeting up with homecare, office work and academic work. I need the certificate and the thought of that and the prospects of what will follow overshadowed every other thing.
“While many students face financial problems which threaten their academic pursuit, my problem is how to allocate judicious time for reading my course materials especially during exams. I need to do well. Doing well at the Open University is not as simple as ABC. I have since learnt to study even when fatigued and the children are coming with their own problem.”
Nkechi has held forth and now she is in her 300 level at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), National Assembly Study Centre.
For Mr. Yahya Bukar, another student of NOUN and staff of a private construction firm at Gwagwalada Area Council, in Abuja, it is a typical case of different strokes for different folks.
Bukar, a Sociology student is already writing his project. He said he has had to withstand the challenges of time and lack of interest shown in his studies by his boss.
He revealed that the periods he spent at building sites, especially, during weekends affected his academic study plan.
“I wish I was lucky to have completed my schooling before starting work. Like other students of the Open University, I have limited time for my studies, due to stress resulting from office work. Notwithstanding, I spare time at night and during weekends to read voluminous course materials,” Bukar added.
He however, expressed gratitude to his course-mates for their support without which it would have been impossible for him to get to the stage he is now.
LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered from a 2015 Chemistry graduate at the Minna Study Centre, Micheal Opeyemi, that students who excel in their academic pursuit at NOUN, are not extraordinarily brilliant, but are focused, determined and hardworking.
Opeyemi, who also works at the Minna NNPC depot, said he never believed in studying while working as a civil servant, stressing that having children and family automatically foreclosed the opportunity of attending other schools, other than the open university.
He noted that NOUN’s regime of school fees, is perhaps, among the lowest and affordable amongst other public tertiary institutions.
“The best and most flexible way to acquire a degree certificate is passing through NOUN,” he said, adding, “However, it is not rosy as one has to study hard and ensure he assimilates his course materials. Initially when I was starting it was difficult for me to understand some of the courses I offered especially when I am studying alone. But my performance began to improve when I enrolled for private tutorial sessions.”
A Nurse, Haleema Faruq, said her decision to return to school at NOUN was inspired by the feat attained by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who recently bagged a Ph.D at over 80 from NOUN.
She confessed to this reporter that though studying at NOUN is somewhat difficult, due to the fact that most academic activities, such as tests and exams are online, she regularly spared adequate time for her studies.
“There is absolutely no way a mother of three, like me, can attend a conventional university just to acquire a degree,” she said. “The flexible academic programme at NOUN, has made it possible for people like me to combine home care and academic work.”
Haleema, a 200-Level NOUN student at the Wuse II Study Centre, said she believes in the maxim of ‘what is what doing, is worth doing well’, hence she equitably balances the time she allocates to her professional, domestic and academic endeavours. A situation, she said, has been her saving grace.
On why he enrolled for a Masters in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution at NOUN, Fortune David, disclosed that it will be foolhardy for him to pursue his M.Sc at any other institution, other than NOUN.
“No employer will willingly permit his employee to leave work and go back to school full time, he said with emphasis. “To be candid, studying at NOUN has afforded me ample time to carry out academic researches. More importantly, the admission process is so simple and you don’t need a godfather.”
LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that all course materials are normally given to students upon completing and presenting their course registration slip at the Academic Unit of study centres in which they are registering.
The essence of developing study materials, according to a NOUN General Studies (GST 102) Course Developer and Writer, Professor I. A. Olaofe of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, is to facilitate sound understanding for students. He said the materials are written in simple, insightful and understandable language.
He added that students who solely rely on studying past tests and examination questions and answers, while refusing to study lecture materials, often find it difficult getting good grades.
A NOUN Study Centre Director-General in Abuja, declined speaking officially, but he however, told LEADERSHIP Weekend, that one of the cardinal objectives of establishing NOUN is to provide opportunity for workers to acquire university education with ease, and at an affordable fees.
He said it is important for NOUN’s students to plan their study time-table, so as to achieve brilliant grades adding that academic challenges are inevitable, hence the need for NOUN students, mostly workers, to devise ways to navigate those challenges to excel.