Prof. Vincent Ado Tenebe converse

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Prof. Vincent Ado Tenebe, Vice- Chancellor, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) is a renowned agronomist. He spoke with some journa...

Prof. Vincent Ado Tenebe, Vice- Chancellor, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) is a renowned agronomist. He spoke with some journalists in Kaduna recently on the efforts of NOUN to increase access of qualified Nigerians to university education. He also disclosed that seven vice-chancellors from conventional universities and his humble self are students of the university. AZA MSUE brings the excerpts
Today, most parents and even the younger people find the National Open Universities of Nigeria (NOUN) unattractive to study and prefer conventional universities where admission is more difficult. What do you think is responsible for this?

It is basically as a result of ignorance. To accept change is always difficult for people. Open and distance learning is a new education system in Nigeria and therefore, you don't expect the younger generation, as well as the older ones who are not used to the system to embrace it just like that.

To many, unless a student gets admission, goes to live in the hostel, goes to classroom and engages in all those routines, they will not believe they are students. But hopefully and very soon, things will change in this country.

That was also how the situation was in India and China before now. Open and distance learning is a system that is flexible. It enables students to study and at the same time, work. More than half of Nigeria's population is not in school, not because they don't have the qualification, but it is because they don't have the financial backing.

Nigeria has many brilliant young ones whose parents cannot sponsor their university education just because they are poor. So even if you have the admission and you don't have sponsorship, you will still sit at home.

But the open and distance learning system gives admission to students and allows them to work and be able to raise income to meet their financial obligations in school and in other places.

That is why in the UK, China and India, you will see young men and women go for open university education. Even if you offer those kinds of people admission in a conventional university, they will reject it because they will need money to sustain themselves and their education.

In NOUN system, there is nothing like meeting up to 75 per cent of class attendance before sitting for examinations. That is the requirement in the conventional system whether you are in the polytechnic, university or college of education. The system there is that if you don't have 75 per cent class attendance, you cannot write exams. Here is a system that even if you have zero per cent attendance, you will still write your examination and to pass or not depends on your preparation.

That is how it is being done in the developed world but new in Nigeria. The system gives freedom and that is why with time, Nigerian youths will prefer the open and distance learning university to the conventional system.

How about NOUN graduates in terms of participation in the one-year mandatory National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) scheme?

That is another challenge that we are currently addressing. The NYSC Act and the laws that govern it, say that a Nigerian graduate of 30 years and below should be mobilised for NYSC scheme but those above 30 years can be exempted. Now, NOUN a special university has a peculiar case.

The university is not dealing with youths alone. It is for everybody both the old and the young that qualified. There are many undergraduates in NOUN who had already obtained first degrees in one conventional university or another. Even at present, NOUN has seven vice-chancellor­s of other universities including myself, who are students.

So, once you are a graduate and already observed the NYSC scheme, it won't be necessary to go for another service again. Even at that, the university is also mindful of fresh undergraduates,­ who are also within the 30 years stipulated age limit for the scheme.

Now, the school has agreed with the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to work out the possibility. By that, the board has made it mandatory for NOUN to pay specific amount of money to issue admission letters for every graduate that is eligible for the NYSC scheme. The university has just reached the agreement. So, all our graduates, who are below the age of 30, will now be going for NYSC scheme probably from this year.

What is the current carrying capacity of NOUN and its population?

That is another interesting aspect of this university. The carrying capacity is limitless and that is why it is called open university.

An open university should be able to accommodate five million or 10 million students. So as much as many that are interested in acquiring university education and qualified, NOUN has rooms for them. We are opened as wide as the capacity of Nigeria.

Open university in India for instance has 3.8 million students' population. As at now, NOUN has a capacity of 132,000 students and the university wants to hit about half a million by the next two academic sessions.

My dream as a VC is for the university to hit 1.5 million students by the next five years. So, there is no specific carrying capacity in NOUN. This is the only university that has the mandate to admit as many students as possible, but without compromising the standard.

People know former President Olusegun Obasanjo as an alumnus of NOUN, who are those other prominent Nigerians that have graduated from the university if any?

We graduated 7, 222 students at our last convocation ceremony held in Lagos. They were made up of categories of classes of people. Anyway, I don't have the statistics of earlier graduates of NOUN before now and interestingly, the university does not focus on prominent individuals alone so that people will not see it as a political university. NOUN is more concerned about the entire Nigerians and especially those in the rural areas, those boys and girls on the streets, who have necessary academic qualifications for university admission.

As I had earlier said, the university has seven vice chancellors from other universities including myself as students. I am a student of post graduate diploma in education. I have the Vice- Chancellor of Berita University, who is studying Law; I have the Vice-Chancellor­ of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, who is also a student of Law and so forth.

And I can categorically tell you therefore that so many prominent Nigerians are currently studying in NOUN. The Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, who is now 78 years old, is a 100 level Law student.

More than 22 other Obas under his domain have also enrolled in NOUN just because they saw their leader in spite of his high economic status and age enrolled in the university.

The Emir of Bauchi has just filled in his form for admission not long ago and also the Commissioner of Finance in Nasarawa State. Prof. Mainoma, a former deputy Vice- Chancellor of Nasarawa State University called me on phone while I was in far away Dubai few weeks ago to complain that he filled NOUN admission form online to study Law, but that he was not offered admission and sought my assistance.

I asked him whether he had a credit pass at ordinary level in Literature in English and he said he did not even take the subject and I told him that he was not qualified to study Law in NOUN.

It is compulsory for an applicant to have a minimum of credit pass in Literature in English in WASC to study Law in NOUN and that is how it is also in conventional universities. So, NOUN cannot lower its standard for anybody.

Even I myself had wanted to study Law but I could not because I didn't do Literature in English in secondary school. Some people thought that r NOUN came on board to be distributing degrees or selling certificates but they guessed wrong. To pass NOUN exams require hard work from students.

Thank you.

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Examination Matters,12,General Matters,46,Students Social Matters,21,Study Centre Matters,16,TMA Matters,2,
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National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). Abeokuta Study Centre, Ogun State.: Prof. Vincent Ado Tenebe converse
Prof. Vincent Ado Tenebe converse
National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). Abeokuta Study Centre, Ogun State.
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