Former Vice-Chancellor, National Open University of Nigeria, Prof. Vincent Tenebe, in this interview with FRIDAY OLOKOR talks on the refusal of the Council on Legal Education to offer the institution’s law graduates admission into the Nigerian Law School
What do you think is the rationale behind the refusal of the Council on Legal Education to offer NOUN graduates admission into Law School?
I am worried but everything is a process. The law programme in the National Open University of Nigeria is one of the newest schools. Even though NOUN has graduated about three sets now, every university in this country has gone through that process. An example is the first university— the University of Ibadan. There was a time the same Law School refused to admit UI students but UI followed the due process. The case has been debated and UI students are admitted into the Law School. I am assuring you that the NOUN law graduates will eventually get admitted into the law school because they have met all the requirements.
What do you mean by requirements?
The students have gone through an approved course as approved by the National Universities Commission, they have gone through the practical of a Moot Court debate, essays, written examinations and they did well. In fact, during the Moot Court competition in 2012 and 2013, the NOUN law students took the first position, ahead of all the other universities in this country. Why don’t you subject the students and all other students to a competition? Why don’t you give them assignments and see who comes out the best? Why won’t the powers that be agree to set an entrance examination for all graduates from all faculties of law and let them select the best? Why are they shying away from this? If we are in a democratic dispensation, we should be liable to whoever is a citizen of this country without discrimination. You don’t just say because he has not been to a conventional university, he is not qualified to go to law school. The best lawyers in the United Kingdom are from the Open University of the UK.
How many graduates has the NOUN School of Law produced?
During the last convocation, the graduates from the School of Law were 288, out of the 10,563 graduands across all the disciplines. These are either professors who are students of law, senators, members of state Houses of Assembly, governors and people from all walks of life. These are people who studied law out of interest and now, they cannot be called to the Bar. What will they be taking away from you when they are called to the Bar?
You mentioned that there are professors reading law at the NOUN?
Yes, we have a Professor of Botany from the University of Ibadan who was disqualified from getting admission into Law because as a science student, he didn’t study Literature. He became so annoyed that he decided to sit for the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination and got the result. The professor is currently in 300 level at the NOUN and when he graduates, will the CLE disallow him from going to the Law School?
Has the institution gone to court?
Yes, interestingly, some of the graduates from the Port-Harcourt study centre have gone to court last year. The case is currently in court. They took the Council on Legal Education as well as the National Universities Commission to court. Some of my colleagues were saying that as a Vice-Chancellor, I should stop them from doing that but I said, no. We taught them to fight for their rights. I am very happy about that because it is in the Internet of justice.
A lot of young people seem not to be interested in the Open University system. Can the admission process be reviewed?
The world is changing. The open and distance learning mode of education is an integrated method of educating people and when you solve a problem through using integrated method, you get a better result. Human beings all over the world live by imitation. In other climes, especially highly populated countries like India, and China, they have found that because of the population, you will never be able to build structures that can accommodate all the youths desiring education especially at the tertiary level. That is why this new method of education— open and distant learning— was invented. As a professor, I spent 23 years lecturing in a conventional university. Before I joined the NOUN, I was a lecturer in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and lectured in Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi. Altogether, I spent 23 years in the conventional system. But in China, India, UK and even in the United States, young men and women of university age from 17 to 23 now prefer to attend open university instead of the conventional universities because there is freedom. Why do young people in these advanced countries prefer open university? It is because even in these so-called advanced countries, education is no longer free and there is the need to work and study. Over there, once you are 18, you are on your own and they have to think fast. But here in Nigeria, many students don’t have to work because their parents or the government are giving them things free of charge. That is why our young men and women still prefer going to the campus. If we do not sell this idea to our younger generation now, they are going to perpetually live in bondage of these people because their peers will be ahead of them in terms of being innovative and creative. We have to find a way to let our children know that open university gives a better chance and a better education to be a man or woman of your own. Also, in an open university, nobody compels you that you must have 75 per cent attendance before you take exams, nobody asks you why you didn’t attend lectures or why you didn’t submit assignment. Sexual harassment is absent because you don’t even know your lecturer and he doesn’t know you. You don’t know who is going to mark your papers. When students take examinations in Abuja, they don’t know where the papers are taken to.
Why can’t candidates go through the University Tertiary Matriculation Examination conducted by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board and pass through the admission process?
NOUN is flexible and affordable. It gives you liberty. When we started university business in this country there was no JAMB. JAMB was established because there is a limited capacity in the process of selection. It is not that many of the people taking JAMB cannot go to the university. Many of them are qualified. You can be intelligent but on the day of examination, you might make a mistake and you fail and you lose the chance. The mandate of the open university is to give everybody a chance because it has everything to manage large population. No matter how big a university is, a lecture room can only take 200 or 400 people. But a lecture room in the NOUN can take one million people because they are not coming together and you can use one person to meet those one million people. But in the conventional university, you cannot put one lecturer even with 1,000 students.
What’s the rationale behind having the NOUN ambassadors?
The NOUN ambassadors initiative is another strategy to capture the attention of our youths because these ambassadors are role models. Everybody who sees Patience Ozokwo (Mama Gee), Kenneth Okonkwo or Desmond Elliot, Uche Jombo, Sanni Danja, Ini Edo and all of them would want to take a picture with them and most of them are graduates already and we gave them admission. They are students, they take exams and we are using them to show our youths that they can be doing something and go back to school. It might interest you to know that even as a vice-chancellor, I was and still a student in the university. I wanted to study Law but I was not qualified because I studied sciences— I am a Professor of Agriculture, I didn’t do Literature at O’level because I am very slow in reading. That was why I didn’t take anything in the arts; if I am reading and I am not drawing, or calculating, I will be feeling sleepy. Even if I go and take Literature now, I will fail. I am a student of postgraduate diploma in distance education.Do you need original SEO ready articles for your blog or website? If yes, hire Ifiokobong on Fiverr. Expect simply the best from me.
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