Offline furtune

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Last Saturday was a day set aside by the authorities of the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta to honour graduates of the institution that excelled in their various disciplines.

The colourful ceremony, which is the first of its kind, was specially organised to felicitate with over 70 first class graduates and another batch of 41 students whose GPAs have already placed them on the first class cadre.

Also in attendance were some parents as well as members of staff of the school.

One of the students already on the first class cadre, Adeyiga Akintola Olubunmi, has excelled even beyond his own imagination through sheer determination.

In an interview with our correspondent at the event, Olubunmi’s childhood story is similar to those of a number of Nigerian children, who innocently become victims of unavoidable family challenges.

The Veterinary Medicine student whose GPA currently stands at 4.62 said, “It was indeed a rough beginning for me. A lot of people, even within my family, never believed in me. They even called me a dullard. But thank God for God Himself. He knew what He had imparted into me. I have a very rough background. My younger sister is already a graduate of law.

“I attended two secondary schools. I did three years at Ijebu-Ode Grammar School and later went to Tai Solarin Secondary School. At Tai Solarin Secondary School, I was as popular as the principal because of my level of intelligence. Everybody everywhere knew Adeyiga. Each time I gave a speech at the assembly, everybody would listen. Even when the principal was giving a speech you would hear some people murmuring. But a word from me was like, ‘Ahh, he’s talking, let’s hear him.’ Everybody would listen. That led me to be the president of the students’ representative council then. I went for so many competitions and I met with a lot of prominent people in this country including former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

“I am also very grateful to my uncle who really believed in me. He picked me up from Lagos where I was almost going astray and said I should come and join him at Ijebu-Ode.”

Speaking on his experience at UNAAB, he said his determination to excel as well as the school authorities’ programme for the students propelled him to aim for the best.

He said, “I have spent three years in UNAAB. My first year as a pre-degree student was like an eye opener to me. I got to know so many things about UNAAB. It is good at breeding not just students but good ones. You are graded in all ramifications.

“During the first semester of my 200 level, I carried the same mindset that I had at the pre-degree level and I emerged the best student with a GPA of 4.76. I had thought other people would take that position but I was surprised that nobody did. I was encouraged by that and was determined that I would not drop below that. And it has been like that up till date and many people are looking up to me for advice and tutorials.

“Now I feel so happy for the transformation but I know this is not my peak. I believe that God who knows my desire will take me there.”

Speaking earlier at the ceremony, the UNAAB’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Oluwafemi Olaiya Balogun, said the university, since its inception, had carved a niche for itself through its unique academic programme aimed at achieving the nation’s much expected agricultural revolution.

He added that the focus and driving force of UNAAB’s research and extension activities had also registered it as a centre of excellence.

“There is no doubting the fact that this university has grown tremendously within the period of 20 years of its existence. The university student enrolment has grown steadily from 848 at inception to 10,000 in the 2007/2008 academic session.

“It is no gainsaying that UNAAB’s courses, both at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels, are enjoying local and international acceptability as well as patronage. To date, UNAAB has produced a total of 6,914 graduates, of which we are very proud.”

He also said that the special night of excellence was organised because of the school authorities’ belief that, as a nation, the future lies in the hands of the youths.

He said, “If we are able to inculcate in them the right attitudes, the right knowledge and skills, we have a greater opportunity of excelling as a nation in the future. So, henceforth we shall take time out and organise this award ceremony to commend, honour and encourage our students who have accomplished high level of academic achievements.

“The Academic Excellence award ceremony is doubly significant. Firstly, it is to acknowledge, congratulate and applaud the achievements and outstanding performances of those who have done well and excelled by graduating with first class. We have had 71 of them since the first graduation in the history of the university. Secondly, it is to serve as a form of encouragement to those who are currently undergoing their studies and are likely to come out with first class.”

The vice-chancellor said the gesture would serve as a stimulus to the current and future students that they too could excel and bring glory to the school.

Delivering his lecture titled, “Attaining Excellence in Tertiary Education in a Depressed Economy,” the Guest Lecturer, Mr. B.L.A Fetuga, said for many who graduated in the last 25 years, it was obvious that they achieved excellence against great odds because the system was not in the best position to nurture and mentor them to their present heights.

According to him, “Many of you have been fortunate to find yourselves in strategic positions in the commanding heights of the economy and would be desirous of finding excellent successors. The odds you faced 20 to 25 years ago are even greater in today’s academic enterprise. For these and other reasons, I find it compelling to share with you my thoughts and ideas on the system as it is and also to examine the prospects of the future.”

He said the students and faculty in most of the institutions had never really settled down to ensure the success of the philosophy and purpose for which they were established.

The guest lecturer, who is also an agro-business consultant, further said that the most important single role of a university and therefore the best measure of its excellence was the intellectual growth of its students, their initiation into a life of the mind and their commitment to the use of reason in the resolution of problems. He added that a more direct expectation of a university was the production of skilled manpower to meet national development goals and to produce competent and qualified manpower to fill roles in public and private enterprise.

He recalled with nostalgia some 42 years ago when he was fortunate to be admitted into the University of Ibadan where he met a system where student numbers were small, infrastructure was adequate and efficient, residential accommodation meaningful and laboratory space and lecture theatre adequate. He added that university graduates were much sought after in both public and private employment just as the original aspirations of the founding fathers were being met.

He said the Longe Commission on the review of higher education in Nigeria had, in its report of 1992, recommended that the number of universities in Nigeria should not be expanded beyond 37 at that time as it would only amount to ruinous overheads and wasteful duplication of courses.

He said, however, that, “Sixteen years after, there are 94 universities in the country with the Federal Government, states and private organisations, predominantly churches and other religious organisations, running the various institutions.

“The explosion in the number of institutions and student population has occurred simultaneously with a deteriorating enabling environment. The environment in which the universities find themselves today is totally crippling. The national physical infrastructure and psyche are in tatters. There are problems with power, water, transportation, communication, environmental management and security. Nigeria could also be described as a failed state.”


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