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Anxiety as UNIZIK panel suspends, dismisses three lectures, 15 others

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• UNIZIK Awka
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Tension has gripped the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra state, as a panel recommended the dismissal, suspension, and expulsion of more than 14 individuals, including both staff and students, for various offences.

The implicated individuals comprise a Priest and three lecturers, with additional students facing expulsion for offences like aiding and abetting.

This information was disclosed in an official release signed by Dr Emmanuel Ojukwu, the special adviser to the Vice Chancellor for Public Relations and Special Duties, and provided to journalists in Awka on Sunday, September 24.

Recall that the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Charles Esimone, has been grappling with a major challenge related to sexual harassment, extortion, and various transgressions within the University.

Three lecturers were accused of extorting funds from students who successfully completed their courses, and employing fellow students to carry out these malevolent acts.

“The Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka has taken disciplinary actions against the following staff and students for various offences.

“Principal Executive Officer 11, abandoned his duty post for a considerable length of time. As a result, he was indicted for gross misconduct and suspended from duty for six months to serve as a deterrent to other officers

“Senior Executive Officer was indicted for fraudulent financial transaction concerning the University. She was suspended for six months on half salary” the Varsity said

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The Reverend priest and another were both accused of aiding and abetting examination misconduct after collecting gratification from students.

One of the lecturers was indicted for clearing and graduating a student, who had 12 outstanding courses.

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The panel recommended that he should be dismissed from the services of the University, while the result should be withdrawn and further credentials such as Certificates and Transcripts should not be issued.

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Education

Travelogue: A life in the Day of Mbah’s Enugu State

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By Emma Agu

In this piece, veteran journalist Emma Agu captures Nigeria’s emerging ‘Silicon Valley’, the Promise of a Great Future and the Passion that Grips the People of Enugu State.

Peter Mbah is a man of few words and gentle steps. While on a visit to the state as a member of a delegation, I asked him why he spoke very few words, to which he replied: “To work and deliver on our mandate requires a lot of energy; so, I conserve the energy for action by speaking very few words”.

Less than twenty four hours later, we got proof of the Governor’s claim. We were particularly keen on visiting the Owo campus of the Enugu Smart School System. Perhaps I should waste no time in stating that, going through some of Mbah’s signature projects was reassuring that, beyond the sound and din of publicists, the famed Enugu Smart School System for which the Mbah Administration has received effusive commendation, was more monumental than has ever been acknowledged.

Already, work has started at 160, out of the total 260 wards of the state. If this is not phenomenal, nothing else could be. And if our visit to the Owo School which is already fully operational was an eye-opener, our tour of the Smart School under construction at Amaechi Idodo was sobering and engaging.

• The Enugu Smart School structure

From the workers at the project site to the teachers at the adjoining Uzam Community School, only words of commendation dropped from their lips.

Three workers at the site, Ani Christian, Emmanuel Nnamani and Ani Emmanuel Ebube Chukwu, all masons, from Amaechi Idodo, were busy moulding blocks when we arrived. They all had nothing but praise for the Governor. So also, was the Headmistress of Uzam Community School 1, Amaechi Idodo, Mrs. Regina Ngozi Nnaji.

Asked if she was not worried that she could lose her job under the new school system, she replied: “We are very happy. In fact, we are in a state of jubilation; the governor is trying. We have no fears about any loss of jobs because we expect that we will be carried along as the schools are being upgraded. More importantly, I am happy to witness this remarkable transformation in my life time”. It was a touching moment for us. Such an emotional connection resonated with each place we visited.

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But why did the Government not utilize the existing school structure? Josh Ejeh, SA Research & Documentation under the media unit, explained that the old structures would not fit into the configuration required to push the digital dream. This emerged clearly when we got to the Smart School at Owo, a paradigm shift from the conventional education system.

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Among the classes visited by the team was primary five where a lesson in mechatronics was going on. Mecha-what, in a primary school? Yes, mechatronics, not civics, history or geography or just physics. Surprised, we asked who among the pupils could give us the definition of mechatronics. Bigger surprise as several hands went up at the same time. The lot fell on nine-year old Miracle Okafor.

“Mechatronics”, Miracle started, “is the combination of mechanics, electronics and computer to create a technology of artificial intelligence”. Whether she was right or wrong did not matter as much as her promptness, precision and confidence.

For her part, Ani Chinyere Lynda, the class teacher taking Miracle’s class in mechatronics, was upbeat. A graduate of computer science from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, Ani who is teaching the subject for the first time, has this to say of the development in the education sector of the state: “It is a very nice innovation. We thank our Governor for bringing this type of innovation for us. It is a very good one because I know that in the future our children will be bright, they will not lack anything; they will be productive”.

Such optimism runs through the staff and pupils of the school. You could see it in the passion, the enthusiasm and, to borrow a popular Nigerian cliche, the body language of the workers. Mr. Timothy Okite who had taught in the state school system prior to joining the Smart School puts the paradigm shift in comparative perspective. According to him, there are many differences between the Smart School system and the previous system. His words:

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“When you come to the environment, this place is more serene; very calm for them. When you come to the technology aspect; in that place (the conventional system), the students don’t know what a computer is, they don’t know what ICT is. But here you can see the digital board. At that place, it is charcoal board that they use, not even the white board. But once you come into this place, everything about you, whether as a teacher and as a student, changes. The mentality changes, lifestyle changes: your mode of dressing, mode of speech”. He was right. We saw it, we felt it, and, despite the pressure of time, we were literally reluctant to leave the school.

What future does the Smart School System hold for Enugu State, for Nigeria, and for the world? Before we go to the answer given by Governor Peter Mbah, again, let us hear the teacher: “You are looking for great inventors, great scientists, great men and women that will take the state and Nigeria to greater heights. These children will do wonders”. Splendid. But wait a minute.

If we thought that we had seen it all, we were dead wrong. Not until you have seen or heard from Dr. Chinyere Onyeisi, the Director of Experiential Learning in the Enugu State School System.

The arrival of Dr. Onyeisi changed the tempo of our engagement. That could be seen from the face of the Headmistress of the school, Mrs. Juliet Okey Eze who has the distinction of being the pioneer head of the first Smart School in Enugu State. Only five months on the job, both Mrs. Eze and Josh Ejeh, who was our guide on the roadshow, wasted no time in ceding direction and control to Dr. Onyeisi.

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As Onyisi shepherded us into the well-equipped science lab, we were instantly reminded of the futuristic nature of the project with the inscription: “Tomorrow is here”. That summarises the smart school arrangement, the novel educational ecosystem through which Governor Mbah aspires to create an innovative corps of human capital, with the requisite skills and mentality to mainstream Enugu State into the global tech architecture.

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With the zeal of an evangelist, Onyeisi took us through the various sections of the Tomorrow is Here Innovation Studio Makerspace, which is characterised into three hubs: the Imagination Hub, the Digital Creativity Hub and Mechatronics Hub. She noted that the components of the imagination hub are Arts & Multimedia, 3D printing & Extended Reality, while the Digital Creativity Hub involves coding, robotics and artificial intelligence and Mechatronics Hub comprises mechanical and electronics. We could not but applaud the vision, tenacity and focus of Peter Mbah, whose revolutionary educational programme should constitute a peer review template.

Before you ask, to guard against any disruption of academic work, consistent with the concept of the project, the Owo Smart School is powered by solar, enjoys unlimited power supply as well as unlimited internet access.

Dr. Onyeisi also showed us the Smart Agric Farm where she said the students started their experiential learning and the ICT lab where budding tech gurus like Miracle Okafor hone their skills. According to Onyeisi, beyond teaching the children to follow the trends in Technology, the system recognises the need for them to understand basic electronics, including repairs. As she put it: “Every day we get ourselves hooked up with electronic devices like our phones and other gadgets. We need somebody to understand the basic functionality and how to fix them, so we are encouraging our children to learn how to do them”.

Peter Mbah’s plan to conquer the world through ICT may appear ambitious. But based on the evidence at the Smart Green School at Owo, then it will not take long to realise his vision which he captures thus: “We want the young people to embrace the emerging future of robotics, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and disruptive innovation through skills in information and technology”.

In Peter Mbah’s Enugu, the future is already here!

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Education

GTC: Gov Mbah begins construction of 8 Science, Technical, and Vocational Schools across Enugu State

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The Governor of Enugu State, Dr. Peter Mbah, has commenced the construction of eight Science, Technical, and Vocational (STV) Schools in the state, starting with the Government Technical College, GTC, Enugu.

This was made known by the Commissioner for Education, Prof. Ndubueze Mbah, during the inspection of work at the GTC, Enugu, on Wednesday, adding that there would be three models of the STV Schools focusing on Science and Technology; Building and Architecture; and Industrial Agriculture.

He regretted that the GTC, Enugu, had lost its glory, reiterating the determination of the Mbah Administration to refocus the young ones of the state on science, technical, and vocational education underlined by practical learning to help them fit into the 21st Century industry.

“As you could see, this historic institution established in 1948 has lost its former glory. The buildings all around us are in different stages of dilapidation.

“But we are happy to share with Ndi Enugu the good news that the Enugu State Government has already embarked on a very audacious education reform project to establish eight brand new Science, Technical, and Vocational Schools servicing SS1 to SS3 in the STVSMB category of schools, starting with GTC.

“The governor believes that we are now in a new age of industry and technology. So, we want to bring back the lost glory of GTC, but making sure that it reflects the new opportunities and realities of industrialisation, of economic development, and of youth empowerment

“We will be establishing one new STV School in each of the eight federal constituencies in Enugu State over the next two years. The very first is being sited at this historic location, GTC, Enugu.

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“There will be three models of the Science Technical and Vocational schools. The first model is focusing on science and technology. These are schools that are going to train our young people, who have finished from basic schools and the Enugu Smart Green Schools as well as graduates, who have no job. We are going to train them in the areas of emerging technology, preparing them to be ready for industry, the areas of robotics, mechatronics, coding, programming, ICT, and others with the objective of getting these young people ready for industry.

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“The other model is the School of Building and Architecture. These are vocational schools where our children will learn all components of building – from bricklaying to electricals, plumbing, roofing, among others. We will manufacture our materials in these schools and we will build.

“The third model is the Science Technical and Vocational School of Industrial Agriculture,” he said.

Prof Mbah also announced the government’s plan to additionally build a smart green school at the GTC, Enugu, premises to ensure easy pathway to science, technical and vocational education in this same environment for the students.

He said the initiative reflected the administration’s 33 per cent allocation to the education sector in the Enugu State 2024 budget, adding that the government equally planned to build smart secondary schools across the state.

“We have model senior secondary schools that are also smart schools that are forthcoming. And there is also historic milestone investment in our tertiary institutions. So, this is once again a very important milestone in the achievement of the educational reform vision of Governor Mbah for Enugu State,” he concluded.

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Meanwhile, the Principal of GTC, Enugu, Mr. Christopher Isife, described the STV School project at GTC as a game changer for the long forgotten and dilapidated institution.

“It has never been better in the past years of our existence as a college, but today, the talk and do governor has come to wipe away our tears. So, the GTC community, students, and teachers are very, very happy and we are grateful to him,” he said.

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Nigerian Open University, NOUN scraps Law Programme, over 1000 students’ career in danger

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Nigerian Open University, NOUN
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The National Open University (NOUN) Law students have called out for help over the scrapping of the law programme by the University management, leaving students who are nearing completion of their projects in dilemma.

It was gathered that the on 25th of January, 2023, the University’s Senate ratified the scrapping of the law degree programme of the University, at the end of the 2023 second semester .

Concerned by the development, students under the aegis of “concerned law students” wrote the House of Representatives seeking intervention.

In the letter dated on 27th of October, 2023, the House of Representatives acknowledged the call for intervention while promising to convene a meeting between student representatives and the management of the Open University.

Other correspondences received show that between November 2023 and January, 2024, the National Assembly held a meeting between the students and the university management however, this has not led to a meaningful development.

It was learnt that over 1500 final year students of the university are affected by the decision to make the law department “cease to exist”.

These students are at the risk of not graduating despite spending millions to study the law degree in the institution.

It was gathered that it cost about N3 million for a law student to graduate up to 500 level in the institution.

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Students of the institution had earlier lamented their inability to be issued graduation certificates and failure of the university to convoke them, putting them in a dilemma of lacking evidence to show for their academic sojourn in the institution.

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Although the University denied, NOUN, which operates a distance-learning and study Centre model, has been at the fore of controversies around issues of accreditation and management.

Students lament that the institution does not usually communicate developments to it and fails to attend to their queries on these developments that affect their academic wellbeing.

A student who does not want to be named noted that the decision on the law students for instance was first seen on social media with no official communication to them.

“We were not notified, we only saw a statement on social media suggesting that the law programme would be stopped after we spent how many years on it and no one has offered any form of apology or genuine concern”.

It was also gathered that the university intends not to take in new law students in order to seek fresh accreditation for the law programme; however the legal dreams of the current 500-level law students and their investments for five years is threatened by the decision on the institution’s law programme.

The Public Relations Officer of NOUN, Ibrahim Sheme, refused to comment on the development when contacted, asking the reporter to instead visit him in the office. (SaharaReporters)

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