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August 20, 2018

‘I am sincere in my job’ – Mr Christian Osondu

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Face to face column with Patience Ejimofor.A damaged “pump” spewing and spattering precious water on the ground is the first sign that all is not well at the institution. The water has been running and wasting, not for hours but days, even weeks, just as the lives of many young men and women who ought to be in their classes, libraries and laboratories studying but are left to wander and roam the streets.

Mr Christian Osondu2Federal Polytechnic Nekede as all other institutions in the country has been on strike for many months and students are left idling about, as education goes to the dogs in Nigeria.

Mr Christian Osondu, a lecturer in the Department of Accountancy, Business and Management Technology, was educated by the same polytechnic where he now teaches. It hurts him to see what’s happening to education nationwide.

A chartered accountant and former banker, it was his love for education that caused him to leave the financial sector for the classroom. Unfortunately, the dynamic lecturer seems to have been on strike more than he has taught, especially in the last few years.

Osondu comes across as a born teacher. But he would have no one to teach until the current strike is over and both students and lecturers are officially back to the classroom, to continue from where they stopped, until the next strike.

The Ngwa-born tutor is one of the lecturers who goes to school occasionally to read, warm their offices and attend to a few students who dire to come in with questions.

Osondu, who has authored several accounting books, is investing most of his free time on his four young children and their school, while also pursuing other personal concerns.

But the teacher is still eager to teach and remembers how he joggled full time clerical work at the same polytechnic, as a young man, with evening classes to make sure he got a degree. Above all, the now doctoral student at the Ebonyi State University set a record with a distinction which has been unbeaten at the school.

“I studied accountancy here and graduated in 1993 with distinction. In terms of academic work, students were much more serious than they are today. Students worked hard and were a challenge to lecturers who needed to work hard before coming to class. You had group readings that were equivalent to or even more than what the lecturers could offer,” he recalled.

“You prepared yourself, because you knew you’re a scholar. You bend down, you work hard, you get merit and it would be given to you. That was the case during our time. You worked hard to maintain your status in a particular class. At the end of the day, you’d be able to defend whatever certificate that was awarded to you.”

But things have changed and for the worse. Osondu painfully draws the line between then and now. Students now come into the institutions to get a degree and not necessarily to learn.

“Today, the situation had reasonably changed. Students come in with the intention of getting certificates. They don’t work hard again; they don’t even know that they should work hard. In some cases, people will be calling you not to fail students, ‘do not fail him!’  I remember one of our colleagues enlisted to serve in a polytechnic in Kano. At the end of the semester, he graded the students and they specially invited him and told him and I quote, ‘my friend, we don’t fail our students here.’  That’s the case with us,” he said sadly.

“Students go in with pride, ‘I want to tell this people that I’m a student now. I want to graduate after four years no matter the circumstance.’ And they come out so but that does not rule out the possibility of seeing some really good materials who also work hard. But they’re in the minority now. When you feel that everybody will pass, you tend to be slower and more relaxed and it’s not a good thing for us.”

The 52 year-old also paints a picture of what the future would look like if the education system continues to endorse mediocrity and graduate dunces.

“We must realize that whatever thing you produce today will rule the economy tomorrow. They will manage the financial sector- the banks, real estate, agric, manufacturing and even the non governmental and private sector. They go there to become dangerous managers who have little or no knowledge and are not prepared to learn again. It doesn’t make one feel happy at all. As a lecturer, you want to produce people who are filled with knowledge and can challenge you anytime. During our time, we will ask lecturers questions that will make them prepare well before coming to class.”

Whereas many students are not willing to learn, several lecturers are also not ready to teach. Some of us have used “handouts” to replace lectures and show up during exams to face confused and ignorant students, willing to pass anyhow.

“About six years ago everything about handouts was banned in this school. You don’t sell handouts again because handouts are not durable and they don’t also convey appropriate sense – We deal with text books and there’s a cadre that are supposed to write text book … When am teaching my students and they pay for my text books, assuming I have one. Such text books should be made available to the students on time so that they will begin to read,” he explained.

“It also entails that when I’m moving out to teach my students I should be able to give them quality lectures … not going out and doing my personal business and towards the end of the semester, I now appear for one or two weeks and tell them, ‘buy the books, read this chapter, do this and the other and wait for your exam’. If I do that, I have not delivered. Yes, I am sincere and honest in my job and that calls for reverse confirmation, as well.”

Citing examples with his poorly ventilated and ill-equipped office, Osondu blames Government for the state of education in the country.

“Education in this country is not well managed from the top. What UNESCO recommends is 25 per cent of budget going to education. Even if the Federal Government takes it to 15 per cent and then compels the states to do the same, then something will happen in education,” Osondu explained.

He recalled that a former politician came under fire in 1979 for sending ($50, 000) N7.5 million to a family member supposedly studying overseas. But that’s the norm nowadays and no one is even raising an eye brow.  Most politicians and public officers have their children in schools overseas, including Ghana, leaving the country’s education to rot.

Lecturers are not taken care of, schools are not equipped, facilities are over-stretched and teaching becomes a burden, resulting in frequent strikes.

“ Today as I’m talking to you , in the last eight months, I have not remained in school officially for two months, which means the whole institutions in the country have remained on strike for six months in an eight months session. The universities went on  strike since July, its five months now. And you want the same lecturer who has not been paid his salaries for five months to come back a happy man, is that possible?”

That’s a question for Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his Education Minister.


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