PURSUIT for higher education is pertinent. It is an advance in a certain choice of career for every enthusiastic student. Unfortunately, there are setbacks that pose as barriers in attaining a higher educational level after acquiring secondary education, which seems to be on increase in recent time.
For an individual to practice a particular profession in Nigeria, he or she must pass through 6-3-3-4 Nigeria educational system, which entails that a child begins education experience with six years primary school, three years in junior secondary school, three years in senior secondary and four years in tertiary institution as the case maybe.
It is also a prerequisite to pass through an examination conducted by Joint Admission and Matriculation Board and also a Post Universal Tertiary Matriculation Examination by universities, which has requirements before a secondary school certificate, NECO, GCE O’ level, and NABTEB holder can gain an admission into any higher institution of choice.
Education and training at colleges and universities are considered as higher education. In the course of study, one can obtain a number of qualifications such as Higher Diploma, First Degree Honour, post graduate diploma, master’s degree, doctorate degree and professorship which is regarded as the highest in educational qualifications.
Supporting the relevance of higher education, an educationist once stated that “no knowledge is a waste”.Education brings so many advantages; it is a vital key for every developed country. Education widens human horizon, it creates opportunities in different fields (career), it helps to impact moral, tackle challenges and exposes one’s level of articulation.
It is also through education that awareness of a particular disturbing or important phenomenon is disseminated. Example, during the outbreak of ebola virus, people were enlightened on the cause, symptoms and prevention of the dreaded virus.
An educated man is a free man, that is to say he knows his right and left. For academics, it helps to advance knowledge, ideas, theories, principles and laws in the society”.
One of the reasons or aim for establishment of higher education in Nigeria, as stipulated by the Federal Ministry of Education (2004) section 8 (59) is to contribute to national development through high level manpower training, with the view to enable students to be self-independent,
useful and fit in the society after graduation. Unfortunately, there are stumbling blocks or pot holes encountered during the journey for academic excellence, which need to be addressed by students, parents, government, and school authorities.
Students are affected by challenges of passing entrance examinations and gaining admission, extension of study years due to strike actions, inadequate infrastructures and study materials, finance, limited manpower (lecturers). The worst is the present trend of paying huge sums of money before being admitted in some universities.
There are also issues of high cost of school fees and levies, inadequate basic amenities such as power supply, hostel accommodation, water and good health care, which will help to enhance their academic performance.
They are left with providing most of these fundamental needs from the little pocket money they get from their parents, guardians and sponsors which ought to cover their feeding, buying of textbooks, transportation and other personal needs.
It is an obvious fact also that in recent time, there is high influx of students in quest higher education, but sadly there are limited resources or poor funding of institutions to meet these numbers.
In a survey by the National Universities Commission (NUC), about 30 percent of Nigeria student population has adequate access to classrooms, lecture theatres, laboratories, workshops and libraries.
We can deduce from the above, the poor educational standard in Nigeria. In some universities, over a hundred students are confined in classroom blocks during lectures, while some still receive lectures open areas or under the shades.
There is also urgent need for innovation of study materials to meet up to modern standard or fit-in to the current world level of technology and ICT learning.
Another hindrance that has been eating deep into educational sector is sex for marks and ‘sorting’ by lecturers. There have been several cases of lecturers demanding sex from students and students paying money to their lecturers in other to upgrade their marks.
These happen as result of lazy attitude on the side of students towards their studies and misconduct on the side of lecturers, breaking the school rule and regulation.
The era of ICT literacy has made it that, for one to move from post primary school to tertiary level, he or she must pass through computer based test.
This has become a huge task for some. A JAMB candidate, Amara Uchendu, complained of how difficult it was for her to pass CBT by JAMB. In her words, “My poor background of the use of ICT knowledge has made me not to perform very well in the use of CBT in the last concluded JAMB.
Though I did lessons on how to operate a computer, but I was still scared using computer to write an examination. It has always been an issue for us in rural areas unlike those in urban and sophisticated private schools where they use computer and have enough power supply”.
Sharing an experience, Onyinye Ajaghaku, said her first challenge was not being able to reach the cut off mark of Post University Tertiary Examination for the university she applied for after passing JAMB examination.
According to Onyinye, she had earlier decided to forget about going to higher institution, to go in search of any business if she failed for the second time, but luckily, she passed both JAMB and Post UTME in her next sitting that year.
A graduate of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Onyebuchi Chioma, who was spotted waiting to do her final clearance complained that she has been waiting for hours for her lecturer to sign her clearance form.
She went further to share her experiences during the course of study. “ I have stayed for years in his university.
I can’t speak in general, but personally, I have never heard or faced the issue of sexual harassment or using money to get grade from any lecturer. Apart from financial problems, other challenge I encountered was that most of the time, lecturers are unapproachable. For instance, you have a problem along the line, they hardly attend to you.
Another disturbing aspect is the issue of missing scripts and results. The two are actually a very big problem for some students. Maybe after exams, when results are published, you discover that your result is not among the listed or that your script is missing and like I said earlier, the lecturer becomes difficult to approach.
You might think everything will be ratified but at the end, you still have scores to settle. It took me months for my results to be computed. Some students resolved to leave it in God’s hands because they feel that it is only a miracle that will help them to be cleared”.
She pleaded with the school authority to look into cases of missing scripts and results of students and urged lecturers to understand that there are students who actually came to learn and be a little patient with them.
In the view of Ogochukwu Utokanadu, a graduate of Anambra State University, “some students do forget the reason why they are in school. Some students will not read their books, rather they travel from east to west, south to north or from one pillar to post, pressing phones, doing make-ups and playing ‘Naijabet’.
At the end of the day, when they fail, they will come to the lecturers to give them money for grades, and these lecturers, because of the economy situation in the country, will start extorting money from students”.
A master’s degree student, who prefers anonymity, complained bitterly about staying longer in school than expected due to industrial actions, non-availability of modern study materials and resources,
shortage of manpower (lecturers) leading to much workload to supervise, uncertainty of lecture time(as some lecturers fix lectures outside time tables, thereby affecting other school engagements). She also expressed having mixed feelings to drop her studies due to economic hardship facing the country.
Another respondent, Chidiebere Ejikeme, a Phd student also said that acquiring higher education is for the focused and determined due to its tedious and task demanding nature. In his words, “to obtain higher education is not a child’s play.
It comes with a lot of responsibilities, especially at Phd level. For many scholars, it is trying to cross the hurdle of doing or finishing their masters’ degrees, which is one of the basic requirements for you to do your Phd.
Surely; you are required to do a thesis that stands the test of time and contributes to scholarship, because it is more of what you will encounter in Phd studies.
It is purely research based, unique and original. It is not where you do plagiarism. To achieve that, you must be financially buoyant, because it comes with a lot of expenses. Distance from work and school can also be a very big issue for some people, because in most cases or some cases, you don’t get funding.
You might need to work to make both ends meet. There is also access of material data. Primary data are very important to studies to enable one to have a true representation of what he or she is studying.
Need for direct access of data from companies or people can be very difficult. Morse so, due to family engagements, you are bound to have divided attention between your family and studies.
One must take full attention of the other at any time. Both may not really get your full attention and for the newly married couples, it can be a very serious issue. All these challenges can discourage one to drop out or not go further in attaining desired level of education”.
Expressing zeal in furthering his studies (education), Mr. John Ifeanyi, a post graduate student of Nassarawa State University, Keffi, said that furthering his education was born out of his desire to broaden his knowledge in his chosen discipline, to expose him more on information regarding his career, to carry out a well detailed research that can positively affect the economic growth of the nation.
Mr. John also lamented that higher education is meant for those born with silver spoon and that apart from tuition fees, other fees like registration fee, departmental dues, examination fees, textbooks, transportation fares, accommodation and feeding expenses are also involved.
A lecturer in Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Chijioke Onwuziligbo frowned at lackadaisical behaviours of some students.
She further said that irrespective of distractions, there are serious students who set targets and are focused on their studies and there are also students who came into the varsity with the mindset of having excellent results but are carried away by various religious dogma, social life, business, cult activities and lots more.
Chijioke also said that, some of the aforementioned students don’t have desires to further their studies, but their parents, guardians or care taker bought their way into the university or force them to study.
“Academically, they go to school, attend lectures, and do assignments when it is convenient for them, without doing any other meaningful thing in school. They also care less about what they will graduate with, unperturbed about life goals”.
In her word of encouragement to hardworking students, she said thus, “honestly it can be very discouraging to be principled, especially in our society today, where it looks like the unprincipled are progressing and you that is principled is being victimized and stagnated.
The same applies to some serious students. At times, they ask, what is the use of being serious in their studies and true to their goals when other students that are misbehaving seem to get away with it?
Don’t change, be true to whom you are, set your goals, get your priorities and be focused. Be sure that it is backed up with workable objectives, so that you don’t have an aim that is unrealistic and not achievable.
Also, don’t come out of the university with just books, learn a skills or a vocation because just like Igbo translation of the word university is ‘mahadum’, you are expected to be delivered as a holistic package at the end of your studies, not just with books, not just with a vocation, not just with character reformation, but with all three”.
A graduate and business man, Victor Chiemelie said that the quest for education is dwindling as a result of high cost of education, strike, inadequate educational facilities, increased rate of unemployment thereby making people to lose interest because majority of graduates have nothing to show for it and most graduates are not able to practice what they were taught.
In an interview with National light, the Head, Department of Mass Communication, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Uche Ebeze, said that irrespective of the fact that news of sex for marks and ‘sorting’ of lecturers have been the order of the day in some universities, that Nnamdi Azikiwe University as an institution is highly disciplined.
”This is not to say there haven’t been accusations in a while but the main point is if it happened and the facts”. He stated also that the school authority in the past and the present leadership of Prof. Charles Okechukwu Esimone has continued to hammer and warn lecturers not to involve in sex for marks,
sexual harassment and extortion of money from students, and that it should never be heard or thought of as the varsity will not take it lightly on anybody that go against the school’s policies.
Dr. Ebeze also noted that students are advised to feel free to tell the school authority about things that will improve their performance or affect their studies, without being scared of victimization.
On issue of extortion of money and fake admission, he said, “universities officially don’t give fake admissions and should not be blamed.
It is the eagerness and over anxiousness to gain admission that force some students into engaging in fake admissions. Students who are deceived are those who didn’t pass the exam.
Instead of studying hard to pass their exams, they are tricked into paying huge amounts of money to people to give them admission. Definitely, when the university finds out, they will be expelled. My son, last year, wasn’t given admission because he didn’t reach the required cut off mark. That is to show that things are done are on merit”.
Dr. Ebeze commended the efforts made by government in improving the standard of education in Nigeria(both at federal and state level) and stressed on the need for more development in all areas.
He went further to urge students to genuinely seek for admission in the right process to avoid being penalized, bend down and focus on their studies judiciously.
He advised those who are not opportune to further their education, to learn a trade or acquire skills like mechanical works, furniture making, tailoring, etc to earn and save money that will sustain them whenever they are ready to go back to school, rather than selling their bodies to pay schools fees, stealing and other ugly practices.
“To be frank, everybody must not be a graduate. Some who are brilliant don’t have the money to go to the university, people who have the money are not the brilliant ones or want to further their studies” he said.
Also a single mother of three undergraduates, Mrs. Kate Onwurah called on government, school and relevant authorities to look into reducing tuition fees and also create scholarship programmes for students as a way of encouraging the brilliant and serious ones among them.
Speaking on revitalization of educational sector, Mrs. Chimaoge Okoye said that importance of education cut across every aspect of human and national development and there is no frivolity in any amount of resources invested on development of human resource.
“There is need for government to allocate more funds to education, try as much as possible to curb incidents of strikes, subsidise some fees, provide modern educational facilities and study materials, employ more lecturers for effective and efficient lecturing and supervision.
More importantly, government and school authorities should include programmes that will make it possible for students to acquire skills or entrepreneurial development programmes, so that after the person graduates and not able to find a job, will be able to use skills he or she acquired in school to earn a living,” She advised.