Friday March 29 2013

Create conducive learning environment

By Ojijo O.M.P

Blame the student, the lecturer or the government. This has over time become the mantra in addressing university education and the products therefrom, the graduates. But maybe there is another party to blame, a party equally, if not more bearing of the blame.

We could blame the student for not being proactive, adventurous and inventive.
Maybe the students are not inventing, creating, patenting, and or producing new knowledge, but we know today that all over Africa, university students are inventing electric cars and producing low cost sanitary pads in Makerere university ; students are producing new concoctions for bilharzia treatment made of local herbs in Jomo Kenyatta university in Kenya ; urine powered generators in Nigeria; transistor radios in Sierra Leone, to mention but a few.

And some of their lecturers, help, support and encourage them. But what about the university providing facilities for them?

We could blame the lecturers for the half baked students who come out of universities and cannot obtain employment. But we have seen lecturers who teach entrepreneurship in Nairobi University Kenya, and are entrepreneurs, hence inspiring their students; we have seen lecturers in engineering in Ghanaian universities, teaching technology, and working with students to produce transistors; we have seen lecturers working with students in Makerere university, Kampala, to produce fortified and high nutritious foods.

The question of course is, why are these not replicated as model practices? Why are universities not providing facilities, or partnering with institutions capable of providing facilities?

We could blame the government; after all, it is the government. We could blame it for poor academic curriculum, which does not provide for mandatory lessons on communications skills, letter writing, research, and financial literacy.

We could blame the government for not making it law that anyone who lectures in the university must have a diploma in pedagogy, and not just a masters or doctorate in philosophy; we could blame it for not enforcing a policy for minimum standards in university infrastructure, including computer labs, classroom sizes, etc; indeed, we could blame it for this, and blame it for that.

But how about the university councils and boards of trustees, under whose watchful eye, these scams of education take place?

There is a scam perpetrated by university councils, for allowing a classroom of over 200 students in a degree class. How do students get to interact with lecturers and build their skills? There is a scam committed by the university boards of trustees for classes with desks like high schools.

Where is the comfort in learning? Ambience? There is a scam perpetuated by the university managements in administering ICT courses where students do not have laptops.

How does one learn programming basics from notes and dictation? There is a scam of students sleeping in high school dormitories transformed into university halls of residence, of students learning from underground parking spaces, dining halls and under tree shades (yes, under trees).

There is a scam of university students being taught by lecturers with no training in pedagogy, with endless dictation and note taking, and no meaningful analytical skills.

Yes, there is a scam, and the worst victim is the parent; the guardian who wants the best education for his child, but cannot, and will not get it, because the best universities are still worse in infrastructure. They do not have a choice. Are there any universities with facilities which befit a university environment?
Ojijo O.M.P,
[email protected]