By: Akinpelu Yusuf
[Investigation]–It is more than seven months since Tade (not real name) wrote his final examination as a student of the University of Ibadan Distance Learning Centre. Having spent the stipulated five years that is required of him to clinch a Bachelor’s Degree in the Department of Economics, his graduation is still on hold because the Centre has continuously delayed the release of students’ result, allocation of supervisors to final year students among other plights students of Economics in the Centre have continued to battle.
The account available on the Centre’s webpage (dlc.ui.edu.ng) explains the Distance learning Centre’s programme of studies to be same as that offered for full-time students of the University of Ibadan. The only difference, however, is that “it is designed primarily to suit those working class, whose schedules, distance, financial condition and other situations may not permit them to undergo fulltime studies at the university.
“These students read their study-pack at their convenience, communicate with their lecturers from time to time, and only come into residence six weeks in a year for revision and examination.”
This seemed to be the vision as far back as 1972 when the idea of the Centre was conceived by the Department of Adult Education of the University before being eventually proposed to the university’s Senate in 1976. Three decades after it eventually came to life as External Degrees and later External Studies Programme of the Department of Adult Education, before it was renamed to be Distance Learning Centre in 2002, the vision of the Centre seems to have gone blurry.
As it stands, Alli, like his peers in the Department of Economics, can neither call himself a graduate nor an undergraduate; he neither can say he is a first class, second class or even third class product.
May 1, this year, Tade recalled, “other departments always see their results as and when due but our first semester result which is over 7 months old has not been released [come to talk of] second semester examination.” And when the results are eventually released, he said, it is always with thorough measure.
“And when it (the result) will be released, it goes through several scrutinizing processes. The Department dictates to the management of DLC which affects the students because it leads to conflict of interest. Though, this changed when the new Deputy Director of Academic is from DLC.”
The department, I was told by Tomi, Tade’s level mate, complained that the students are much and combined with full time, they will need time to grade.
To corroborate this claim, Olayinka (not real name), a Direct Entry student in the same department, currently in 300 level and on a 6.63 CGPA revealed to me that he is not sure how long he can maintain his current academic standing. This is because his 6.63 CGPA is for 200 Level academic year which does not include his scores in Economics courses, where he majors. And now that he is in the first semester of his third year, he still does not know his overall CGPA.
“I have nothing to hide from you. I don’t know how long I can maintain this CGPA. No Economics, no GES 107” Asked why he never asked questions, he retorted that it was pointless as meetings upon meetings have been called.
“Economics Department as a whole always like being at the centre of attention with their own policies and rules. It is affecting the regular students too – only that they are on the better side of it.”
At this point, I reasoned, Olayinka is lucky to be on a strong first class. There could be other students whose CGPA could be 2.99 with some courses carried over. Whether or not they passed, whether or not they are to reregister a course, they would completely be unaware.
Eventually, when Olayinka would see his result, the table turned against. His 6.63 GPA dropped to 4.77 CGPA. Only weeks to first semester examination, Olayinka’s heart us welled with sorrow. Had he seen his result long ago, he probably would have none what he must do to improve his performance.
“My CGPA dropped off from 6.6 to 4.7 after Eco result yesterday. They released our result a month to exam, planning to leave us depressed. It was tough but AlhamdulilLah (Thank God). I guess I am not as smart as I thought,” Olayinka said bitterly.
If the delay in result was all they had to face, maybe their fate could have been a little less agonizing. But that is far from the case. They also do not have scores for continuous assessment. All they use as assessment is examination of 100 marks.
This discovery is peculiar to just economics courses. This is in accordance with the account given to by Tomi Aderibigbe, the Class governor, who double served as the President of the Department, for the yet-to-graduate last session’s finalists.
“For economics courses, continuous assessment isn’t available; so, the exam is divided into objectives (sometimes German question) and theory. We are told the first segment is the CA but we receive a general score which doesn’t make it sound that way. So the added advantage CA brings is always gotten from borrowed courses.”
Also, Demola (not real name), another student in the same department and level, buttressed this, clearing the air on whether there ever have been promises to change the marking format to 70/30 as obtained in other departments. He revealed the motive behind the decision of the Department to maintain the said format.
“Except a different measure is perhaps introduced to how the C.A was being done other than it is now. The Department believes the CA being done by students is a bit out of it as they believe they are being aided out there in getting it done. Rightly so, but not all students. Hence, they won’t change. To them it’s a matter of integrity and quality of what they produce.”
Like every other plight of the students in this report, the students have not relented to fate and watch their situation become pawns on the chessboard of ineffective policies and mismanagement of the Centre. Many meetings have been convened, many suggestions made and as well, pleas have almost been exhausted from its storage. Yet, the changes in sight are not clear-cut.
“Well, what move could we have possibly taken if not plea with the management as usual? We’ve held series of town hall meetings and there has never been a serious reason as to why the exams are only graded over 100 while other departments use the 70/30% mark,” an almost dejected Demola affirmed.
“It’s been so and would likely continue to be. We suggested that we [could] come write it even at the Centre’s CBT facility ground but nothing has been done till date,” he buttressed.
The Yoruba people have this habit of saying “amukun eru e wo. Woni oke len wo eewo sale” (the unbalance load on the head of a bowlegged folk is not because of the head but the leg). This problem is tied with the over admission of students, for reasons known to the University authority alone, into the Centre.
Figures of the full time students from 100 to 400 levels – for whom the department (now Faculty) was specifically set up – hovers around 269. According to the department’s last session result list, released Monday, March 19, 2018, the total students from 200-400 level (then 100-300 level) sits at 201: 68 in 200 level, 67 in 300 level and 66 in their final year, of which 3 have been advised to voluntarily withdraw. Making the figure reduce to 198.
In 100 level though, the population of students stands at 71. In all, from 100 – 400 levels, the number strength of the students in the Faculty of Economics is 269 students.
However, in the Distance Learning Centre, the case is on the far end of the antipode. The 500 level students of the Faculty alone overwhelms the entire fulltime students!
“We [final year students] should be over 300 from ID card statistics – minus Lagos Centre. We checked the list of students to receive ID cards for Ibadan centre and we saw 300 names. The whole Economics should run into thousands,” Tomi Aderibigbe pointed out.
Though no authoritative figure can be quoted but a glimpse at the population of the students in the entire Centre gives an hint into how overpopulated the Departments could likely be.
In an interview granted Tribune Newspaper by Professor Oyesoji Aremu, the Director of the Centre, he said 11,000 students are currently in the Centre. Not only that; the Centre plans to triple the current figure within three years.
“We want to make sure that we work more to attract more Learners. I think there was a point in time that DLC in Ibadan had more than 17,000 learners; but right now we have about 11,000. So, we think that in the next three years, we should be able to have about 35,000 learners on the programmes,” he said.
This disproportionate admission of students into the Centre has not ensured its smooth running, yet the Centre’s management calls for more enrolment. Rather than increase the learning facilities in the Centre, increment in the number of students admitted into the Centre is the goal of the current examination. Isn’t that a case of minoring in major and majoring in minor?
In turn, the rate of admission into the Department has reduced over the years across levels. It is not clear as to whether it was a deliberate attempt from the Centre to checkmate the ineffective management of the admitted students. But what is clear is the level of withdrawal from the programme is on the high too. In affirming this, Tade smelled this as a bad omen for not only the Centre but also the University:
“UI DLC image is a bad omen to UI because during our set and the set before us, the students drastically reduced which is as a result of bad management. [For instance], in our set, we were more than 1000. Now we are not up to 400 – though some crossed to other departments. The set after us [former 400 level] were not up to 500 from the start; now, they are about 300. 300 level students are not up to 200. 200 level are not up to 200. While 100 level are exactly 80 students. Some of these students will still drop.”
To fully capture the extent to which this rot is, a mail titled, “Inquiry on admission of students”, sent to the Centre’s official mail on June 17, was neither acknowledged nor replied. The mail requested the “data about the rate of admission of students for the Distance Learning Programme with emphasis on the numeracy of intakes over the last decade.” It further added that the request was to “further the course of an investigative story regarding admission in the Centre” being carried out by the sender. This is because efforts to “sieve the data from the internet has proved abortive as no [known] source seems to provide it.”
As one would expect, the teaming population also tickles difficulty in allocation of supervisors to students of the Department. And when they are allocated a supervisor, supervisors find it hard to keep up with the large number of students allotted to them. Often time, excluding the regular students, each supervisor has about 15 students to supervise.
Tomi Aderibigbe recounted that it is “probably because there is no deadline. If there is, both sides would want to meet up. And number too: A lecturer is supervising at least 15 students which is on the high side.” Challenged on how he knew this, “I’m the [Class] Governor and the immediate past President of the Department. Information like this comes easy,” was his quick response.
In the disclosure of Demola, another student of the same level, the reason for the late allocation of supervisor was clearer. “As per time you can see how it’s been related to the project issue. Whilst other departments allocate supervisors in year 4, 1st semester, ours came in after our 500 level [final] examination had been completed – second semester. I think the allocation was done late Feb/March, and now many are yet to be attended to.”
He went further to share the blame between the parties involved, the management and the students. “I’d say we all got our fair share of the blame in this. Perhaps 65% on the students and 35%, the management and the department in way they have handled it.”
In a Press Release released on the University official website, dated June 8 and signed on behalf of the management by Dayo Olajide, the Centre’s Communication Officer, the Centre affirmed the delay.
The Release which is a resolution of the UIDLC Board of Examiners maintained “that all scores must be submitted on or before Friday, June 8, 2018.” However, the release read on, “the project writing deadline does not apply to Economics final year Learners. However, Learners in this category are advised to expedite necessary action to complete their project writing as the window is not elastic.”
When Tomi was asked if he has a supervisor, his response was affirmative. “Yes I do – Dr Olakojo. We have met several times. It has been good. People are in chapter 3, 4 and 2. We got the supervisor in February. He is meticulous but I feel a deadline or so will hasten things.”
Meanwhile, February was after they had done their final examination. “Last exam was December.” How come? It was asked to trigger further explanations. “Well, we had to even write letters, organize meetings before it happened. We heard that the department had too many students to supervise and the previous two sets are not through. So we had to queue till the load was reduced,” Tomi explained.
Forced to ask Demola if there ever is anything he nurses as pain regarding the entire plight they all have been plunged into, he replied, saying,
“Well to be sincere, I’d make reference to the time factor – there is always an issue concerning that. We often are always in the last stream of those doing exams and our results always last to be released.”
Demola then summed his level’s plight into two areas: “The uniform thing about this is that we all are allocated supervisor after our final exams. Anything afterwards depends on you and your supervisor as well his programme. This would decide how you’d be attended to. I’ve got no issues with my supervisor. I really do not really blame them for any delay because, often, I’ve been opportune to see the bulk of work before these people. I must confess it isn’t really easy – not to speak less of the lackadaisical attitude of some students likewise. On this ground I’d be neutral on my stance.”
He moved on, mentioning that, “Another is centred on 100% exam grading. This really isn’t fair. For I believe many in my set would have done better had we been given CA’s to complement our exam effort.
“These two are issues that I believe are top on list of students. Of course, the angle with which I see it could be different for others,” Demola completed.
Demola did not stop there. He painted the picture of the kind of DLC he would like to see. He advised the management of the Centre to rediscover the Centre’s founding vision as well as addressing the anomalies in the Faculty of Economics.
“I’d urge the DLC body to ask the department if it really shares her vision of being one of the department it wants to advertise. Or if they really want to be part of the DLC course to be advertised or if there is something they (Economics department) really want to be done and isn’t being done. Because really there isn’t equity in what is been done if we are to weigh it across departments.
“I want a department where your hard work pays off, where students receive a fair treatment as others in other departments – giving tests, allotted supervisor in due time, results released in due time. I want a DLC where people wouldn’t always speak ill of one department only. We want a fair system where we also can hold our hands high in belief that we have been treated in a fair manner.
Aside the Centre not replying the mail sent to them, efforts to reach the Centre’s officials were in vain. Several calls placed to the Distance Learning Students Support Unit Head were not answered neither were they returned. Also, text messages sent to the same contact weren’t answered.
However, when calls were finally answered by the Examination Coordinator, DLC, Dr Noah, he refused to give details. He said he works on the directive of the HOD, and that the only information the HOD asks him to divulge he divulges.
Also, attempts to reach the Deputy Director of the Centre had initially yielded positive after the Deputy Director had responded, enthusiastically, to the first call to him. He said, “Most of the things they (Learners) say are lies.”
However, after a meeting with the Deputy Director failed, the once enthusiastic Deputy Director did not answer nor return several calls put through to him for days. Text message sent too was not replied.
Updated (August 2, 2018). The real identities of the interviewed students have been replaced with fictitious to protect them.Please Follow Us @ThePageNg