Education and educating people is in the real sense a lifelong project in the life of not only the individual involved, but also that of the society within which the individual lives.
In general terms, education involves both formal and informal aspects. The more formal aspects include teaching/learning in a classroom, laboratory, studio etc settings depending on the peculiarities of a given subject area or discipline and usually with a planned curricula.
The informal aspects involve everything outside the formal aspects including anything we learn anew especially through socialization as a member of society. In fact, education is daily living; it is a way of life. It is a process of acculturation. Education will make one easily to be led but difficult to enslave.
This brings to mind that succinct definition of culture given by Kroeber (1953, P.12) as a mass of learned and transmitted habits, techniques, ideas and values and the behavior they induced, and that of Taylor (1891, P.36) as that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, laws, customs, and any other capabilities and habits learnt by man as a member of society.
The critical irreducible element is therefore learning whether in a formal or in an informal way. Consequently, whenever learning takes place, education has equally taken place.
In reality, there is no watertight division between formal education and the informal aspects of education. Sometimes, we find that even within formal education settings there are informal aspects. Those who pursue the informal aspects along with the formal become complete products while those who are strictly concerned only with what is written out in the curricula end up as defective products.
Most tertiary institutions are as concerned with the formal aspects as much as they are with the informal. This explains why the University of Nigeria, Nsukka awards certificates not just on the basis of excellent learning of what is contained in the curricular, but also on significant extra curricula domain which has to do with character, thus the magic words are worthy in Character and Learning boldly written on the certificates issued to graduates of most tertiary institutions.
Incidentally, most aspects of the informal education and the extra-curricula activities of students fall on the laps of the Student Affairs Department, usually charged with or expected to perform regular functions. It is a common knowledge that without students academic and non-academic staff do not have any business to be in any institution. According to Professor Eyiwumi Falaye, Student Affairs Department in the University has the oversight function of all students’ general welfare. This department provides direction, guidance and encouragement on extra-curricular activities and services, including all aspects of life in halls of residence. Students also receive valuable assistance from this unit on different matters including:
- Orientation for Fresh Student
- Hostel Accommodation allocation
- Hostel Services and Management
- Students Associations Registration
- Student Union Government Elections
- Student Union Government Elections – Executive, Parliament & Hall Governors
- Counselling and Career Services
- Special services for Students with Special Needs
- Regulations and protection of students rights
- Computerization of Students’ Records
- Issuance of Clearance to graduating Students
- Audio Visual Services
- Assisting Students in Deferment/Withdrawal Processes
- Secretarial services
- Students disciplinary matters and
- Security of Life and Property
The Dean of students who steers the affairs of the department becomes number one student who forms a link between the university administration and students’ Union Government.
In order to maintain peace and encourage extra-curricular development outside classrooms experience, students are permitted to belong to any registered associations/clubs approved by the university administration/Dean of Student on meeting the prescribed requirements.
ORIENTATION FOR FRESH STUDENTS:
At UNN, the department usually charged with the duty of organizing orientation for fresh students is Students Affairs. The content of the orientation indicates the University’s central concern to ensure that their fresh students are not only assisted to get familiar with their new environment but more importantly doing this essentially within the framework of inculcating the vision and the mission statements as well as the core values of the university into their fresh students using the philosophy of “catch them young”.
The task of doing so is usually enormous ranging from identifying appropriate resource persons, determining the most appropriate time, arranging venue(s), mobilizing the students for the program, to assessing the impact of the program on the fresh students.
One of the most important services delivered by the Student Affairs Department is arranging and providing not only acceptable but affordable accommodation. This is a duty of an outstanding importance especially to the first year students who, in most cases, are complete strangers in the environment.
Although in respect to Federal Institutions, there is an open awareness of the Federal Government withdrawal of its financial support to hostel and hostel support services, UNN realizes that any institution that absolutely seizes to care about where students live, may produce intelligent/academically sound young people but certainly of questionable character, for when students live where they will, they also learn to behave how they will.
Living in hostels is one of the most effective ways of helping students especially new ones to begin their journey towards the goal of imbibing the university culture and it is this culture that wholly transforms the student from what he or she is, to what he or she and the society expects them to become at the end of the learning period that spans their training in the University.
The easiest way to get around this huge task especially in a thick populated institution is to make access to accommodation electronically and online. From experience, this reduces a lot of pressure and frustrations on the part of both the liaison staff of the department, and the students themselves.
In addition to the advantage of reducing pressure on both staff and students, electronic registration ensures that no student registers without paying fees. It also helps the students as those who are tempted to use their fees for some other things and end up running into crisis later when the game is up are saved from day one that temptation. Electronic/online registration also ensure easy management of timelines for registration.
HOSTEL SERVICES AND MANAGEMENT:
Once the student checks into the accommodation provided for them, the next most important thing is to ensure that the student gets basic services such as water, electricity, clean environment etc.
For quite a long time, the environment in which our students were living was in a deplorable state. Although it may not be said that we have already reached our destination with respect to the environment which our students now live, it is clear that there has been tremendous improvement in the students halls of residence and the general environment of our students. In particular, this administration has done the following in its effort to continuously improve the classroom, hostel and sports facilities available to our students:
- Upgrading the roof of over 15 halls of residence for the first time in 30 years
- Reconstructions of toilet facilities in students hostels
- Provision of water inside the hostels as opposed to outside surface tanks
- Replacement of windows and windows nettings
- Landscaping of both student academic and residential areas.
- State of the art sports facilities including a sports Stadium with Tartan tracks, an Olympic-size swimming pool, squash courts and hall, hockey and cricket pitches etc.
With these facilities and many other improvements in the University including a standard library and ICT facility the academic relationship between the students and the administration is quite cordial.
Apart from the above, there are many issues involved in managing a collection of young, and in some cases undiscerning and exuberant people. Youngsters generally begin their lives with people whom they share consanguine ties.
Consequently, living in the institution hostel may be for many the first time they are living outside the confines of their family homes and with those they share no consanguine ties.
Ensuring that students live not only tolerantly and harmoniously, but equally with a convivial mindset is a great task and the first step towards achieving this is by having a code of conduct on how to conduct once affairs within the hostel, referred to as the Hostel Regulation. This is the main responsibility of the Student Affairs department and Student Affairs staff working in the hostels as Chief Hall Supervisors, Porters, etc.
In the University of Nigeria, the highest ranking staff of the department in each hostel is called the Hall Supervisor. This person is in charge of the day to day running and routine management of the hostel. He or she is assisted by other staff who may also be Hall Supervisors, but are usually of lower ranks, then trailed by the Porters, Cleaners and Messengers.
In addition to these staff, there is a hall government in each hall made of student officials, the head of which is called the Hall Governor, with his/her team who assist greatly in organizing students and in the regular enforcement of hall regulations.
Given the level of care which the University believes the students need, there is also a staff of the institution, which is usually an academic or administrative staff, called a Hall Warden who is appointed by the head of the institution. This nomination is made by the recommendation of the Dean and is then put in charge of the hall. The Hall Warden has an office in the hostel where he/she is expected to come in at regular intervals to know the state of affairs within that particular hall.
The duties of the Hall Warden are generally:
- Liaising with all service departments in the University to ensure that adequate services are rendered to students residing in the Hall.
- Developing of suitable programs that will give students in the Hall the opportunity for growth and development through sound scholarship, intra-mural sports and leadership activities.
- Development of adequate code of conduct for students living in the Hall, and enforcing it.
- Offering general and/or specific advice to the Hall Government in matters of welfare of students in the Hall.
- Educating students in the Hall on the rules, regulations and policy of the University.
- Performing other functions as may, from time and time, be delegated to him/her by the Vice-Chancellor.
A Hall Warden is expected to hold meetings with students resident in the Hall at least twice a semester.
One of the ways of helping students to appreciate the advantages of living and working together in society is to encourage them to associate with themselves and thus form associations. These associations are of many varieties and background. Some are based on communities, local governments or on states of origin. Others are of cultural, religious and social origins, going beyond consanguine and ancestral boundaries.
Many of these associations contribute meaningfully to the development of leadership and team spirit among the students. However, due to the tendency in some students to step beyond bounds, there is usually a requirement that any group of students seeking to form themselves into a group must first apply to the Students Affairs, seeking permission to be registered and to be allowed to carry out their activities within the University.
During this application the students are required to list their proposed officers and membership, or even membership criterion of the association, including naming a staff adviser who would have accepted the responsibility of ensuring the said association will operate within the rules and regulations of the University if registered.
The Security Department is also requested to carry out a security check on the proposed officers and members of the association. If they are given a clean bill by the security, the Student Affairs will then register the association. This process keeps out secret associations (Secret Cults), who may not want to disclose their officers, membership and internal activities, being their basic hallmarks.
All student associations are required to obtain clearance from Student Affairs and Security departments before they can hold any activity on campus. This is important as some of the associations organize activities which though not illegal, are capable of undermining the security situation in the University within a particular period.
STUDENTS UNION GOVERNMENT:
The University recognizes the need for students to organize themselves into a central association for many reasons including:
- It simply runs on the line of democratic principles to allow students have a voice in a community to which they belong.
- It eases up the process of aggregating the necessary inputs from students on matters that affect them rather than have a situation where every student speaks for himself/herself.
- It provides a framework for students who appreciate the underpinnings of students requests to guide the administration as partners in progress.
- It brings the students to serious position where they become partners with the institution’s administration in problem solving instead of remaining, all the time, on the side of merely identifying the problems.
- It makes the students take on the responsibility of acting as checks on the activities of their colleagues.
This central association is usually referred to as the Students Union Government (SUG).
In the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, there are two arms of the SUG, The Executive and the Legislative arms. The Executive arm is undoubtedly the spokes organ for the students, with the Legislative being more concerned with general and internal oversight functions for the executive arm.
STUDENTS UNION GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS:
One of the most difficult mandates of Student Affairs Department is the duty to conduct elections into the various elective offices of the Students Union Government (SUG).
In the preceeding section, we raised the issue of nurturing and managing the Students Union Government arising from the fact that these young, energetic and promising leaders are also exuberant, adventurous and slightly undiscerning in their age.
Otherwise, why should the Student Affairs Department be charged with the onerous responsibility of conducting elections into elective positions of the SUG? Some institutions have tried to allow students conduct their own elections with awkward results. The outcome of this experiment, but for one or two cases have been largely disastrous in most respects hence the Students Affairs department is still charged with this function in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
An electoral committee comprising of both staff and students is constituted by the University Administration with the Dean of Students as Chairman. The committee is in charge of all aspects of the election including:
- Setting the time table for the elections
- Nomination of Candidates
- Screening of Candidates
- Stating the guideline and period for campaign by Candidates
- Organizing the presentation of manifesto by Candidates
- Organizing the voting proper, counting the votes and
- Declaration of the results
To qualify as a legitimate candidate in the election, most institutions insist among other things, on some or a combination of the following:
- Candidate must have spent at least one full session in the institution
- Candidate must not be a member of a secret cult
- Candidate must have a cumulative Grade Point average of at least 3.5
- The candidate must have been a registered student for the current session
It is during the screening of candidates that the committee crosschecks the claims stated by a candidate with his/her form and makes a pronouncement on whether a candidate is qualified to run for office or not. Security agents also largely assist the University with information on any candidate membership/non-membership status to a secret cult.
This step has been useful to the University but has caused certain problems for other Universities in circumstances where the agencies have been compromised by interests. After the screening, the list of qualified candidates is published and the temporary restrain on any form of campaign is lifted. The University limits the type/features of campaigns that candidates would be involved in, including the use of coloured posters or organizing a motorcade. The campaign usually terminates between 12-24 hours before voting commences, with the presentation of a written or oral manifesto before the voters.
Voting may be organized in a general polling center, or in designated polling centers using Faculties and Departments as the basis for delineation. After voting, counting of votes and announcements of the results, the committee becomes functus officio and all complaints arising from the conduct of the elections now go to an Election Tribunal constituted by the administration to review the activities of the Electoral Board.
The current practice mandates that no officer-elect whose election is being challenged at the Electoral Tribunal should be sworn into the office before a verdict is given by the tribunal. The tribunal is given2 weeks to conclude its sessions, findings and conclusions.
COUNSELLING AND CAREER SERVICES:
The Students Affairs Department has a counselling/career unit with a directive to address the uncommon and odd challenges encountered by the students. There are a variety of challenges that require special skills or professional experience to handle. These specialized problems most times vary with specific persons or circumstances, embracing even subtle matters like emotional distress.
SPECIAL SERVICES FOR STUDENTS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS:
The university has an open-arm policy that encourages the admission and participation of students with special needs and thereby require special services. This category of persons are also referred to as Physically Challenged students. However inclusive this last nomenclature is, its doubtful as it tends to give the impression that unless one has one form of disability or the other, one does not qualify for special care.
The other classifications of Students with Special Needs, is equally problematic as it is so inclusive that it tends to hide the varying specifics of this class of students and consequently becloud what nature of assistance each person within this category requires. However, the unit responsible for this grouping of students oversees such assistance as special housing arrangements, special transportation, etc.
REGULATIONS AND PROTECTION OF RIGHTS OF STUDENTS:
The composite directives that guide the academic life of a student of the University is usually referred to as the Academic Regulations. Although these regulations organize the conduct of students and staff alike, most students are not fully aware of this, and thereby want to perceive their lecturers and other senior staff as semi-deity.
Consequently, the Students Affairs is committed to advocating for students in situations where actions of staff run contrary to the regulations and harmfully affect a students academic participation. These advocacy input could involve a scenario where a student who is duly registered for his courses, has a conflict in the examination timetable on some of these courses. If he draws the attention of the lectures involved and both fail or refuse to aid through adjustments, then the student may seek the assistance/intervention of the Students Affairs Department.
STUDENTS DISCIPLINARY MATTERS:
A Student Affairs Officer is the statutory secretary of Students Disciplinary Committee which oversees students disciplinary matters. Although the secretary does not participate in meetings to expunge an offender from the consequences of their offence, he/she nonetheless has the significant obligation to ensure that the proper procedure is followed before dispensing any disciplinary measure.
STUDENTS SECURITY (LIFE AND PROPERTY):
Although the primary duty of providing security to life and property of students and staff alike within the University premises is that of the Security Department, there is an extension of this responsibility by the Students Affairs position of catering to a students welfare.
Most enquiries as to the location of a student are often directed to the department, and then redirected from there to the Security Department. Furthermore, the Chief Security Officer’s brief is limited to the physical presence of a student within the four walls of the institution, while the Student Affairs Department concerns extend beyond social issues among others.
Prof Sabinus I. Ofoefula
Dean of Students