“No other irreplaceable resource has been wasted in Nigeria, like the resource of time. The capital lost by Nigeria to illegal oil bunkering, gas flaring, oil spillages and other oil related environmental degradation put together cannot equal 10 percent of the capital it loses due to lack of proper time management by its working class”.
So far we have examined several issues bordering on Nigeria’s education system generally and the tertiary education in particular. While many of these titles may have been anticipated by the followers of this column of the newspaper I am convinced that today’s topic may not have come to the consciousness of many Nigerians as one of the critical problems plaguing the country’s education system. This is largely because we have, over time, developed a culture of impunity in misuse or non-utilisation of time. This is an unfortunate irony.
Our parents appreciated the importance of time and the need for proper and effective management of it. Even without the privilege of modern clock and wristwatch they made use of cockcrow to wake them up early in the morning and trekked many miles to the farm making use of the receding moon light as early as 4:30am. I knew it and I was involved in it.
Unlike our fore-fathers, the present generation has opportunities for better time management. This is because of the level of scientific breakthroughs that have happened in accurate calibration of time into 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This is in addition to all forms of weather forecasts and availability of materials on time management. Several billions of dollars are spent globally on annual basis on time related research to underscore its importance.
Unfortunately, the reality in Nigeria is that we now have two types of time: “African time” and “English time”. The time fixed for any function, private or official is absolutely irrelevant. If I intend to attend any function I usually phone to the celebrant to inform me the actual time the function would in fact commence.
Recently, I attended a wedding service fixed for 10.00 a.m. in a Church Cathedral attended on time, (five minutes before 10a.m.) believing in the case of church service, those involved would be punctual. Alas, the service started at 11a.m., after the Priest had waited for an hour. Even then the bride and groom were still not in the church. The Priest proceeded with the wedding service till he got to the stage when the couple were to be formally joined. Guess what? Both the groom and the bride were yet to arrive! The service had to stop until the couple arrived at about 11.45a.m. Several times when I attended lectures and launching ceremonies at the times fixed, I ended up not meeting the organizers. Sometimes I would wait for an hour and leave.
No other irreplaceable resource has been wasted in Nigeria, and in fact, most African countries, like the resource of time. The capital lost by Nigeria to illegal oil bunkering, gas flaring, oil spillages and other oil related environmental degradation put together cannot equal 10 percent of the capital it loses due to lack of proper time management by its working class. We have all kinds of public holidays every year at Federal, State and even Local government levels. Even at work many people do not spend up to half of the time when they ought to work on useful things that can improve their lives and that of the organisation. Most people spend only about 2 hours a day on meaningful ventures. They squander a greater chunk of their time attending birthday, wedding and other social gathering to which they were never invited to. In Abuja, you hardly see workers at work after 12 O’clock on Fridays and hardly would you see workers coming to office before 10am on Mondays. The greatest enemy of proper time management, especially at work places, now is the GSM phones and the social media like facebook and twitter.
What is time?
For purpose of emphasis, I will like to state here that time is life and life is time. A man’s life ticks away forever with the hand of the clock every second of the minute of the day. Time is the greatest enemy of man; it does not wait for anyone, lost times are irretrievable and the devil finds work for the idle hand.
The University and time management
Punctuality is the soul of every business, be it private or public. It is more so in university education. Universities in western world and some other parts of the world understand this critically important philosophy of life. They have fix academic calendars. There are scheduled times for all university activities. A student knows for certain the date of his orientation programme, examinations, vacation, graduation, etc even before applying to the university. There are conventionally standardised academic calendars all over the world with fairly uniform number of weeks to be applied for lectures in a semester or a session. This is usually between 34 and 37 weeks in a year. In appreciation of the importance of time, universities in the United States utilise their summer periods for extra credit contact hours thereby making it possible for students to finish 4-year courses in about 3 years. One of my children spent only 3½ years to complete a 4 years course in the US. Also, in UK and other parts of the world curriculum for 4 year courses have been compressed into 2 or 3 years of intensive programme.
In Nigeria in the 60s up to the 80s, the university calendar also ran from mid/ end of September to end of June of the succeeding year which was approximately quick. The period of three months from June to September was the long vacation during which students usually worked on summer holidays outside the country. Students usually organise summer flight for their members at special rates. Lecturers used the period to visit and interact with their foreign colleagues.
What these countries appreciate and which we in Nigeria do not, is that there is a big difference between an academic year and a normal calendar year. While a calendar year contains 52 weeks an academic year contains a minimum of 34 weeks and maximum of 37 weeks, running usually from September each year to June of next year.
The unfortunate situation in Nigeria reveals that there is no adherence to any of these best-practice standards obtaining overseas even though they are spelt out in NUC bench mark.
In most of the public universities, even though the students are scheduled to resume in the second half of September, no academic work commences until around the end of October. Students stroll in and out of the university at leisure for the ritual called registration for about 8 to 10 weeks. Most students who live off campus come in when lectures have come to an end.
Some of the time students wait for teachers in vain. Some of the lecturers are victims of the perennial problems created by our poor transport system and are tired, just like their students, after many hours of hold-ups in traffic. More often than not students remain idle because the teacher was not in class.
It is not uncommon to see students return from overseas trips three or four weeks after academic work had commenced. Most students come late to class because they have to spend hours to style their hair, make-up and dress “to kill” for lecturer. When they eventually arrive, the class teacher, in appreciation of the attractive dress and make up makes no comment. There is no record of time when students or teachers arrive in class. There is also no record of those who come to lecture late. Where if any, assignment is given, the papers are not marked. The moral character of the students, which include management of time, is not the business of the teacher.
Generally, there is a general delusion as to the real importance of time. At the end of the semester, due to improper or poor utilization of time, no appreciable academic work is done. The student knows and the teacher knows that the syllabus has not been covered. Hence the teachers and students resort to hand-outs which they cram and “re-produce verbatim” on examination day.
(Next week, I will examine the dangers done to education by incessant strike).
For some 4 months, AASU has been on strike, most public universities have been shut down. Firstly I believe that teaching is not an ordinary profession. It is a vocation akin to priesthood. The priest never goes on strike because of ……of the pay. There is the …….of care of the church – the sheep which takes priesthood out of ordinary profession. Similarly, in teaching is ……………a pupils/ students. Teachers stand in loco parentis to students. Even though section 40 of 1990 constitution permit of Association among people including workers, such Association are obliged to comply with other relevant laws. The fundamental right guaranteed under section ….of the constitution is not at large. It is settled law that trade dispute must arise from worker-employee relationship. Trade Dispute Act means any dispute between employer and worker which is ………with the employer or non-employee or the term of employment and physical conduct of any person. The ground upon which the Association relied cannot provoke or sustain a Trade Dispute.
We need not over-flog the incalculable negative consequences of misappropriation of time which has become the order of the day in our universities and which have rendered academic calendars worthless and any sense of time a thing of the past. What should be more worrisome is that with strike actions, most staff and students in Nigerian universities have lost complete sense of proper time utilisation. This was why the Committee of Pro-Chancellor of Nigerian Universities imposed no work no pay rule in 2006. When we imposed the rule some teachers argued that teachers are not paid for teaching alone but are paid for research as well. However since AASU strike started 4 months ago the universities have been deserted. Staff offices are locked and those around …….in group charting most of the hours of the day. There is …..evidence of the presence of labourers, …………doing any research.
A simple practical example: one would have expected that since the ASUU strike that started four months ago, lecturers would be in their offices, laboratories or libraries doing in personal intensive research to improve themselves and prepare adequately for the new resumption. On the contrary, the universities are deserted, staff offices are locked and those around cluster in groups and chatting most of the working hours of the morning. No wonder many of the publications from our universities are nothing more than cut-and-paste from the internet.
The ABUAD Example
In concluding this piece, let me state categorically that it is possible to redeem time and make the most use of it. Afe Babalola University started its academic programme on 4th January, 2010; three months after normal universities have started the academic session. This was due to the fact that the University had to wait for the release of its operational license by NUC in line with the regulations. Notwithstanding this the University graduated these students at the end of June 2013, 3 ½ years from its inception, without compromising the number of weeks required for each academic session. It was intended right from inception that ABUAD will be an international University competing and cooperating favourably with other reputable international universities around the world. it was imperative that we operate the standard September to June Calendar in order to make this cooperation possible. All that the University needed to do was to ensure that both staff and students were intensively and rigorously engaged for maximal output during the session. Also, rather than having the seemingly endless three months holiday for all students the holidays were shortened to about two weeks for the next session to begin. After 2 sessions the University normalised its calendar to now run from September to June as against January to January it would have been. The lectures are still intensive, rigorous, but interesting due to the conducive learning environment in the University. Both Staff and Students sign into class by 8am and those who do not have classes are encouraged to go to the libraries while the hostels are locked by the time. The students are also engaged in work-study and internship programmes during summer holidays to enable them overcome the idleness the long holidays put them into. Even with these they still complain that the holidays are too long and they would wish to come back to school as early as possible.
I hope the readers will appreciate the nature of this cancer of lack of proper sense of time management which has befallen the Nigerians of today. I hope you will also understand that no amount of excuses can wish them away. The drastic effects are everywhere for us to see. The only way to save the situation is for all of us to act against all odds to reverse the current trend. Comments and feedbacks are highly welcome.