Recently, the Ministry of Education aired that sales of handouts in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions will be phased out soon, while highlighting the way forward. In this piece, DUSTAN AGHEDO, examines the clamour for the actualisation of the proposal as well as a review of the way forward.
While there is no doubt that Nigeria’s education sector is lagging behind in relatively all aspect of what it should be, perhaps just playing catch up is what Nigerians would have to get used to, except of course, the new line of thought that accompanies science and technology with its evolution, is accorded firm thinking.
In the 8th weekend ministerial briefing, the minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, said government is doing everything possible to ensure that Nigerian tertiary institutions catch up with their contemporaries in the world. Even though it’s not clear how long this would take, the minister, however, stressed that the culture of giving out handouts in the nation’s tertiary institutions will soon be phased out.
The Burgeoning Issue
Over the years, students, especially undergraduates, have opined their displeasure about the selling of handouts, buying of textbooks and even the photocopying of materials, which lecturers in various institutions make them do. It is however, worthy of note that talking about this in universities, polytechnics and colleges of education, have reduced over the last few years. But with over 300 tertiary institutions in Nigeria, all having lecturers with different agendas, goals, target and focus, to say that there might not be a handful of bad eggs within the system would only mean an unjust cause for self-denial.
According to reports, it is fair to say that some institutions have curbed the menace to a large extent. But just the same way the old saying goes that “nearly doesn’t kill a bird,” the few bad eggs in the nation’s tertiary institutions are still very much on the radar.
Reports have also revealed that today, University of Lagos comes off as the one of the eminent schools that still allows for lecturers to provide materials for photocopying without record of sales of handouts but certainly having its share of detriment as attested by students.
Handouts, Textbooks and Materials Dilemma – Students React
Since students are the ones at the centre and receiving end of the issue, some students from various institutions were confronted to ascertain their view on the sale of handouts or its alternative textbook buying and photocopying of materials in their various institutions. The general consensus was that lecturers still give materials for students to photocopy in some departments even in private institutions.
Many students who commented didn’t want their names mentioned because of the fear that the school or department could one way or the other, come back to haunt them for revealing so much. One graduate of Banking and Finance at the University of Benin, started by reminding us that the phenomenon has been a long term problem on most Nigerian campuses. He disclosed that some handouts have even been slightly upgraded to textbooks and given ISN number. “Back in my days on campus, we didn’t have much incidence of being forced to pay for handouts or lecturer-written textbooks but that didn’t eliminate the fact that at some points in my 300 level, we were told to buy a particular textbook. There wasn’t much emphasis on the part of the lecturer on the implications of not buying the textbook but were warned by colleagues who had passed through the same class.
“The textbook was for both semesters, so those of us who heed the warning bought the textbook and those who didn’t, had to pay for it with their grades and the part that pierced deep into my heart was seeing some of my course mates pay for the textbook after the exam.
“It was really terrible to be honest because I had colleagues from other departments who experienced same, but we survived nevertheless.”
He recalled that there were other few occasions they were told to pay for handouts but it wasn’t compulsory and as such, a lot of students who couldn’t afford it had to make copies.
A Physics graduate from the University of Port Harcourt who also wanted to remain anonymous, disclosed that some lecturers prepare comprehensive material covering all topics for the semester, including supposed test and examination questions and then make it compulsory for students to buy it.
“A lot of times, some lecturers already have prepared materials but due to time constraints of been unable to complete the course outline, the lecturers give us the material to photocopy on our own. And of course, often times we look forward to it because it helps us prepare.”
Another 400 level Law student, University of Lagos, Oluwaseun Ibereola, attested that lecturers in his department hand out materials to the class rep for students to make photocopies. He however bemoaned the frequent rate which these materials come.
“Materials are given frequently and as a result of this, making photocopies of them or buying them from the cybercafés cost a lot in the long run especially when you calculate the run of expenses in a week.”
A duo of Abiola Blessing Orungbemi and Remilekun Nimota Oyedeji, both 400 level students also of Law in the institution said, that the sales of handouts in their faculty is not something that happens, that the worst-case scenario would be for lecturers to recommend journals or articles for them to buy online, simply because they no longer have rights to them.
“Because of a lecturer’s exposure and courses they take outside the country, they introduce us to the materials written by them but have been sold to schools overseas, as such we have to get them on Amazon. And foreign exchange rate makes getting the books on Amazon somewhat expensive but we are never compelled to buy them, and the lecturers often give us their lesson notes to make copies.”
A 300 level student of Law, Lagos State University, Feyisola Oshikoya, said the selling handouts in the institution has been banned from the university. “In place of the handouts, lecturers employ the use of materials which is a summary of different textbooks that is made available for us.”
In his own contribution, associate professor, Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Dr Adepoju Tejumaiye, stressed that lecturers do not have any reason to sell handouts. “There is no reason for any lecturer to sell handouts especially in this modern day, with the advancement in Information Communication Technology (ICT). And I would like to believe that there are no recognisable tertiary institutions where handouts are been sold. Be that as it may, I have been at this institution for the past eight years and I am sure that there is nothing like sales of handouts in this institution.
“We however use textbooks, materials or our own prepared notes. The textbooks can be found in bookstores and are also made available to class representatives to photocopy for interested students.
“Making materials available to students to make photocopies shouldn’t be perceived as selling handouts. As a result of advantage of age, advantage of experience and research over these students, we are opportune to come across very useful and striking materials. So what I would do or any lecturer at all, is to make it available to the class rep as a soft copy or e-book, or have it printed for students to make copies, making it known to them that I stumbled on it or saw it in my book and I feel it is good for them. That is not selling of handouts.’’
Meanwhile, in his ministerial briefing, the minister of education said that he hopes that by 2023, selling handouts would have been completely flushed out from all the different tertiary institutions across the country.
He maintained that tertiary institutions in the country are expected to deploy functional e-libraries and embrace e-books in schools, adding that library services in the education sector are indispensable components for teaching and learning processes and as such, the Librarians Registration Council of Nigeria (LRCN) has successfully crafted the necessary instruments needed to regulate the Nigerian Library and Information science sector.
According to him, the council has developed a strategic plan which it reviews from time to time to make it responsive to the needs of the sector. The council has also been conducting an annual induction of qualified librarians and the total number of certified librarians in Nigeria stands at 5,829.
The minister explained that the council has developed guidelines and standards for different categories of libraries including the academic libraries which would serve as effective tools for regulating the library sector, including addressing issues relating to the deployment of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in libraries.
Reacting on the deployment of functional e-libraries and embracing of e-books in all tertiary institutions, Dr Tejumaiye said it is the only and best option to completely eliminate any iota of threat of handouts. He however questioned government’s readiness in seeing it through across all tertiary institutions in the country.
But some students believe that government is doing well to face out handouts from institutions. One of such is Jeffrey Uhunoma Edosomwan, a Microbiology graduate from University of Benin who said: “the government has been making efforts to eradicate the sales of handouts but it has not yielded much results. I will urge the government to create a law against selling of handouts with a committee established in every university where students can report any erring lecturer and not get penalised for doing so.
“Having functional e-library in all institutions would be great as it would make a lot of books available to students which hopefully would be affordable. But I urge the government to make sure students are given easy access to the e-library without forgetting the part that lecturers too should draw course contents from the books available at the library.
Another student, Remilekun Oyedeji, agreed that a functional e-libraries and embrace of e-books is welcomed and it is what most institutions need. ‘‘As a matter of fact, it is something that is long overdue. The process should have started a long time ago. Nevertheless, it still has to be a gradual process. It certainly won’t happen overnight as nations that are ahead of us didn’t build Rome in one day, there are so many factors to consider and funding is the key thing there.”
Dr Tejumaiye however, insists that his institution has a functional e-library system which students have access to and which is WiFi compliant as well but if the minister must maintain having e-libraries cut across all institutions in Nigeria then the question that accompanies such a bold step would be, is the federal government ready to fund it?
“Putting those structures in place requires serious funding especially because it needs to cut across all schools from universities to polytechnics to colleges of education. Sincerely, the developed world we are talking about today, they have WiFi everywhere that is the same thing we need here which would be controlled of course because of some children that would abuse such benefits. Nevertheless, free WiFi is good and would give everybody the opportunity to have access to information and information is power, it is an accelerator, it makes you what you are, it makes me what I am.
“Once you have information, you are knowledgeable, once you have information you will know what to do at the right time and the right place. So government’s readiness to fund this cannot be overemphasised.”