North lags behind in distance learning
Students’ enrolment figures at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) reveal that northern states trail behind their southern peers in Open and Distance Learning (ODL).
Admission document seen by Daily Trust shows that seven southern states of Delta, Imo, Ogun, Edo, Anambra, Osun and Oyo account for 186,023 of the total 399,260, or 47 per cent of students admission in the university.
Delta State has the highest number with 33,416 students; Ogun - 30,635; Imo - 27,752; Edo - 26,060; Anambra - 25,850; Osun - 22,915 and Oyo - 19,395.
In contrast, six northern states namely: Sokoto, Yobe, Zamfara, Kebbi, Jigawa and Gombe make the bottom of the enrolment figures with a total of 6,389 or 1.6 per cent of the total.
Sokoto State has the least with 684 as at April 2017 followed by Yobe, 766; Zamfara, 793; Kebbi, 1,154; Jigawa, 1,218 and Gombe - 1,774. The Federal Capital Territory, Abuja has 1,344.
There are about 40 federal universities, 38 state universities and over 50 private universities in the country. However, most states in the north hardly produce enough students to fill their admission quotas.
NOUN was established to offer distance learning, a system that is flexible in regard to modalities and timing of teaching and learning as well as admission criteria without compromising quality. Teachers and students need not to be present at the same place or time.
Former executive secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Munzali Jibril, said the educational disparities between students from the northern region and their counterparts in the south have existed for long because “historically, education came through the south.”
He said some states governments have done a lot to close the education achievement gap.
He said the disparity on access to open and distance learning widened because of the general lack of awareness about learning from a distance. He also said people in the northern part of the country were mostly of the view that education was free due to high poverty rate.
He said “People thought education should be given free by the government.”
He said the gap between students would be reduced by developing more awareness methods. “Concerted effort and awareness will improve the situation.”
The Registrar, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) Professor Is-haq Oloyede said apart from merit and catchment area, educationally less developed states were given preference during admission exercises. He said 15 per cent of admission quota in all universities was set aside for educationally less developed states but they hardly filled them.
Member representing Dukku/Nafada federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Aisha Jibril Dukku, said most people were not aware about the advantages of distance learning which included allowing the learner to fit his learning around his work and home life. Also, even in the conventional universities, north never filled its admission quota, she said.
She said people have little or no knowledge of Open University.
She also said internet helped a lot of people especially in the urban areas to get access to education and learning resources but lack of access to information technology as well as lack of knowledge about the internet in the rural areas have restricted the opportunity of thousands of candidates from enrolling in open university.
She said the university must create more awareness about its activities and lead the way in the establishment of more studies in the north.
“Many people will join if there is awareness and we are ready to contribute by establishing study centers.”
Reacting to the development, NOUN’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu, said the headquarters of the university was initially sited in Lagos, southern region before it was recently transferred to Abuja, central region, which gave more advantage to the south.
Another reason he said was the curricular offering in the sense that courses such as peace and conflict study were more popular than those in conventional institutions such as languages and accountancy.
He said the university was using mass media to advocate for open and distance learning especially in the north.
He said: “We have done advocacy programme on radio in Sokoto about the university and many people telephoned for clarifications.”