Joy Eyisi is a Director at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), and presently, the Director of Studies at National Assembly Special Study Centre in Abuja. She was a Professor of English at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, Nigeria and one of the experts in the Teaching of English as a Second Language (ESL).
In this interview with SYLVESTER AIGBE OMOSE, the frontline educationist advises all lawmakers to take advantage of the study centre in National Assembly to enhance their educational capability in order to deliver the best of legislative services to the nation and to their constituents. She also stresses the need for all Nigerians to embrace the unique opportunity NOUN has to offer for optimum capacity building. Excerpts:
How has it been as the Director of NOUN calling the shots here at the university’s study centre in National Assembly?
Thanks for this unique visit. My names are Joy Eyisi, a professor of English, I direct the affairs of National Open University of Nigeria here. Where you are now is an extension of the NOUN called National Assembly Special Studies Centre in Abuja; this centre is specifically designed for the staff of National Assembly, especially those of them who would like to further their education as junior and senior staff or as House members and Senators. You will agree with me that leaders are learners, if you stop learning today, you stop leading tomorrow. So, for those who would like to further their education, this a big opportunity for them. The four years they are to spend at NASS could also be used to develop and further their education. Those of them that do not have their first decree or Master could obtain these conveniently in this study centre at NASS. They can actually spend these years to get their Masters and Ph.D if they so desire. Educational is a continuing thing from birth to death, and this is the reason we have brought education to their door step and also to contribute our own quota to the much talked about change.
Again, the lawmakers, having benefited from this opportunity, would be encouraged to extend this educational opportunity to their constituencies and senatorial districts for others to benefit. Today, some lawmakers have caught the vision and are doing all they could to ensure their people have NOUN in their states. One of the lawmakers from Bayelsa is very kin and passionate about having Open University in his state, we are already at the verge of signing MoU for the university to be opened in his state.
What are the requirements for the legislators to gain admission into NOUN and how can they particularly take advantage of this opportunity?
I’m very happy you asked this question. To qualify for admission into NOUN is not very difficult as some think, and also because of lack of proper orientation, a lot of would-be applicants don’t know how to go about our online and contact studies. National Open University of Nigeria is open to everyone irrespective of your poor educational background. It will interest you to know we also offer educational counseling to our would-be students. When you come here, we ask you questions relating to your background, we then advise you on what line of studies or course that is suitable to you. NOUN is open to everyone; here age is not a barrier. It doesn’t matter to us how old or how young you are; what we want is for you to have sound and quality education. Of course, we do not compromise quality, National Open University of Nigeria gives everyone opportunity to actualize his/her educational dream, the system is also very flexible to operate by all students.
What about people, especially women who have not gone to any form of school before now, are they also accommodated?
Of course, yes, women that have missed it at early stage to get education due to early marriage or any other challenges could take good advantage of NOUN to actualize their dreams and attain their career height like any other woman. They are well accommodated also in this university. They may not have primary or secondary education, when they come to NOUN we give them the opportunity to know what to study. There are different activities we can put into it that would be of immense benefit to them and also become proficient to themselves and their own communities wherever they are.
Does it mean NOUN also serves as an educational mentoring ground?
Here, our basic work is to help people to actualize their vision and their dreams. When you come here, we ask you series of questions, the answers obtained help us to guide the candidate appropriately on proper academic path. We offer counseling to our students and would-be candidates. We realized without proper guidance and counseling, the work of education is half done, but, with these two cardinal points well handled, the educational path of the candidate will be smooth and easy sailing.
Is this centre open to everybody or strictly for lawmakers?
That is a very good question you have raised. Thank you very much for this. This centre is specifically designed for National Assembly staff. Now, it is also our sincere desire to have people from outside come here to study. But, we discovered that the security here is very tight; somehow, we have tried to see candidates gain access to the complex, we occasionally helped candidates to cross hurdle at the gate by assisting with gate pass like the young lady you met here. However, if anybody is able to cross the gate through our contact or personal efforts, we take it up from there to assist further.
In that case, are there plans to open satellite outlets to cater for those who could not come to NASS and other major centres like?
There are many centres everywhere in Nigeria. We could have three to four centres in a particular state. I do not know of any state in Nigeria that does not have the National Open University of Nigeria; even recently, we opened a centre in Ebonyi State. I can assure you every state in Nigeria have study centres. In some cases, some states have two to five centres in their states. Take for instance, in Abuja here, we have up to five centres and another centre will be commissioned on July 3, 2015.
It is very common for universities to form mutual alliances with one another. What type of partnerships do you have at NOUN with other varsities and organisations, and what are your requirements?
We also encourage symbiotic relationship with those who are passionate to ensure good and quality education gets to all. We encourage institutions and organizations to take advantage of what NOUN has to offer provided we benefit from them and they also benefit from us and we begin to establish a symbiotic relationship, first with having a Memorandum of Understanding, and then, we take it up from there.
We know that, in every successful venture, there are also challenges. What are your unique challenges? Is the certificate obtained from your university generally acceptable in Nigeria and abroad?
About graduation of our students, we are the best, because we graduate our students every year. In January, during our graduation, two of students emerged with first class results and they were given automatic employment in the university, they are now members of our staff. When you look at other conventional universities, you’ll discovered that graduation could be held once in four or seven years. That is not the case with National Open University. The number of years you do a programme in other conventional universities is still the number of years we do our programme here. A four-year programme in the conventional universities is the same four years in the National Open University of Nigeria. When you talk about graduating students, we are the best in Nigeria. Here at NOUN, immediately you finish your course, you receive your certificate; we do not keep it till tomorrow.
Any constrain of any kind in the course of your operation?
Yes there are constraints, especially, with regards to our esteemed law students. Many of our students that have done law programme, are not given the admission into the Nigeria Law School as other students from the other conventional universities. This, to us, is a big challenge, it will interest you to know that our students are denied admission into the Law School, not because of their low performance or lack of quality work. At times, in national competitions, our students perform better than other students from other conventional universities. To me, the body managing the Law School are yet to understand that, like in other countries, students who studied in open universities are given opportunity to go to Law Schools. NOUN under the leadership of Professor Vincent Ado Tenebe is making serious efforts to make sure the crucial challenge is surmounted for our esteemed students who have burnt the mid night candles to read all these years are not hindered in any way to fulfill their passion and dreams. There is great hope that, in no distance time, our students will go to Law School and this is the dream and wish of this current Vice Chancellor and he is not leaving any stone unturned to achieve this before he leaves office, God’s willing.
What is your message to those paying in hard currencies to obtain online programmes when they can actually get the best here?
To me, that is ignorance at its worst. Anyone who know about National Open University of Nigeria, and anyone who knows what we offer and the quality of education you can get here cannot ignore NOUN for elsewhere outside the country. In Nigeria and in the whole of Africa, National Open University of Nigeria remains the only and the best university.
Now that the NOUN study centre is here at the National Assembly, what is your candid advice to the lawmakers, especially in this 8th session?
My advice is for the lawmakers to create time to get more knowledge. I understand that they are very busy, it is also a fact that a willing mind will find time and opportunity to fulfill its heart desires, but when the mind is unwilling, it finds also a thousand excuses not to do anything meaningful. I am asking them to make their mind willing, let them have the appetite for the best. Let them go for the zenith of education attainment. Their contribution is not only for Nigeria but the entire world which is waiting for them.