The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Abuja, Abdul Rasheed Na’Allah, said the university has commenced virtual learning for its students despite the ongoing ASUU strike.
He said the lectures are being conducted by adjunct lecturers.
The vice-chancellor said this at a press conference on the university campus on Wednesday.
“The students had already registered before the strike began so that made it easy for the university to develop a virtual classroom system to migrate them there. It was very easy,” he said.
According to Mr. Na’Allah, all courses offered by the university are currently being taught virtually.
ASUU began its nationwide strike on March 23 to press for the release of funds for the revitalisation of universities and university workers’ earned allowance, constitution of visitation panels for the universities, payment of shortfall in salaries of lecturers, and a stop to the use of the payment platform, Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), for payment of salaries in the universities.
The union proposed the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) as a replacement for the controversial IPPIS.
As part of the efforts to end the eight-month-old strike, the federal government last week reconstituted its team to renegotiate the 2009 agreements with lecturers.
In June reported how the national secretary of Education Rights Campaign, Ibukun Omole, said embracing online classes might mean destroying the already mediocre quality of education obtainable in Nigerian schools.
He said it will deny a good percentage of the population who do not have access to the internet and electricity, access to education.
However, the UNIABUJA VC during the press briefing said about 5,000 students are currently receiving lectures on the new virtual learning platform.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the university was perfecting the virtual learning platform and conducting their pilot tests.
The truth is that this is a major development. We can teach all our courses virtually. We have that capacity,” he said.
Mr Na’Allah said because the academic staff is currently observing the ongoing ASUU strike, what the university leadership did was to look for adjunct staff, “who are like part-time staff and not members of our school to conduct a pilot test and ensure it works.”
The Vice-Chancellor said although the strike is “real and very effective”, the university is very much open and that its activities are still ongoing.
According to him, the adjunct lecturers still receive their salary from the government because they are not part of ASUU.
“Government is paying people salaries. All the government says is that, if you don’t want to get your salary because of certain issues, which I think is the issue the government is negotiating with them on, then you will not collect a salary.
Mr. Na’Allah also said the university has received a N1 billion grant from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) to develop its Centre for Excellence in Public Governance and Leadership.
He said TETFUND informed them that the sum was given as a first grant.
“Some of this money we are going to invest because sustainability is also important. We have to think of the future,” he said.
The Vice-Chancellor said the university intends to introduce programs under the newly funded centre that will bring people from all around the world to study there.
We want everyone to recognise our university, the University of Abuja, as a cutting edge university where public governance and leadership are trained, where research and ideas are generated and we want to ensure that because of this centre of excellence, this nation will be better”, he said.
The vice-chancellor also mentioned some university activities that have been ongoing despite the ASUU strike.
He said the university promoted 161 members of staff, comprising 55 non-teaching and the remaining 106 teaching
Mr Na’Allah also said three new faculties are to be commissioned soon; the faculties of Communication, Pharmacy, and Environmental Science.
He said that Mass Communication will be starting next year, as well as other programs under the faculty of Communication.
For the faculty of Pharmacy, he said ”the kind of pharmacy we want is the one that combines the modern with the traditional. The kind of pharmacy that will include our traditional herbs and we want them working closely with our medical sciences”.
According to the vice-chancellor, the faculty of Environmental Sciences will include programs like Architecture, Survey, and Regional Planning.
Some of these facilities will start small, with about three or four programs but will increase with time,” he said.
He said the university is also considering starting a program in Tourism because of the great potential it possesses.
”Tourism is the true grassroots business of any nation in the world,” he said.
Mr Na’Allah also said the university is in the process of starting an Agricultural Engineering program.
”You will agree with me that we need a revolution in our agricultural sector. The department of Agric Engineering will be charged with the responsibility of creating that small tractor system and work with industries to bring about a technological and mechanical revolution in agriculture in Nigeria,” he said.
The vice-chancellor added that the university has completed a curriculum for a Railway Engineering program and is going to submit it to the National Universities Commission (NUC) for approval.
The Punch previously reported how the university reached an agreement with a Chinese railway company to begin a programme in Railway Engineering after receiving approval for the programme.
”All the equipment that we need to teach the program is already on campus. Some have been installed, some are still going to be installed,” he said.
The vice-chancellor also said that after a meeting with the Ministry of Aviation on Tuesday, the University of Abuja is now exploring the development of an Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering programme.
”We are very proud of it. Very soon we will be meeting the minister and we are going to be talking to many agencies in the Ministry of Aviation because this has to be a collective project,” he said.
The vice-chancellor also said some facilities that the university still currently lacks or needs to be improved.
He said the library, where the press conference was held, needs major improvement.
“For this library now we already have a design, we are just looking for support and funding,” he said.
He also said the university needs modern laboratories.
”We believe that the laboratories should be open 24 hours just like the library, so we need state of the art laboratories,” he said.
The vice-chancellor said all delayed certificates from the university, from the year 1995 till date, are now ready for collection.
”The certificates that I can tell you off of my head that are ready are about 14,307, all signed and ready for collection,” he said.
He said all past students who are yet to collect their certificates can do so now.
”Never again will this be part of our history,” he said.