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SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Accreditation Palaver Anger, Frustration as UNICAL Demotes Final Year Students

University caricature

July 25, (THEWILL) – Hundreds of final year students of the University of Calabar are reeling in anger and frustration, following a decision by the university authorities to delay their academic progress by two years.

The students, who were caught in what looks to many as a web of administrative laxity, are mostly students admitted to the school during the tenure of the immediate past Vice-Chancellor of the Institution, Prof Zana Akpagu.

THEWILL investigation showed that in Akpagu’s bid to expand the reach scope of the institution and introduce some contemporary courses, a number of new departments were created from the existing ones. The departments included Pharmacy, Engineering, Mass Communications, Fine and Applied Arts, Music and others.

After seeing advert placements by these departments in the mass media, prospective students had applied to them and were admitted to commence their quest for education.

Unknown to the students, it was gathered, the departments did not complete the requirements spelled out to them before commencing full academic programmes.

In spite of this, the students were admitted. They completed their registration, paid fees and commenced full academic programmes till they got to their final year, for those undertaking four and five-year programmes.

However, to the dismay of the students and their parents, the university notified them that the departments lacked the prerequisite accreditation from the National Universities Commission. They were given the option of withdrawing from the institution or forfeiting two academic years so as to enable the authorities resolve the resource verification challenge. Unfortunately this implied that the students’ efforts and financial commitment over the past years had come to naught.

This development, THEWILL learnt, did not go down well with some of the affected students who have expressed their disappointment with the university management over the management of the entire affair.

They contend that the fault is not theirs as these courses were duly advertised and they fulfilled all the conditions for undertaking the affected programmes.

One of the students, who simply gave her name as Juliet, described the development as devastating. According to her, what is particularly painful is the fact that the students have been made to suffer for an administrative lapse that they never caused.

“I am devastated. I think the management of the institution has not treated us fairly. It’s no fault of ours that these courses were not properly accredited and the problem is squarely that of the management of the institution.

“They ought to have found a way to consider the resources, time and efforts that we have committed to the programmes. How does it feel, after you have put in so much and you’re preparing to round up, to be moved backwards by two academic years?

“This is simply unimaginable. Instead of making us to pay for this, management should do the right thing by making those who advertised these programmes account for their recklessness,” she said.

Another affected student, who craved anonymity for fear of victimisation, also blamed the institution for the poor management of the entire affair.

The student maintained that his colleagues, who applied for the advertised programmes and got admitted, were not at fault. According to him, although the institution may want to grant the students a waiver, considering that they had already paid fees, it does not equate to some other expenses incurred in the course of pursuing the programmes.

He said some of the affected students live off campus, pay exorbitant house rents, pay transportation and sundry expenses, while their parents are not pleased with the development.

He called for a holistic resolution of the verification issues so as not to make students who innocently applied for these programmes suffer double jeopardy.

Efforts to get the official reaction from the institution proved abortive as no replies to inquiries have been received as of the time of filing this story.

However, addressing students during an interdenominational church service in the institution, the institution’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof Florence Obi said the present management of the institution is doing everything possible to resolve the problem.

She advised the affected students to make sure they comply with the directive to step down to 200 Level, adding that without this nothing can be done from her end.

Prof Obi said, “We are trying to solve that problem and please take what we have done very seriously. Make sure you comply by going to do your first and second semesters exams in the years you have been stepped down to.

“If you do not do so, there is nothing I can do from my own end because we cannot award marks you did not earn. We have gone to Abuja and are trying to solve the problem.”

She further advised the students against any planned demonstration and wilful destruction of properties on the campus.

Last Thursday, THEWILL called Yakassi Ibrahim Mal, Director, Public Affairs at the National Universities Commission, on phone to know whether his Commission was aware of the development at UNICAL. Mai said he had no details about the Resource Verification challenges at the University and promised to get in touch with the University management before responding to the issues. However, he did not get back to our correspondent as promised as at press time and calls made to his phone were not answered.