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The National Open University of Nigeria popularly referred to as NOUN was initially established on the 22nd of July, 1983 to provide open and distance learning opportunity for the large population of working class Nigerians. The scheme was however suspended by the government on the 25th of April, 1985, barely two years after its inauguration. In 2001, it was resuscitated by the government of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo with pioneer student enrollment of 32,400. Since then the student population of NOUN has grown to the level that it is now generally regarded as the university with the largest student population in Nigeria providing undergraduate and post graduate programmes in various disciplines.
Mode of operations
Noun was designed to make learning easy and affordable. It was meant to provide access to learning irrespective of your location. With cloud-based learning system, students can register for courses and exams, access their learning materials like e-books, video and audio materials, write and submit their continuous assessments online without the need to visit the university campus. In short, the only period a student's visit to the school campus is compulsory is during examination. Continuous assessments and examination results are made available online. School fees payments are done at the banks and the final processing done online. Everything was designed to make life easy for the ever-busy Nigerian worker but like everything done in this country, it is feasible but not always possible!
The too many wrongs of NOUN
Upon a successful registration at NOUN, one of the first signs that you are in for a lengthy period of befuddlement is the interminable wait for the release of the learning materials paid for amidst the excruciating agony of silence and rude attitude of their staff, especially those at Port Harcourt learning center. Students are made to queue outside for materials that are never available months after they have been paid for and at the end, the only option available is buy photocopied materials from business center dealers or download the e-copies from the web.
Students of NOUN studying outside Lagos always bemoan the lack of information among the staff of the institution. The lists of courses for various programmes are hardly updated. The students' handbook provides obsolete information on the courses students are to register while the school would paste notice few weeks to exams saying otherwise. In most cases, students have done their continuous assessments, read and prepared for exams only to be told that the courses they registered for are the wrongs ones. What if the portal for continuous assessment is closed? How are these students expected to go about the registration of these new courses, write their continuous assessments and prepare for exams for the new courses being registered in few weeks?
One of the most common problems students of NOUN face is missing scripts. It is so bad that a student could receive grades for only five out of ten courses written during examination. The school generally attributes this to the failure of students to write their registration numbers on every leaf of the answer booklet, although I have found this to be untrue. When this happens, the advice is for students to write the withheld courses together with the current semester courses during the next semester examination as failure to do so will result in the student waiting till eternity for those courses to be released.
Currently, the NOUN portal, www.noun.edu.ng, that provides students access to their results has been down for more than three months and the school with all the resources at its disposal has not been able to bring it up. Students have been left in the dark as regards their performance in the examination. If students can not have access to the school from a distance, I wonder what is open about the school.
When you sign up for NOUN and you reside outside Lagos, especially in Port Harcourt, Know this; you will be paying your project supervisor the sum of 50k for Pgd or 60k for Msc. I asked why students were asked to make these payments by their project supervisors and was told by one of the supervisors that it is a way of getting their money since they have not been paid for jobs done in the past. Whether the school authorities owe them or not, I do not know but what I do know is that it is totally wrong for a student to part with such a huge amount of money for project supervision after paying the recommended school charges.
The school was supposed to provide access to quality education at affordable prices but with a Pgd student spending well over two hundred thousand naira at NOUN as against the one hundred and twenty thousand naira charged at Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma, for a masters degree, one begins to wonder what affordability means from the context of the National Open University of Nigeria.
The way forward
This institution can actually work as intended if the authorities involved treat it as a homogeneous entity rather than the modular units driven by the ideas and visions of their center directors, provide reliable channels for feedback from students as well as avenues through which students can report result omissions and other issues and get speedy responds, and most importantly, a complete and total overhaul of the IT team of the institution because they seem to be at lost on what to do.
This article was born out of the personal experience of the writer and that of a close friend both of whom studied at the Port Harcourt study center of the National Open University of Nigeria and two years after, are yet to have their complete results released. I heard the experience is different in Lagos.
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