By Clement Udegbe
THEÂ recent dismal performance of our students nationwide in the NECO exams results is a climax of the continued decay in our educational system in this country. We have all the human and material resources to do better, but leadership failure remains the bane of growth and development in our education sector.
Selfishness at very high levels of leadership will not allow progress. One is yet to see the achievements from the ASUU strike that kept our children from their studies for over three months last year in spite of which the Minister for Education still remained there till last week.
Deep politicking and partisanship over every matter no matter how crucial remains the clog in the wheel of our progress. It is only here that leaders will mount any podium and tell their listeners that the bane of the society is corruption even when they are aware that their listeners know how very corrupt they are because impunity has taken the centre stage in our great nation.
The leaders are aware that poverty will not let the people speak, cultists are on their pay roll to silence any dissent from any quarters, and if they perceive you as able to afford the payment, as their opponent, you will be a victim of kidnapping. When the foundation is wrong the scripture asks, what can the righteous do? These evil politicians in power can never silence the voice of the people, for, we are assured that the end of the wicked shall surely come, more so in my beloved state, Imo.
One of the great things that happened in the education sector of Imo State in the recent past was the successful accreditation by the NUC of the Department of Medicine and Surgery of IMSU, in addition to other professional departments, such as Law, Architecture, Surveying, and Engineering. The focus here, however, is the Faculty of Medicine which mirrors the situation with other departments that face similar challenges.
AnÂ MBBS degree in a Nigerian university takes six years. This runs normally in two phases; three years at the faculty in the university itself and the other three years at the teaching hospital where the students are equipped with practical knowledge and skills as doctors.
At the end of their third year, that is their second pre-clinical year, medical students sit for their Second MBBS exams, which enable them to progress into the next and final phase of their studies as clinical students at the teaching hospital. In IMSU, the late accreditation of the university has left its tolls on the time, energy, human and material resources of guardians and students of the College of Medicine and Surgery.
The University successfully graduated its first set of medical doctors last year after 10 years of study. These students had to wait for additional four years in the teaching hospital in Orlu for the school to be accredited, and this created backlog challenges for medical students and their lecturers.
The delay of four years by the first set of students of the medical school of IMSU, created a two years backlog. Students who should have graduated two years ago are still in the teaching hospital and the implications include that the current final year students, who normally should be in the sixth year are in their nineth /10th year still awaiting graduation. The teaching hospital is as a result, stretched to its limit by the already existing backlog.
Even now, the MRI and CT scan equipment imported by the Achike administration are still in the containers they were imported, yet to be installed, as if it is Achikeâ€™s family that will use the equipmentÂ if put into use. Things like this which touch on healthcare delivery to the people ought to be kept above partisanship and deep politicking. The availability of student accommodation and the teaching facilities to cope have become serious challenges.
The IMSU College of Medicine and Surgery is stretched at both ends, with the result that a course that normally
should take six years now takes 10 years to complete! In other colleges of medicine, a fifth year medical student is in the last or penultimate year, but in IMSU, a fifth year student is yet to write his second MBBS and is therefore in the same standing as a third year student in other institutions, until he reaches his nineth year to be in the penultimate class. This calls into question the quality of doctors from that institution and raises concerns despite the huge costs to parents and guardians, in terms of finances and human time.
At the pre-clinical level, the faculty has an average of 90 students perÂ Â year/set. There are therefore about 180 students from the two years backlog who are over due for their second MBBS examinations. This is in addition to another 80 students that are currently in their third year, that should be sitting for their examinations, and will soon bring the number of backlog students to 260 persons.
At the clinical level in Orlu, there is an average of 70 students per set/ class. This gives us a total of about 140 student victims of the two years of backlog who are in excess of the normal three years period in the clinical level. Adding the current third year class, we have 210 students held or delayed at the clinical levels at Orlu. Imo State is thus left with a total of between 320-350 medical students that should have graduated as far back as four years ago, while by the end of this year 2010, the state will have a total of about 420 students awaiting graduation if nothing is done.
Yet, the university still admits over 90 students each year into the Department of Medicine and Surgery, none of whom really are aware of the trap awaiting them. Many students have started contemplating taking JAMB afresh; counting their first four years as a loss and hoping to join those universities that they are sure will graduate them in six years. For those in this group, the time in IMSU is lost, four years of potential medical doctors from Imo State wasted away! How else can the destiny of a people be truncated?
This is the set time to redeem our student generations from this time killing. We most humbly ask this of His Excellency.
Mr. Udegbe, a lawyer, writes from Lagos.