By Dayo Adesulu, Tare Youdeowei, Elizabeth Uwandu & Kelechukwu Iruoma

Stakeholders in the sector have posited that one of the  reasons students seem to be losing interest in academics is because the society no longer appreciates and rewards academic excellence.  They said, since our reward system is faulty, people now ask; “why are you killing yourself with education when getting a job is not by first class or second class but by who you know?”

To encourage academic excellence, they suggested that students who do exceptionally well in academics should be highly rewarded than individuals who do well in other sectors of the economy. This, according to them, is because education is the foundation on which other professions rest.

Poor motivation: Lamenting that today, what is expected to be is not what it is, they said; “there are tertiary institutions in Nigeria where individuals and companies do not really motivate students to graduate with flying colours.”

They frowned at individuals’ and organizations’ decisions in rewarding entertainers or musicians who spend few weeks to sing a song than students who spend four, five and six years to study courses that would enable them save lives and impact positively on the society.

Speaking in this regard, a final year student of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, who did not want his name in print told Vanguard Learning that when he was in first year, he was privileged to attend the Award Ceremony of the university. According to him, during the presentation of awards, the cash award given to students that made first class was ridiculous enough to discourage other students from being studious.

Paltry sums: He said: “During presentation of awards, some first class students got N1,000, N5,000, N10,000. Some got N250,000 and N100,000. This discouraged some undergraduates in the hall as some students inside and outside the hall started leaving.”

On his part, Dr. Eke Emmanuel Chikaodiri, a graduate of University of Port Harcourt,  2015 session and best graduating student in Physiology and Biochemistry, said the fact that  academic excellence is not being appreciated, is appalling.

According to him, during his graduation, not only were they not given any award, they were not recognized at all. “The names were only called and we stood up where we were and that was all. It was really a shame,” he said.

Standing ovation award: Narrating how heartbroken he was as the best graduating student, he said: “It was really discouraging not to have been appreciated, and permit me to say that immediately after the induction, some of my younger colleagues came to me and openly told me that if that was how we were being rewarded, then there was no need to worry oneself in reading hard or burning the midnight candle. I was really heart broken”

Reward for hardwork: Dr. Chikaodiri called on stakeholders to address the issue of reward for academic excellence or risk having a bleak future. “Our future looks so bleak and dark, that’s if nothing is done about this. It is time we all   uphold what we pledge in our national anthem, ‘the labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain.’

And if we must make progress; if we must get to where other developed countries are; if must achieve our God’s given talents as individuals and as a nation, hardwork must be rewarded and given its due place or we will keep having graduates who went to universities to fulfill all righteousness.”

Speaking in the same vein, a graduate of Mass Communication, also from University of Nigeria, who identified himself as Ifeanyi Onyekere said: “The reward for academic excellence is obviously not encouraging for others to work hard to attain academic excellence, but any student who wishes to work hard, or to excel should do so for the sake of standing out in his field.”

Entertainment vs education: He noted that the greater reward should be when students who worked hard to excel, distinguish themselves by proving their capabilities.

While comparing the education sector and the entertainment industry, Onyekere said, “The reward for entertainment is different, in that, it doesn’t last in most cases as that got from academic excellence. Nonetheless, for one to reward in the entertainment industry, the person also has to work hard.

“Looking deeply into it, those who excel and last in the entertainment industry are those who go the extra mile by doing things differently. Furthermore, it has been observed that most of the rewards got by entertainers are from consumers of that particular genre of entertainment. Hip hop music for instance gets its artistes money from numerous individuals who patronise club houses,”he said.

A call for sponsors: While stating the fact that there are no organisations that contribute to reward  academic excellence in our society, he said that since our government at various levels has shown lack of interest and political will towards academic improvements in Nigeria, churches, civil and social organisations, and individuals should rally round to balance the deficits in rewarding academic excellence.

Onyekere further urged the media to take the campaign for good reward in academic excellence serious, since it could, overtime, change people’s opinion and alter their beliefs. “Entertainment is important, however, it cannot be compared to education which also creates better entertainers,” he said.

Hardwork in entertainment: Another graduate, Chidiebere Kalu, stated that academics and entertainment are two different phenomena, adding that none could be said to be overtly better than the other. “They both have their respective rewards. People in academics shouldn’t envy entertainers. It is not easy to make it to the top and some academicians make more money than some entertainers. Life is all about destiny and fulfilment. It’s better to do something that will make you feel fulfilled instead of focusing on just money.

He urged students to overlook monetary reward and put in more effort in order to succeed. “The knowledge they will gain will get them more money than even the entertainers, if they use their heads well. Our education system has been sabotaged by corruption, hence it has lost it’s credibility and trust to an extent.

“Entertainment spices life, the whole world needs it. That’s why it gets more attention. It is good for advertising too, that’s why corporate bodies invest in it.”

Education is boring: Meanwhile, Dr. David Ebi, a lecturer in one of the federal universities, in his reaction said:I believe the problem is that the sponsors of these talent hunts and reality shows are looking for eye catching programs to sponsor, and education programmes are not generally entertaining.

“You do a theme song for a company and you get five million and a four wheel drive, but you spend four to five years reading to come out the best and they give you at best 200, 000. This simply means our society’s value for education is very poor. They pay entertainers more than academics, not to talk of the best graduating students.

“This is the reason students seem to be losing interest in academics, because the society no longer rewards academic excellence. Since our reward system is faulty, students now feel; “why are you killing yourself with education when getting a job is not by first class or second class but by who you know. Now tell me, why would students be bothered about performance?

Lecturer and student awards: “The poor reward of education or academic excellence also trickles down to teachers and lecturers. You don’t see teachers or lecturers getting awards of excellence that is televised. The big companies are only interested in music stars, meanwhile lecturers can made stars for their ability to impart knowledge proficiently.

“This poor reward system is why you find lecturers and teachers struggling to make ends meet, as such their commitment level is low, so is their performance level. That is why you see lecturers selling textbooks because they are looking to send his children to good schools, private schools where they give first class to 100 students, so that his children can benefit from the largess of society.”


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