The Deputy Vice Chancellor and College of Health and Medical Sciences provost, Prof. Iheanyi Chukwu Okoro Of Babcock University have stated that The University is the best in Nigeria.In an interview with THE NATIONS Newspaper, The Professor beam more light on the institution’s activities, achievements, and products.
Excerpts from the interview,
Babcock University is one of the few private universities with impressive stories to tell; can you give us a sneak peek into your activities so far?
Well, as we speak, students have started their exams, one of the things we have going for us is stability. By the grace of God, we have not missed a single day since 1999. And one of the factors responsible for this is the online revolution going on in the institution. Some of our courses are now taken online. Before now, marking, collation, and grading of the scores of students after an examination was an arduous task. You typically would find a lecturer having to mark and grade close to 500 students. However, some of our in-house ingenious staff in the ICT unit developed a software, which is now being used for exams. It was tried last year, and within 30 minutes the exams were concluded and the results came out swiftly.
This reduced the burden of collation of results for the lecturers. All they now have to do is input the data (scores) and the computer software automatically does the calculations and collation of results instantly.
Secondly, as a school, we place a premium on the behavior of our students. We believe that education is more than imbuing academic knowledge to students, but also in the inculcation of ethical and scrupulous behaviors. We train their hearts and make sure that they behave well.
We have a way of monitoring their behavior through a tool called the Behavioural Index. We monitor them in their hostels, chapel, classrooms etc. If a student has any infraction or misconduct, he or she is ‘demerited’. Every student has a 60 demerit point; so as a student keeps misbehaving, his or her score reduces. It is like withdrawing from one’s account. When you are zero, you go on suspension, and this affects your ‘citizenship grading’. Even if you have a first class, with a zero point of behavior, you are not graduating because this affects your citizenship rating.
This form of assessment has also gone online. There is a central coordinating office called the BUMU office (Babcock University Merit Unit). The unit coordinates all the grades from the various points online, and they issue out the grades to the students at the end of a session.
Can you tell us about the ‘total classroom revolution’ project?
The Total Classroom Revolution is simply leveraging technology in the deployment of learning and the learning environment. Currently, every classroom in the school has a projector and smart boards. You can also find radio towers at strategic positions within the campus. We intend to have a cloud all over the compound so that students can access their lectures anywhere they are within the campus. Lecturers can upload courses, and students can refer back to it by downloading it.
All these congenial educational facilities are powered by electricity. Therefore, the school is investing heavily on a power project called Babcock Power Project, which will supply uninterrupted power round the clock. At first, we wanted to opt for a gas-powered turbine, but because of the huge cost of maintenance, we settled for a power generator that runs for 80,000 hours non-stop…on gas. By implication, it means it can run for 9 years at a stretch.
Due to the current economic recession in the country, the project has however been stalled a bit; but, with the Naira slowly gaining stature, we hope to push the project further.
Aside from the generating power generator, there are some diesel-powered generators on ground as standby – they can run for 30 hours non-stop.
All of these efforts are geared towards creating a congenial academic environment for the students and members of staff.
You have spoken on the importance of behavioural competence of the students; however, focusing on the society as a whole, do you think the Nigerian youths have the right values to lead going into the future?
To be frank with you, I don’t think we are giving our younger ones good examples. There is a saying where I am from that – ‘When a mother goat is eating the yam, the kid is also looking at the mouth of the mother goat.’ The snake can only give birth to long things like itself. This is the situation of the country now. Until we have a total revolution in the attitudes of minds and behaviours among the older generation (my generation), the concept of examples and mentorship for the younger ones will be a white elephant expenditure. The blame should not always point to the direction of the younger ones. You cannot give what you don’t have. It is my belief that when you have a delinquent child, there are at least two delinquent adults that are propelling such a child. Take for instance examination malpractice; some parents arrange for special centres for their wards; the individual running this centre is a delinquent adult, the parent seeking his or her service is a delinquent adult. Their unethical attitudes can only produce a delinquent child. These acts continue even when the child reaches an institution of higher learning; the child now believes that this is the ideal way to carry on in life. He doesn’t do anything straight anymore because he believes he has to cheat to get things done. However, if the child requests for a special centre and is rebuked instantly by the parent, this leaves an indelible impression on the child.
My appeal goes to my generation to consider posterity before engaging in acts of malfeasance, corruption, and other related delinquent behaviours.
This current administration has a mantra – the change begins with me! But it should go beyond rhetorics and advertisement.
In Babcock, our motto is ‘building leadership through Christian education’. We intend to produce servant-leaders. We continually resound into the consciousness of our students that leadership is about service – it is not what you get from the position, but what you give into that position.
Here, we have the Babcock University Students Association (BUSA), which is not a student government but an association. We train them on the values that make a complete leader, and the need to be a worthy example. Another important thing about the behaviour of students in Babcock is their responsibility to the environment. If you go round, you will not see a single piece of paper on the ground. When you come to such an environment, you will definitely look stupid to begin to drop wastes on the ground. Our students are well dressed. It is leadership by example – from the management, members of staff, and down to the students.
Last week, the students had a seminar tagged ‘experience’, which saw the likes of Femi Falana (SAN), Charles Okafor etc. They were on ground to encourage and inspire the graduating students on succeeding. They shared personal experiences about how they became successful in their fields and careers. Also, they enlightened the students about some of the pitfalls they should avoid on their journey to the top.
There is this assumption that a lot of Nigerian graduates are unemployable. What is your take on this? What is Babcock doing to produce ‘employable’ graduates?
What makes us stand out is the process of producing our graduates. Regardless of the unemployment in the country, one fact remains that people are consistently being employed. For instance, KPMG, a foremost auditing firm has seen the quality of our students in accounting, and have given us 300 slots for internship every year. From those 300, they will select those that will eventually be employed. Other organisations like ICAN, ACCA, CIMA etc., are partnering with us in Accounting. In computer, the computer professional registration body in Nigeria has named Babcock a centre for excellence in training because they have seen our products. It is the same for other programmes. Also, we have been the overall best in the Nigerian Law School for two years now. That speaks volumes about the quality of our products.
Students evaluate the lecturers – contents, methods etc., while the lecturers in turn evaluate the students. If a student fails to meet up with 75% of attendance, he or she has failed automatically – it is called “Failure due to absence” (FA).
When students are graduating they go through a finishing school to prepare them for the labour market. Issues on how to sit at an interview, how to write a CV etc., are considered. The highlight of the programme is usually a job fair where organisations come and interview students live, and possibly recruit them on the spot.
Finally, we have a centre for entrepreneurial studies that teaches the students all kinds of arts and craft – theory and practical.
My worry about ‘unemployability’ also bothers on the incessant strikes that used to be preponderant in federal and state-owned schools, which is reducing gradually. This usually affects the quality of content that the lectures give as a result of rushing to meet up with the semester.
What is the state of Babcock’s Cardiac Centre?
We have partnered with Tristate Cardiovascular Associates from Delaware in the U.S. It is a team of experts that brings together solution to heart diseases through the collective competence of top intervention cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons and radiologists.
We have developed a state-of-the-art cardiac centre, which is currently the only permanently run cardiac centre in the country today. Other centres may occasional invite surgeons from abroad to come and perform one or two heart surgeries and then go back to their country. However, our surgeons are permanently resident in the institution. The centre, which started in October 2015 have performed almost a hundred heart surgeries, and still counting.
We are partnering with NNPC, LAFARGE, Primary Health Administrations in the country, and non-governmental organisations (NGO). They refer cases to us.
Many universities have come to us for academic partnership; amongst them are Caleb University, Adeleke University etc.
Our medical students go to India for their housemanship for two months each. This is because of the quality of field experience they can get from India because of its seasoned medical department.
Our computer students also go to Poland for computer training and exposure. In fact, some students also earn an additional degree during their educational stay in Poland.
We also partner with Birmingham University. Our International and Diplomacy students go there for two years and get their law degrees and come back. These are a few of the kinds of academic partnerships that we are involved in.
Tell us about the awards Babcock has won in recent times.
We have received awards from the World Branding Forum in the education segment. We got the award in 2015 and 2016 concurrently. We also received a solid 18-carat gold award plaque, based on the fact that no organisation had ever won the award back-to-back since inception.
For two to three years now, we have won the best university in Africa award, given by the Association of African Students. We were nominated by the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). The interesting thing is that Babcock is not part of NANS, however, their interactions with our students and the qualitative feedbacks they get informed their decision to recommend our institution for the award.
Also, in the Nigerian Private Universities Debate (NIPUD), our students have consistently emerged tops in the last four years. We encourage our students to be the best they can be.