This Day (Lagos)

24 February 2013

Nigeria: Agony of Students At Madonna University

Allegations of sharp practices rock the Akpugo campus of Madonna University with the students at the receiving end.

This is, indeed, a pay back time for ObinnaOjukwu, a fresh graduate of Madonna University, Okija, Enugu State. Sitting comfortably in his office at the Akpugo Campus of the first private university in Nigeria, where he studied Engineering and graduated only last year, he could not but thank his stars for being a lucky young man.

At a time, his mates were still mourning their inability to be called up for the compulsory one-year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme due to the non-accreditation of their courses by the Nigerian University Commission (NUC), Ojukwu is already calling the shots at his alma mater.

And just about the time his school mates were still ruminating about what becomes of them next in the labour market due to the non-recognition of their Engineering degrees obtained from Madonna

University, Ojukwu has no reason to bother himself as he is already back to what he knows how to do best in his days at the university, and at a higher level.

But his mates are not envying the young man, who is now the Dean of Students Affairs at the Akpugo Campus of Madonna University.

Current students, who knew him well during his days as the school's General Hall representative, are not also surprised at his rising profile. Known for being a bully and unrepentant 'Man Friday' for the university's authorities to the detriment of the interests of his fellow students, whose interest, he was supposed to protect in the first place, many can only conclude that this, among many other alleged malpractice, could only happen at Madonna University.

But many are worried that such things could be happening in a university that prides itself not only as the first private university as well as the first Catholic university in Nigeria but also one of the most expensive private universities in the country where standards and morals are supposed to be high.

Students of the institution are equally worried as they are not sure of what the future holds for them with the non-accreditation of their campus.

Yet, THISDAY gathered that the authorities of the university appeared unperturbed as what matters to them most is the money being collected from the helpless students, whose parents are, unfortunately, being made to believe that their wards are being given sound education and morals in a supposedly Christian institution.

But different allegations rocking the school are sure pointers to the fact that Madonna University may have derailed from its initial objectives and reduced to nothing more than a concentration camp' where the students are exploited in so many ways.

The Petition

A petition sent to THISDAY in Lagos about the current developments at the Akpugo Campus of the university, titled "Madonna University Akpugo Enugu State Appoints Fresh Graduate as Dean of Students Affairs,"mexposed many shocking and quite unfathomable developments in the school. "I'm seizing this as a medium to bring to the notice of the National University Commission (NUC) and other branches of the government, which should be notified about the current developments in Madonna University, Akpugo Campus, Enugu State (Engineering Campus).

"The Administration Council of Madonna University Akpugo Campus led by the founder/chancellor of the university, Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Edeh, on August 7, 2012 organised a final semester meeting with the students of the above-mentioned campus. At the meeting, the chancellor of the university announced to the students the swearing-in of a new Dean of Students Affairs in person of Obinna Ojukwu, a student with registration number PTE/08/ 034. The bearer at that time was an undergraduate student of the university and the General HallRepresentative of the male students of the university.

"Obinna, who was traced to be a student of the Department of Petroleum Engineering, was still writing his final semester examinations at that time. The bearer, Obinna, as I write to you has not been mobilised for his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). Neither does he posses any preliminary qualifications to fit into this position as the Dean of Students Affairs of a university.

"As I write to you, Obinna Ojukwu, a fresh graduate is currently the Dean of Student Affairs in Madonna University Akpugo Campus, Enugu State. Beyond every reasonable doubt, this is an eyesore or should I say a dent to the struggle by NUC and the Ministry of Education toward ensuring good standard in the nation's education sector.

"Obinna who is known to have a reputation for assaulting and brutalising fellow students during his tenure as the General Hall representative of the university has been put into a position to continue his cruel acts on students," the petition sent by a close observer of happenings in the school had stated in part.

Non-accreditation of Courses

The petitioner, who craved anonymity also continued his expose: "On the other hand, I would also shed light on the other illegal activities happening within Akpugo campus Enugu State. The Engineering Faculty has none of its departments accredited; therefore the students who have completed their years of study and have advanced into the labour market do not have certificates to show as graduates. Neither are they mobilised for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme.

Incompetent Heads of Departments

"The Head of Department (HoD) of the Examinations and Records Department in Akpugo Campus who goes by her regular name-'Point and Kill' -is not a graduate . She was employed into the university as a labourer (cleaner). As I speak to you, she is the Head of Department of the Examination and Records unit in Akpugo Campus.

Another disturbing angle is the fact that the lecturers in the campus who are engineers are not allowed to mark and grade examination scripts of students they have taught. Instead, they are handed over to the Reverend Sister in charge of the Examinations and Records unit, Rev. Sis. Eleonora, who distributes the scripts between her other Rev. Sisters and other non-lecturers for marking. This disturbing development brings the question: Why should a professional course such as engineering be marked and graded by non-qualified individuals?

"Rev. Sis. Eleonora has been given the go-ahead by the Chancellor of the university to remark examination scripts, thereby failing a lot of students. This is a system which Madonna University uses to hide the actual number of its students from NUC.

"Another method which Madonna University uses to reduce its population and hide its actual number of students is wrongly accusing students of offences, thereby placing penalties on them and expelling students in their final year and suspending students for no defined reasons."

Suspension of Operating Licence

In July last year, NUC suspended the operational licence of Madonna University along with that of six other private universities for violating its guidelines in physical facilities and academic programmes. The other affected universities were Achievers University, Owo; Caritas University, Enugu; Joseph Ayo Babalola University, Osun; Lead City University, Ibadan; Obong University, Obong and Tansian University, Umunya. NUC , according to its spokesman, Mallam Ibrahim Yakassai, had based its decision on the non-compliance with the regulations guiding the operations of universities in the country as stipulated by the NUC.

"The operators of the universities affected know their offences because so many times, we have informed them about their failings but they did not take necessary steps to address their shortcomings. Anyway, It's just a suspension and it will be lifted as soon as they do the correct things," he was quoted as saying.

Nothing Has Changed

And true to his word, the suspension on Madonna University was lifted not long after but it's simply back to the basics with little or no changes made. An impeccable source close to the powers-that-be in the university told THISDAY that there is little or nothing NUC can do about the situation in Madonna University. "NUC is just a toothless bulldog; the authorities there are mere stooges and cannot do much.

They are tied down to the apron strings of the powers-that-be. The owners of Madonna will continue to do whatever they like because they already have their ears of people in power," this reporter was told.

A student at the Akpugo Campus of the University also confirmed to THISDAY last week, saying nothing really has changed in the school.

"The suspension by NUC has been lifted since and we are now in session. But nothing has really changed. You need to come here and see things for yourself," the student who craved anonymity told this reporter in an e-mail correspondence.

Shocking Testimonials

Reacting to the suspension of the operating licence of the University by NUC last July, a student of the school, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "I'm a Madonna University student and I'm very happy that NUC took this bold step to suspend the university. I'm studying Electrical/ Electronics Engineering and in 300 Level. My campus is in Enugu State, in the deep village of Akpugo.

In Madonna university, a carry-over program was introduced where students are to pay N150,000, which is higher than our second semester school fees and almost equal to first semester.

"Illiterates are made Heads of Departments, Dean of Student Affairs, Secretary, etc. A person who washes toilet in Madonna University is the Head of Exams and Records. We go to church eight times a week in Madonna. Eighty students are in a particular department but only twongraduated from that department and the others were not given certificates. Madonna, on purpose, fails students and lie to NUC on the total number of students in a department.

"No department in the Faculty of Engineering is accredited and the university is allowed to run and collect money from students. If you use a Blackberry phone in Madonna, you are suspended for two years and any other phone attracts a year suspension. The Students' Handbook is written by illiterates. We suffer every single day of our stay in Madonna University. We stay 12 students in a room but the authorities always lie to NUC."

State of the Hostel

Jesus The Saviour Hostel is the main hostel for male students at the Akpugo Campus. The hostel, according to impeccable sources, is in decrepit condition, despite the fact its development is still ongoing.

"Students in this hostel are forced to use the toilet as bad as it is. There is also a swamp harbouring several reptiles close to where the students live. The students are also forced to live with a fully loaded trash bin because the workers don't get paid so they cannot empty the bin. Instead we are told to sweep and throw the bin," THISDAY was told.

Madonna Officials Keep Mum

THISDAY made more than three trips to the Akpugo Campus of the university over a period lasting a month in order to get an official reaction of the authorities to all the allegations. But no one was willing to volunteer any information as this newspaper was told at the first visit that only the founder of the school who could react was away in Rome. Subsequent visits did not yield any results either as officials of the school kept tight lips all through.

Telephone calls made to the official lines of the school and its key officials did not go through at all, though THISDAY gathered that no telephone mast is available on the campus, hence reception is very poor.

No reaction was also forthcoming from the NUC in Abuja thus lending credence that there might be some elements of truth in the insinuations being made about the commission's helplessness in the case at Madonna.

A Sad Commentary

Madonna University was established to, among other things, "revive in its community the age-long tradition of Catholic education and the exacting demand of the contemporary society for sound education enrooted in salubrious life-promoting morality." The university has its main campus in Okija and the second campus at Elele. According to the information obtained from the school's official website, "Akpugo is the third campus of Madonna University which houses the Faculty of Engineering with the following departments : Electrical/Electronics, Food Science and Technology, Petroleum Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Computer Engineering." Additional reports by Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu.

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