The school, Mr. Tahir says, encourages its students to be enterprising and critical thinkers.
Abubakar Abba Tahir is the Vice President, Public Relations & Communications at the American University of Nigeria Yola, the brain child of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. PREMIUM TIMES caught up with Mr. Tahir recently and discussed the university’s forthcoming Founders day, in which the University will honour the former vice president for “founding the AUN and continuously funding it for the past seven years,” and other matters.
The excerpts below are Mr. Tahir’s response to a wide range of issues.
Funding of AUN
Apart from the tremendous goodwill the university receives from the founder, AUN also has in its governing board distinguished academic leaders and statesmen who have made their mark in various spheres of human life around the world who come together and really support this University in more ways than one. It is indeed very difficult for one person anywhere in the world to fund a University throughout its lifetime.
It is unlikely for AUN to fizzle out even after the founder because of the nature of its incorporation. It has been established for public service. Many people look at the University from the perspective of expensive fees, if that approach continues to happen, it is unlikely for one to see the value and valor of the university because it is not just about fees. There are Nigerians that cannot afford to pay the fees charged by even government owned universities that are established with public funds.
With AUN, the landscape of Yola will never be the same again. The Economic and Social lifestyle of the area has greatly improved within the last seven to eight years. Yola has greatly been transformed; a lot of people have taken advantage of the establishment of the University to set up businesses. There is hardly any region of the world that is not represented at the AUN.
Drug abuse in the AUN and its effect on the community
At the American University of Nigeria, there is zero tolerance to all outrageous forms of social violations including drugs. Whoever is caught with drugs is going to be sent away. We have a functional office of student life. If for any reason someone is caught with drugs, he has to go.
People place emphasis on AUN students in the community for a very simple reason. Yola is a twin city; AUN is located in the heart of the traditional capital, and we only have a total of 1300 students.
So whatever happens, people will easily know, even if it is rough driving for instance, it is usually wrongly attributed to AUN students.
There is also a Federal University in Yola which is over 30kms off the AUN terrain with over 20,000 students. If for instance there are about 2000 students at that University whose parents are well to do and so, they have all sort of cars and have money to spend and also do some sort of anti social vices; it is difficult for people to note because they are off the track and it is difficult to notice because of the high student population there.
Because our students are few and most of them have cars, people assume they commit some offences even though they could have been committed by others.
Service to the Community
People should begin to look at AUN from the other component, which is the community service that we render. Apart from the salaried jobs created, a lot of economic services have sprung up.
We just launched a recycling campaign in which the university is beginning to recycle 100% of the waste generated internally.
We are working with women NGO’s in Yola to extend the recycling campaign into the community. The women will be trained on the recycling and sustainability initiative so that they will go and impact same on the community.
Three objectives will be achieved by the waste recycling initiative. Firstly, it clears filth from the community; secondly it creates jobs for the people and thirdly, it enables people to make money. The products of the recycling programme are being sold within and outside the University.
The Eco Bricks that are being produced from plastic cans are now used to construct houses. It has started in the AUN campus and it is going to spread to the larger community and even beyond Yola soon.
AUN has just launched a high class Hotel within the University and we also have a world class centre for ICT Innovation and Training. The Centre is Cisco certified and people pay less.
Every Friday, Students and Professors move into the Local Community for community service, where they identify a local need and then go to support it.
What are these Social needs? It is likely that some youngsters in Primary or Secondary school don’t have the wherewithal to pay school fees either because they are orphaned or because their parents are poor.
Our students have gone into the local communities to defray the cost of school fees.
The Community Service Groups also identify schools that have broken windows, unpainted walls or fallen doors and we go there to support these needs.
We also go to hospitals and see if there are abandoned sick people who don’t have the means to pay for their medication and we defray that. All of these have been happening in the University. I challenge people to come to AUN and find out what is happening.
The kind of training we give our students is focused towards solving critical problems in society.
In the inaugural year when the University opened, five siblings studied the process of registering students manually and realised that there were a lot of challenges which waste time, energy and efforts.
So they developed software that made it possible to register student with a twinkle of an eye. That software is still being used for the seven years that the University has been in existence.
One of the siblings, Naima Samuel from Pakistan, was the best graduating student in 2009 and she proceeded to the Wusang University in South Korea for her graduate studies. While she was there, her former Dean of the School of IT and Communications, Professor Muhammadu Kah, became the president of the University of the Gambia after completing his term at AUN.
He invited her from Korea to come and develop the same software for the Gambian University and she was paid handsomely for it.
Our students also observed that as the campus grows the use of tickets to get their food at the cafeteria waste a lot of time, so they developed the cafeteria Point of Sale (POS) software. Students have their funds for their food loaded on their ID cards and all they need do is to present it at the cafeteria where a simple process deducts the amount they ordered for immediately.
Our students also developed the Electronic Voting Software. They realised that voting has been a fundamental problem in Nigeria. With the EVS you can stay within the comfort of your room, log on, vote and then submit directly to the data base. It is also the computer that will do the counting and give total votes without rowdiness and rigmaroles.
From 2010 to date, we have been using the EVS and our students have even agreed to partner with INEC to see if they can help in sanitizing elections in Nigeria. We are still awaiting their response.
The AUN Campus is a two tier campus: the main Campus and the North Campus which is over looking each other. Students are driven with shuttle buses from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. If a student misses a bus, they have to wait for between 10 to 20 minutes for the next bus to arrive. So, the students felt that is a waste of their time and decided to develop software which can monitor the movement of the bus, which now makes it easier for students to keep tabs and always arrive the pickup point just at about the same time with the Bus. The software is called Shuttle Bus Tracking Software.
What Makes AUN different to other Universities
We are Africa’s first Development University, and that means the concept of service learning is key. Regardless of the fact that the chunk of AUN students come from rich families, we instill in them the concept of having to serve.
One of the problems we have in this country is that people aspire to positions of leadership without knowing what the responsibility of leadership is. They hardly have a plan and they have not been trained on the process and procedures of leadership.
Our students are trained to learn to serve people no matter how highly placed they are.
We also always try to identify a problem and then find solutions to them. All the software developed was to solve identified problems.
We also focus on critical thinking. Students are trained to challenge almost all positions taken by professors. The American training gives you hands on training by pushing you to think critically and enterprising.
No matter the course a student enrolls for at AUN, he or she must know how to run a business successfully. Each student must develop a business plan and come and defend it in class until it becomes a perfect business plan.
The goal is to ensure that any graduate of AUN can be able to stand on his feet without having to wait for any government job.
Also the tools for attaining academic success have been provided at the AUN. We maintain a completely wireless campus. We equally maintain a 99.9% e-library; we do have hard copy texts, but the emphasis is on the soft copy. We have millions of e-copies of journals, periodicals and books.
All our classes are enabled by power projectors and they are very small, typical of American education.
We can’t have a class of say forty students. In fact, there are classes with less than fifteen students. The Semester before this one, I taught a class of twelve students.
We also have professors of all disciplines from all over the world. This is unprecedented.
With more than 150 million people, Nigeria needs more than one form of education; we need options away from the British form of education. The American style of teaching is that every Professor must know his student one on one. Also, the assessment system is two-way traffic. Students are also given the opportunity to test their professors by filling out a form to describe the professor’s capacity to teach, his knowledge of the course and the like.
Any Professor that is above average from the student’s assessment are commended or even promoted, anyone on average will be chided and advised to jerk up their performance, while those below average will be asked to go away.
We operate within the purview of the Nigerian educational requirement. We ask for five credits in either NECO or WAEC, or a combination of both. The five credits must include Maths and English Language.
We also ask for a JAMB score of 200 points. We equally ask for the academic transcripts of SS1,2 and 3 so that we will find out if your Jamb score and results are a reflection of your performance over three year period. We also ask for a recommendation letter from your secondary school or college.
Applicants are also asked to write one paragraph or more essay, asking you to write why you chose AUN. We also need two passport photographs and a means of identification (ID card, International passport, National ID E.T.C.)
Finally, applicants need to go to any branch of Guaranty Trust Bank or Enterprise Bank and pay N5, 000 and collect a teller. Visit the AUN website- http://www.americanuniversitynigeria.org and then download the application form.
Job after graduation
Our Alumni are hot cakes, when they go to students exchange abroad, they perform well. They are always at par with students they met either in US or UK. Finding jobs has not been an issue for them. We retain a lot of our Alumni, because we don’t have to re-train them.
We organise career fairs sometimes in Lagos, other times in Abuja and bring in companies and government agencies to come and meet our Alumni and some continuing students to interview them. Many have gotten jobs on the spot.
Many of our students who got the jobs usually say they are not going to do it for a lifetime, but just to get the experience.
Scholarship is fully by merit, we don’t want to know who your father is or how good looking your face is.
We just want to know that you have the academic qualification to enroll for scholarship. Because scholarship is free, there is a tendency for many people to apply, but the competition is very high. We give the best. We accept a C6 for any normal admission requirement, but when one is applying for a scholarship, we only accept As and Bs for the five credits.
We also accept 245 points in the JAMB score when one is applying for a scholarship. Even the academic transcripts for SS1, 2 and 3 must contain As and Bs.
The scholarship tests are conducted each May nationally across the six Geo political zones; Yola for the North East (AUN Academy), Kaduna for the North West at Zamani College and Damboa International College; Abuja for the North Central, America International school and the Yar’adua centre; Lagos for the South West at the Ivy College in Victoria Island and Dowen College at Lekki Peninsula; Enugu for the South East at Elizabeth Miamata College and Port Harcourt for the South South at Cija college.