Even though the school authorities claimed that handouts have been banned in the school and that lecturers can only sell recommended textbooks, an investigation by this newspaper shows that many of the so-called textbooks are without International Standard Book Number (ISBN).
The ISBN is a numeric commercial book identifier, which is intended to be unique. Publishers purchase ISBNs from an affiliate of the International ISBN Agency. The thirteen digits are assigned to each edition and variation of a publication.
The ISBN contains the country number and the publisher’s number and the book number. It is used to identify books by booksellers, libraries, and distributors, thereby saving time and staff costs and reducing copying errors.
In June when this reporter visited the school, it was discovered that there are many textbooks, authored by lecturers from different departments, without this unique ID sold to students at exorbitant prices.
Books in this category include those by lecturers in the mass communication and banking and finance departments.
Other publications from departments without ISBN number include Instrumentation (General) for GLT 302 by the Physics with Electronic Unit of the Science Technology Department and Principles of Entrepreneurship by Entrepreneurship Development Centre. These are departmental publications with no lecturer’s name as author.
Professor Andrew Okilagwe, the Chief Executive Officer of an Ibadan-based publishing firm, Stirling-Horden Publishers LTD, said that any book published without an ISBN cannot be termed a standard publication and as such is questionable.
“If a book is published without an ISBN number, it simply means it has not met the standard required of that. Any book published without ISBN is a suspect. It could be plagiarized or not up-to-date. It could be that the publisher publishing is not qualified or not authentic.
“There are requirements for scholarly publications. It has to be authentic, written by the right person, cover the subject area and has to be updated. Anything published so far it covers a curriculum can be called a textbook. The issue of ISBN is to authenticate that it is formally published and recognized in the nation,” he said in an interview with this reporter.
He, however, clarified that handouts are the ‘need publication’ added to students when the person issuing cannot authenticate the source.
“In most cases, handouts are derivations of some other people’s works. The copyright law is not observed. They are doing that illegally,” he said.
Mr Okilagwe’s explanation suggests that most of the materials were published in book format just to by-pass the warnings by the university authority.
Although the Nigerian constitution and the codes of National Library of Nigeria do not recommend any punishment for publishing without ISBN, the copyright law of 2004 forbids transfer, infringement of copyright in literary works
Meanwhile, of all the departments concerned, this newspaper confirmed that only the Department of Science and Technology frowns at publications from individual lecturers being published as departmental textbooks.
“We allow contributions from the lecturers but only the department can publish,” a senior lecturer in the department, who does not want his name in print, disclosed.
“You know in academics, if you don’t publish you perish. You need a number of publications to be promoted. With that, you contribute to knowledge. In every organization, there may be some bad eggs. In this administration, so many people are on suspension. Everybody cannot be on the same page. That is the case in all institutions,” he buttressed.
No Textbook, No Test, No assignment
To stress that the teaching aids are optional, the school authority had announced that they (text books) do not entitle marks to students and are not compulsory for class activities or tests.
Meanwhile, this reporter confirmed that in many cases, the names of buyers are collated in a list while, in some, students submit assignments given alongside the textbook of particular lecturers.
For instance, on June 20 this year, Yemisi Adekeye, a lecturer in GNS 102, an English Language course, instructed the students of Mass Communication not to submit an assignment without including the textbooks.
“Transcribe 20 (twenty) words of your choices. Submit next week. Those without the textbook should not submit,” she wrote on the white board. Some students and graduates of the school testified to the age-long practice.
An HND 1 student of Mass Communication (name withheld) said, “All lecturers will tell you “my handout is not compulsory but necessary”.
“When they give you test, you may not be able to submit. It cuts across all courses.”
He added that sometimes when students get to the test hall, the names of those who have paid will be read out and those whose names are missing will not be allowed to write tests or exams.
“In some cases, when you want to submit your assignment, you will be asked to write down the number on your handout on the script. Without it, even the course rep will not collect the assignment from you. In fact, it got to a point that even if you will not get the textbook peradventure it is finished, just pay and your name gets to the lecturer.
Also, Wisdom Olusola who obtained his National Diploma in Electrical Engineering in 2012 stated that the lecturers, as individuals, sold handouts to students while he was studying in the polytechnic.
“When we were there, we bought too. If you don’t buy, there is a tendency that you will carry-over the course. A lecturer once told us that even when you write the exams well, if we don’t buy his handout we will fail”.
An ex-student, Sodiq, who obtained a diploma in Banking and Finance in 2015, before proceeding to a university, told this reporter that he was faced with the same challenge during his programme.
“There are different prices during our time. It ranged from N1,000 toN2,000. In some courses that students should have good grades, they get lesser scores if they refuse to buy textbooks.”
Mr Sodiq, however, noted that the textbooks are not transferable because the lecturers are after the money.
Some others revealed that in a semester, they spend an average of N10, 000 on these materials not because they can afford it but because they are made compulsory in one way or the other.
Meanwhile, they all agreed that there were lecturers during their time who did not make their handouts compulsory but said such were in the minority.
Frustrating, risky handout business
The sale of handouts in the institution would not have been easy for the lecturers without the help of the course representatives who also serve as the sales reps.
Most of the students who spoke with this reporter sought anonymity because if their identity were traced, they would be victimised.
A class representative in the School of Business and Administration explained the pressure he goes through collecting money from students and getting the books across to them.
“Some of them will be on my neck if they have paid and yet to get the handout. For some courses like Entrepreneurship that they give out limited textbooks, I will be the one the students will be pestering.”
Another course representative in the School of Communication and Information Technology disclosed that there is a particular lecturer that demands that she pays the proceeds into his bank account.
“Sometimes, I spend almost an hour in the queue trying to pay on the bank’s counter. After this semester, I am no longer interested,” she said.
In March this year, a National Diploma 1 student of the Civil Engineering Department, Ridwan Ajiboye, reportedly committed suicide by drinking some insecticide.
Mr Ajiboye decided to end his life after he was allegedly embarrassed by one of his lecturers, who gave him some handouts to sell to his course mates, Punch newspaper reported.
Although the school denied it, it is yet to give the report of its investigation into the cause of the student’s death.
The spokesperson of the institution, Olayinka Iroye, restated the ban on handouts. He said the panel investigating Mr Ajiboye’s death was yet to conclude its findings when this reporter visited in June.
This paper gathered that the current management of the school issued a regulation that all textbooks should not be sold for more than a thousand naira and that those who sold for more should make a refund to students.
“Many were selling the textbooks for N1,200 and above but when we resumed this semester, the management regulated them to N1,000 each. I once bought a handout for N2,000 during my ND days,” the HND student said.
However, while some lecturers adhered to the directive of refunding the excess charged, one Mass Communication lecturer refused to make a refund of the extra N500 for the textbook he sold. The head of Mass Communication department confirmed this and promised that the lecturer will do the needful in a telephone interview with this reporter.
When contacted, the institution’s Students’ Union Government (SUG) President, Muritala Saheed, spoke about the mechanism put in place for substandard publications.
“If we have any textbook that is not properly typed or printed, the students can report to the union. I am aware that some of them aren’t worth the price,” he told this paper.
Julius Ademokoya, a Professor of Speech and Hearing Education Rehabilitation and the Dean, Faculty of Education in the University of Ibadan, condemned the act of forcing publications on students and making it an element for grading.
The don termed it a serious aberration and an unfortunate development, in an interview with this paper.
“Examination is never graded by what textbooks do you buy or what textbooks do you read. It is graded by answering questions set according to the syllabus. When you set your question, you make sure that it measures up to the standard and there are always room for moderation by external examiners.”
He noted that students can be advised to look for certain books to read if they have information relevant to the topic being taught but it should never be recommended that buying the book is part of scores or elements that will be graded.
Responding to the question of quality, Mr. Ademokoya stated that the sale of handouts to students is both a professional and moral aberration.
“I may write a book based on my experience and research findings and all but it is unprofessional and immoral for me to force students to buy it or read,” he observed.
NBTE wades in, vows to investigate
The National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) in its reaction promised to conduct an independent investigation into the concerns raised in this two-part report.
The board, through its secretary, Masaud Kazaure, forwarded the response after sending a query to the polytechnic authorities, this paper confirmed.
He said; “I must tell you that NBTE is not aware of such infractions and when they come to our knowledge, we frown at such misdemeanours and if need be mete out the necessary sanctions.”
“However, in trying to establish the veracity or otherwise of the allegations, I contacted the management of the Polytechnic and it unequivocally denied all the allegations.”
“According to them, there are no departmental or faculty levies charged in the Polytechnic other than fees centrally approved by the Governing Council. Such fees it, pointed out, are paid directly into the Polytechnic’s TSA accounts.”
“According to the Polytechnic, no student is denied access to result on account of failure to make complete payment of the approved fees not to talk of levies for voluntary membership of associations.
“The management further denied sale of handouts by members of academic staff, saying the practice was outlawed in the institution over 20 years ago while internal quality assurance organs were put in place to check any likely breach.
“I wish to assure you that NBTE will further try to independently ascertain the truth about the allegations bothering on extortion, abuse of due process and violation of laid quality assurance mechanism,” Mr Kazaure promised.
School Promises TO Act
After this reporter’s visit, it was gathered that the institution’s management summoned top officials of the school to discuss the concerns raised by the reporter.
This reporter went with a copy of these substandard publications, during which the school’s media team expressed shock on sighting them.
The Head of Mass Communication department, Binta Oloyede, said the school has called for the withdrawal of some textbooks without ISBN.
“In the last meeting, we have said they should be withdrawn. And we said that in subsequent sessions, textbooks should be submitted for scrutiny. A committee has also been set up to look into publications in various departments,” she said.
Corroborating this, the spokesperson of the school assured that lecturers culpable of forcing students to buy textbooks will be seriously dealt with.
* This investigation was supported by Ford Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICIR