The registered active student population of the National Open University of Nigeria, NOUN, has hit 254,000, its vice- chancellor, Abdalla Adamu, disclosed.
Mr. Adamu told the Economic Confidential magazine in Abuja that the number is distributed across the 77 study centres scattered all over the country touching all the states, local government areas and the six geopolitical zones.
“I can confidently confirm to you that the total registered active student population is now 254,000 scattered across the 77 study centres in the country”, Mr. Adamu said.
The NOUN boss also said that having the 77 study centres means that some states have more than one or two study centres depending on demand, adding that Abuja has about 8 centres.
He further stated that “some organisations come to us and ask for study centres and we call them specialised centres, notably Police, Immigration and the Nigerian Prison Service, while some states have community study centres.
He, however, noted that at the inception of the Open University, there were misgivings and mistrust about the institution, as many people did not look at it as credible and worthy. He said the pressure of students getting admission to conventional universities was increasing by the day as almost one million students want to gain admission into universities yearly through Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB.
He emphasised that the influx has become so enormous that the state study centres can no more cope with the population, which gave rise to requests for community study centres by some states and these requests were mostly from the southern parts of the country.
Meanwhile, the university authority has sacked the two companies manning the Information Technology (IT) infrastructure and replaced them with an in-house team of IT experts, thereby saving the institution about 80 per cent revenue that had earlier been lost to NOUN.
“Well as for how much I have saved for doing away with consultants, I would not tell you that because that is our secret. When I took over, I saw that the entire Information Technology infrastructure were outsourced to two companies. One was called Cyberspace and the other called Emerging Platforms.”
“They were the ones running the entire system. As an ICT person myself because I spent about 15 years teaching System Analysis at Masters Degree level in Bayero University, Kano. Now how can I have a department of Computer Science, and the Dean of that department was the immediate Vice-President of Nigerian Computer Society, a professor of Robotics and other talents in ICT in these university, and yet still outsource all these to another agency, I said no it cannot happen!
“So the first thing I did was to look at the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between us and the two organisations. Of course they paid us the usual courtesy call so that they can remain relevant. We sat down and looked at the MOU and found out that in one of them the MOU stipulates 70 per cent profit and the other 85 percent of the revenue as profit because they provide all the skills, technology including examinations portal. I said this is not acceptable”.
“So we assembled a team and asked ourselves whether we can do this. So they said they can. Then I said go and design it and we decided to shut out the two companies and all kinds of legal battles started, stating that they have signed the contract for five years and cannot be terminated”.
“I told them that within the MOU we can give each other one month notice to terminate such contracts and so I have the powers to do so. You can imagine when the students pay this money, one company gets 70 percent of such payments and the other gets 85 percent! I said that has stopped, and any money coming to us would now be ours henceforth”.
He stressed that the revenue flow was able to provide needs of the study centres and train them at conferences to increase their efficiency, adding that the money is also used in paying for those writing course materials for the university.
We are contented because we do not request government to provide such monies, the professor said.
He said because of funds “being generated through the payment of tuition by students, the institution is now able to push out quality materials for students and also planning to shoot this into tablets, so that we have what we call “I-NOUN”.
“So this I-NOUN will be a complete package of courses. So we cut out these outsources and created our own services and it is working. The key to sustainability in any Open Distance Learning (ODL) is independence.