After at least four years in a Nigerian University, a student makes the best grade possible: a First Class. The joy of that achievement is sufficient, knowing that one has made herself or himself proud, and has justified all fees and pocket monies given by parents, relatives, or even, in some cases, personal hustle combined with study.
To not give the impression that they are not part of the celebration, school management would usually decide to be part of the claim to glory, claiming they had provided the conducive environment for such results to be possible. While that is certainly a spurious statement knowing the truth about how students struggle through short falls in power, water and inconveniences from lecturers, it is still possible to stomach it, holding one’s nose as the pageantry of convocation ceremonies proceed.
But when the school decides to produce a reward for the best students, there must only be one way to do it for it not to be absolutely disgraceful, and what the Federal University of Technology, Owerri reportedly did at its Convocation ceremony last week was just that: disgraceful. How else could you possibly describe the cash valuations of its so-called ‘Internal Prizes’?
An image of a page from the brochure of the day indicate that the Deans’ Awards given to the best graduating students who had a First Class degree in six of the institution’s faculties (called ‘Schools’) all have a ‘Price Value’ of N1000 only.
N1000 (one thousand naira) could hardly pay for the number of pens used by the students in their five years in FUTO, let to say be anything remotely close to a sensible token to recognize the efforts they put into becoming first among equals in character and learning. At the time of these students’ admission, N1000 was worth at least two and a half times the $2.78 it is worth today. There could not be a greater evidence of contra-appreciation and deliberate ridicule.
It begs the inquiry on what the reason for the frankly indefensible reward could be. Was a flat rate imposed on all Deans across all the faculties by a decision of the University senate, or is it a conscious collusion to send the students off the FUTO way, staying true to its tag as the school of Frustration Under Tension Owerri right to the end?
Maybe there should be reality TV shows on just how difficult it is to study in a Nigerian University. To get it right, the producers must ensure there are ASUU strikes, poor research facilities and debilitating hostel conditions, so that whoever does a Miracle to win it will be full value for their N25 million and car. Perhaps only then would the efforts of Nigerian students truly be appreciated to command much more respectful and dignifying recognition than the utter sham that are FUTO’s prizes.
The graduates on the list, their departments and their Cumulative Grade Point Averages (over 5) are:
• Ijeaku Jane Adim (4.76), Forestry and Wildlife Technology
• Leo Stanley Chibuike Ndunagum (Grade Point not indicated), Polymer & Textile Engineering
• Uzochukwu Gordian Uruakpa (4.41), Department of Information Management Technology
• Caryne Chidimma Ezerioha (4.58), Biochemistry
• Emmanuel Opeyemi Onyeachor (4.52), School of Environmental Sciences
• Sodique Omobolaji Fakorede (4.62), Prosthesis and Orthotics
These and the other first class awardees deserve greater spotlight and just rewards for their efforts. It is to be hoped that employers rightly provide these good reward for their hardwork. This is hoping other institutions of learning around the country avoid the dismissive and belittling example given by FUTO.
For what it’s worth, this writer is an alumnus with a grudge, but that’s matter for later. However the above is pondered, the facts tell a self-evident story of ridicule and disgrace wholly unsuitable even for banter.