Leveraging the United Nations International Youth Day (IYD) celebrated annually on August 12, the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus (UNEC) Student Affairs Department,collaborated with Achsah Growth Initiative, Comfort Literacy Intervention & Capacity Enhancement (CLICE) Foundation and Consumer Advocacy and Empowerment Foundation (CADEF) to mark the International Youth Day with undergraduate students from neighbouring tertiary institutions; University Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) Enugu, Enugu State University of Technology (ESUT), Enugu State College of Education (ESCET) and Students from the host institution, UNEC at the Main Hall UNEC.
The programme which took the form of an advocacy started at 11:30am, with an Opening prayer by the Chaplain of the Chapel of Redemption, UNEC,Very Rev’d Osundu Ekweremadu and the School Anthem.The event was well attended by students, Student Union Government (SUG) presidents from the respective institutions, National Association of Nigerian Students’ (NANS) President and youth leaders, lecturers and stakeholders within the education sector, Pressmen from the Dream FM and nonprofit organizations. The Keynote Speaker, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, Former Minister of Power and Former Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria Nsukka also arrived at the venue early.
In his Welcome Address, the Associate Dean of Student Affairs UNEC, Dr. E. C. Moka who represented the Vice Chancellor and Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University,welcomed the students and guests. He started by saying“it is well known that any society, community or country without youth has no future; preparation for that future depends largely on what is done today for the development and betterment of the youth. The University setting has continued to offer that important pedestal for preparing a significant part of our teeming population of youth for that great future,that is why the Student Affairs decided to catch in on the United Nations World Programme of Action for the Youth (WPAY) by joining the global community in observingthis special day designed for celebrating our youth” Dr. Moka explained further that the Student Affairs Department did not want to jump the gun or celebrate the day belatedly this year, considering that the programme has always taken place every year at the University of Nigeria, since it commenced in 2015; and so, this happens to be the fifth year of this important celebration.
He added further that “Youth unemployment seems to be defying solutions, not minding the various palliatives governments at Federal and State levels have introduced. Drug abuse amongst youth is also on the increase. Another concern in recent times has been the spate of suicideamong the youth. “we in this University, have experienced few cases of suicide or attempted suicides”. “How can education help in tackling the myriads of challenges of our young people today?This according to him informed their decision to invite the guest speaker, Ven. Prof. Chinedu Nebo, a former Vice-Chancellor of the University as well as a seasoned man of God who has great experience working amongst youths, well-known public speaker and also a tested university administrator, trusting Prof. Nebo would make recommendations on how education can be a transforming anecdote.
Keynote Address by Prof. Chinedu Nebo
Prof. Chinedu Nebo during his Keynote Address started by showing appreciation to the organizers of the event, becauseaccording to him, “young people have formed an incredible part of the passion of my life, trying to mentor and encourage and to see that as many young people as are possible are empowered”. The Former Minister of Power and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria Enugu expressed his appreciation to students who chose to be at the gathering, rather than any other place at that time.
According to Prof. Nebo, completetransformation through education is key, and that is the kind of education that the students are in the university to acquire. He noted that we are in an era where students have all the body of knowledge in their palm, which makes them a distinctive generation of students; compared to his time when they had only the mainframe computer. Prof. Nebo linked proper transformed education to Christianity and in his word “a Christo-centric view of education makes all the difference in the world, owning to the fact that Christianity is the source of modern education. Education is the bedrock of change and transformation; Education may be applied to obtain either positive or negative result. Education must therefore be potently transformational, be anchored upon truth to be meaningfully beneficial to mankind.Education that does not bring about change is merely a mere communication of information. On the other hand, education that transforms the intellect and the heart will bring healing and peace to a hurting world.
The question now remains, what kind of education do we need to attain complete transformation? Prof. Nebo answered these questions by asserting that the hallmark of Transformed Education are as follows; Servant Spirit, Severing humanity and God, tenacious faith, discipline, conviction, competence i.e going beyond classroom knowledge, being teachable, focus, character and integrity, discernment, humility and meekness, compassionate, persistent, visionary, confidence, amongst other. He also admonished students to emulate positive peer pressure; one that inspire them to achieve academic excellence rather than the negative ones that make them lose focus, feel depressed and attempt to commitment suicide.
The University of Nigeria Enugu Campus presented him with an art work after his address in appreciation for his coming.
Public Speaking Contest
UNEC Debating Club Society anchored a PublicSpeaking contest tailored around the theme of the event, the winners of the event and the topics selected by the panel are as follows; overall Winner; Obi Amaka Favour (Causes and remedies of the decayed educational infrastructure in Nigeria) 1st Runner Up: Eze Kenechukwu (The urgent need to educate every African Child); Second runner Up: Ude Fortune Chiziterem (The Urgent need to educate every African Child).
Panel Discussion: An Advocacy for a More Relevant, Quality and Inclusive Education for Students in Nigeria
The panel discussion was anchored by Achsah Growth Initiative, CLICE Foundation and Consumer Advocacy and Empowerment Foundation (CADEF). Discussants were representatives of the participating universities and National Student leaders (NANS).Ezenwafor Chisom Matilda, Vice President SUG UNEC who represented the SUG President took the lead. When asked what her definition of quality and relevant education is, she respondedthat it is an education thatprepares students for the world outside the walls of the University, one that equips students with soft skills to enable them meet employers’ expectations upon graduation. The next question was whether Enugu State University of Technology (ESUT) is able to meet their needs in terms of providing tools that enable them match theories with practice? The SUG President of ESUT agreed to a large extent that his Institution has done well to put in place most of the tools needed for them to understand how to apply the practical aspect of their coursework beyond theory. According to him, this is evident in the recent performance of his school at a competition where ESUT came first position. However, for IMT Enugu, the story is different. Representative of the students demanded for more in terms of inclusive and quality education.Leadership and responsibilities goes hand in hand; one of the youth leaders who is a past SUG President, Princewill reacted to the question about how well female students who were included in leadership positions perform and if they are adequately represented. It is because this will increase their chances performing well if given leadership positions after school. The NANS VicePresident who is also the Special Adviser to the Enugu State Governor on Youth and Students Affairs, spoke from the policy perspective. He urged lecturers to get themselves acquainted with educational policies and start implementation because this will go a long way to bridge the gaps that hitherto exist in the System, from Primary school to tertiary institutions. Students representative from Enugu State College of Education and Technology (ESCET)advocated for inclusive education in terms of infrastructural facilities both in hostels and class room so that learning environment can be conducive enough as this has a direct impact on learning outcomes.
On a final note, Ms. Henrietta Okafor who represented CADEF made the following recommendations; “it is the collective responsibility of both the lecturers and the students to make education relevant to meet global best practices. On the part of the lecturers, she highlighted the need for them to update their notes because the society is evolving and it is old fashioned for lecturers to pass on notes used about 20 years ago to today’s students. It is not enough to have a vision of transforming education, deviating from old practices and incorporating creative and innovative thinking would help students compete favourably with their counterparts in other parts of the world. Ms. Henrietta urged lecturers to adopt an approach that blends theories and practices, have a feedback mechanism to hear from students what their needs are, rather than base the judgment of their needs on assumption. It is also important for them to equip laboratories for science students to dosampling, as it costs a lot to take them outside. Students were challenged to wake up from their slumber, take relevant online courses and stop waiting for the government. While Achsah Growth Initiative encouraged Students to take advantage of opportunities available to them through technology, to enhance their capacity to compete globally.