His fetching humour and gentle mein belies inner steel, unwavering will and deep thinking that has enabled him navigate successfully any responsibilities on his shoulders. A jolly good fellow and uncommon intellectual but one who hardly permits grass to grow under his nimble feet, speaks with uncommon frankness, the Vice Chancellor of Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rumuolumeni, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Prof. Ozo-Mekuri Ndimele says the university supports indigent students who are financially handicapped and those who are scholarly outstanding on bursary.
What are your thoughts on the IAUE?
I was inaugurated as the second Vice Chancellor of the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education on 20th December, 2016 by His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.
We met a University in disarray, poorly managed with distrust firmly rooted. It was a challenge on my shoulders to reconcile aggrieved persons and cultivate the seed of harmony and love in the people, and the system. Today , our gratitude rises to God Almighty for the strength and guidance afforded us to succeed.
We also met a mono University, offering Degrees only in Education. It didn't go beyond Bachelors in Education, but now the University is a full fledged University and we are still expanding beyond education courses. From 2017, we began to run Bachelor of Science and Arts courses in addition to Bachelor of Education. So far, over 27 courses in Arts and Science have been approved and accredited by the National University Commission (NUC), with Post-Graduate Diplomas, Masters and Doctorate Programmes. Between 2017, 2018, and 2020, we established a Business School at the St. John's Campus, where we are running 25 programmes including 'A' levels and JUPEB.
What level of infrastructure did you inherit?
I said we got approval for PGDs, Masters and PhD programmes, but there were no classrooms. When I came on board, there was a Post-Graduate School but without Post-Graduate Programmes…. and without PG programmes, the school would go down and collapse, so decided to take the bull by the horn; commenced the programme and furnished the classrooms with ACs and smart boards to accommodate the programme. Such facilities are not available in the Universities in our neighbourhood. We have more students now on the PG programmes than some of the older Universities around us. It is an envious milestone and we are still working to broaden the scope of our achievements. The school parades lecturers with high grade credentials who ensure that our students finish and graduate in record time.
My administration also met a building designated as University Printing Press that was not functioning but now, we are happy to reveal that the printing press is fully functional and all our works are done here. With this, we save capital flight and encourage inner growth.
We also do in-house, the pre-entry compulsory x-ray for all new intakes which earns revenue for the school. We are still striving to improve the quality of life and ensure for every student there is a good learning environment.
In the early weeks of this February, the Executive Governor also performed the Ground breaking ceremony for the construction of Chief Emmanuel Aguma's Post-Graduate complex. My administration will commence the building of a shopping mall, Faculty of Business Studies and male and female hostels soon. We shall use the internally generated revenue to support these ventures. The growth here is amazing. All these would not have been possible without the support of the staff and the entire University community.
I have a very strong ally – The Registrar of this Institution, Mrs. Hope Kue-Ikoro. Her unwavering dedication for the joint up-building of this school is beyond words. The Registrar is a caring mother that knows and attends to the challenges of students each time. I must thank her for our successes. If you keep a tab on humility, hard work, transparency, and openness, you find them in her. Her feminine qualities continue to complement with granite strength the growth of this school.
I enjoin every manner of staff in the school to prayerfully be on deck and disengage from actions that vilify and degrade the institution.
We cannot but thank immeasurably the tireless effort and investment the Governor of Rivers State, His Excellency, Chief Barrister Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, has injected into this institution. It is unquantifiable. Our heart will always go to him.
Still on infrastructure…..
In 2019, a new road was commissioned here. It has opened up the area and activated the surrounding. Let me also mention that the General Overseer of Salvation Ministries, Pst. David Ibiyeomie also donated some buildings that will serve the need of students as hostels.
…. And the St. John's Campus?
Thank you for throwing this up. The St. John's campus of our school has been rebranded and transformed. The buildings and infrastructure have been improved from what we met. We are building a 10-units blocks or flats to serve as staff quarters.
Would you mention the help extended to indigent students?
In every circumstance in life and at every station in human affairs, always show love, compassion and consideration for your neighbour, and reciprocally, you will attract the love of others and help from the Almighty God. Let us look at it this way. There was hunger all over the place, we had to put in place a programme we tagged “School-and-Work Scheme”. The indigent students who benefit from it clean the classrooms and earn a living monthly. Many students benefitted from the laudable, well guided programme. We had to stop it this year when we noticed that some persons were trying to abuse the privilege to give succour to the needy. Not just this scheme, here in Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, students on 4.0 (four points) and above are on bursary every session. You also get a certificate of merit as Vice Chancellor's Scholar. In 2019, the best graduating student got One Million Naira. I encourage students to compete in academics here to strive for excellence.
What is your take on the courses?
When I assumed office, students were offering up to 14 courses per semester which was an overload. It is dangerous to over-stretch the brain cells; so the academic board sat and reviewed it to a maximum of seven (7).
See what is happening to the study of Mass Communications. It has been unbundled in Nigeria. Before now, you studied over six professional fields at a stretch which inhibits expertise. In IAUE, you study a maximum of seven courses per semester. This enables students to concentrate and achieve better results. In fact, in Ignatius Ajuru University, students access their results online as soon as the Senate approves the results.
Are the staff flowing with you?
Yes! They are supportive, giving that in every circumstance, people flow according to their maturity and perceptions. People must be allowed to grow from within out of conviction. You cannot coerce them to believe in you so long as their attitude does not become a cog in the wheel of progress.
Staff welfare and promotion is our concern. The symbiotic relationship between the staff and management of IAUE is legendary and highly admirable, hence you cannot have our staff go on strike here except it is nationally coordinated. The Visitor to the University ensures that salaries are paid at when due. I attend ASUU and SSANU meetings when invited.
Please let me also hint that we hold the Vice Chancellor's Students Forum quarterly. We interact with students, know and address issues that bother them. We are a family – students, staff and management, all geared towards harmony and upward growth. But there is always room for improvement to achieve the ideal.
How would you measure your relationship with the host communities?
Very cordial! Children from host communities are offered admission even with minimum cut off mark to encourage them to study. This consideration is also extended to the children of our staff.
We give scholarships on merit to students from host communities. Such scholarships run from year one to final year. The relationship has been warm and rewarding.
What message do you have for students involved in cultism?
Some of the students got involved in cultism from primary and secondary schools. Here in IAUE, we are averse to criminality and cultism, once you are caught, you will face a disciplinary panel and get dismissed. We publish such names for people to know. The cheering news is that recently, some students voluntarily came out to renounce cultism. We are not relenting, but continue in the drive to eradicate the menace. It is a process of cleansing – be free or get fired!!
The Vice Chancellor's Cup Competition will commence on Tuesday March 3, 2020. All faculties and departments will compete in track and field events for four weeks.
What is your take on Skills Acquisition Programmes?
Thanks for this thoughtful question: Here in IAUE, we stop lectures by 12 noon on Fridays because it is a day reserved for skills training. We encourage our students to add value to their certificates by acquiring skills also.
We had planned 86 skills from year 1 to final year. The University entered into a Memorandum of Understanding MOU with 36 firms operating in our neighbourhood. They provide the skills, while we give tutorials.
There is a Directorate of Ideas, Creativity and Innovation here, so initially, each student here was to graduate with 2 certificates – one on skills and the other on academic work…………. But some persons are assiduously frustrating it.
We are holding discussions to establish a Distant Learning Institute, in addition to Study Centres for those who intend to study in Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
The authorities of the VN Karazin Kharkiv National University, Ukraine have visited here and approved of our facilities. The student will do 2 years here and 2 years overseas, and earn the degrees of the overseas Universities.
What is your staff development package?
We encourage our staff to attend courses on seminars, even outside the country to earn Higher Degree. Some are already on it. It is sponsored by TETFUND.
Let me continue to emphasize that without the avid support of the Governor of Rivers State, all these milestones would come to nought. We thank him for his fatherly interventions here.