Without doubt, Open and Distance Education plays an essential role in personal, community, and national development. The increasing growth in Nigeria’s population, the accelerating demand for education at all levels and the challenge associated with accessibility, call for a more viable and robust means of educating Nigerian citizens, which Open and Distance Learning (ODL) institutes are presently doing. But a situation where law graduates from ODL institutes are not admitted into the Nigerian Law School while graduates are excluded from the National Youth Service Corps, raise questions on public acceptability of ODL as a quality means of acquiring formal knowledge. It is as a result of the foregoing that we commend the recent decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to give assent to the long overdue National Open University (NOUN) Amendment Act. The presidential assent is a welcome development as the action has finally settled the controversy over the status of NOUN graduates. It is instructive to note that the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, had on Friday in Abuja, informed the State House correspondents that NOUN graduates are now free to enjoy the privileges attached to their certificates by virtue of the president’s assent to the bill.
Enang had said, “President Buhari has also assented to National Open University Amendment Act, which allows the National Open University to operate as all other universities, having the same power and functions and the same administrative structures.
This is a welcome development as the move will go a long way to clear the dichotomy and misconceptions faced by ODL graduates as majority of the students study with fears of acceptability in the society upon graduation.
Education underpins all efforts towards national development, and so the fight against corruption, insurgency and all forms of social vices, which government is poised to win, will be made easier if everyone is educated.
Religious, ethnic strife and intolerance, will also be reduced to the barest minimum if education is embraced by all and sundry, coupled with the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which is hinged on Education For All.
As the largest black population in the world and with literacy level of less than 60 per cent, Nigeria has adopted the Open and Distance education mode as a veritable tool for achieving its developmental goals and objectives.
Incidentally, the National Policy on Education provides for lifelong learning through distance education and it is refreshing to note that the administration is taking full advantage of the opportunities that open and distance education provides.
It is important to state that ODL has a number of daunting challenges that are specific to it. These challenges are related to its demand for time, effort, energy, skills, knowledge and staff resources.
There are also challenges that relate to public acceptability of ODL as a mode of study whose outcomes are comparable to conventional mode of study.
This question of acceptability influences the existence of a state of affairs which scholars view as the marginalization of ODL courses in United Kingdom universities but with understandable exception of Open University of UK.
We consider the legal backing for NOUN as a progressive minded one coming from the Federal Government, and we congratulate all NOUN graduates and undergraduates.
We submit that Open Distance Learning is the best alternative to the challenges of gaining admission into the universities in Nigeria.
We also wish to state that the conventional universities cannot admit more than one-third of qualified candidates annually. But we are happy that, in line with global education, the open distance learning, ODL, being run by NOUN will soon completely eradicate the challenges of admission into universities.
We are of the opinion that there will be no discrimination between ODL and conventional universities as we believe that there is no age limit, no status limit and no social barrier to sound and qualitative education.
Buhari, NOUN Law and matters arising
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