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Wednesday, 21 November 2012 00:00
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Obafunwa: Repositioning LASU for excellence

365 days after Professor John Oladapo Obafunwa became the Vice Chancellor of Lagos State University, massive developments have sprung up in all sections of the university. OLASUNKANMI AROWOLO in this report x-ray the stewardship of the Vice Chancellor.

That no Nigerian University made the current world’s 5,000 list is no news. That no state university made Africa’s 50 is no news. However, these may change soon. This hope is hinged on the dream and zeal of one man who took over the administration of Lagos state University. He is Professor John Oladapo Obafunwa, the Vice Chancellor, Lagos State University, Ojo. 

His appointment did not surprise many of the students and members of the university as it was in line with the maxim “res ipsa loquitor” meaning the fact speaks for itself. The Professor of Forensic Pathology at the Lagos state University College of Medicine (LASUCOM), Lagos and was a Consultant Pathologist to Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, and was a two term provost of Lagos State University College of Medicine.
With his phenomenal touch on LASUCOM, the College can be liken to any standard College of Medicine around the world with conducive lecture rooms, tele-lecture facilities, standard and well equipped laboratories, 24hours service library, hostel facilities with two to a room, 24 hours internet facilities to mention a few.

Replicating his achievement in the whole of the university, no doubt, a lot has occurred within the last 365 days touching the various aspect of academic life. He said “we look at the issues of registration, exams, results, accommodation, the image of the average LASU student and indeed the university itself, security which made us considered the aspect of trying to re-brand the university”.
Swiftly, he decided to restructure the process of registration asking the various Heads of Department (HOD) and Deans to be more responsive, to take up the challenge of knowing the exact numbers of students are with them. This enabled the university to know how many students to cater for.

In the university’s Senate, various sessions were with the Deans and HODs to look at ways to improve on our marking scheme, the Data Processing Unit (DPU) was involved, and new software was developed to mark scripts. The new method goes from the lecturers to the HODs and to the Deans and it is uploaded with the assistance of the DPU so that students could know where they stand Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) at any point in time.  
This is a replica of what was put in place in the Medical School where the new VC came from. These results are produced two to three weeks after exams considering the large numbers of students in the whole. Over the years, LASU had a lot of backload, but now, students have their results computed as soon as the results are ready.

 One sector of the university that the VC made a giant stride is the external system. The Visitor Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola scrapped the external campuses based on the recommendation of National Universities Commission (NUC). According to Professor Obafunwa, this was a welcome development to restore the integrity of an average LASU graduate and respect for the certificate. “When we took over, we have a number of these people in the external system. Students who you cannot describe as bonafide” he reiterated.
When the administration took over, there load of papers yet to be marked.  The VC took the decision of bringing in a new Director of the External System; a person of Professor Abanikanda. The professor of Biostatistics ensured that those loads in Ghana must go bags scripts were marked. At the last convocation, about 27,000 students were graduated of which over 14,000 were external students.  That was the fallout of the fact that there hasn’t been convocation for years.

Having restructured the external system, “we intend to replace it the Open Distance Learning. We had preliminary discussions NUC because they have the whole directorate dealing with that and in fact, we had heard about the directorates because we were there several months ago to give a clear picture of the Open System. This administration is committed to working closely with the NUC, making sure that we are on the same page, we do things correctly, and we won their confidence so that when they come here they see things under normalcy so that they will assist us with the Open Distance Learning” he said.
One thing amongst others that was getting the students frustrated was the issue of identity card.  Many of the students had no ID cards, on getting to banks and other organisations, they cannot identify themselves. With the assistance of the governing council, Professor Obafunwa said “we have been able to embark on this ID card project, I can tell you that a lot have been going on, right now we have over 8,000 Identity cards ready because we have to redesign it, the new ID card is well detailed. We brought in pre-printed cards from abroad; we extended this to the external system”.

There is an aspect of having a feel of university life, which drives us to the issue of accommodation. Apart from those living in the hostel Juliana Hostel, other places are very bad. Imagine a student living in filthy environment; this goes a long way to affect the academic performance of such students. “As I am speaking to you we have about seven proposals for students’ hostel which has been discussed. We have mapped out and been surveyed the sites to be used”.  
He added “And I can tell you that by the time it’s ready it will be better than even all what you have out there , hoping that it will give us a good feeling of university life, it is going to be something close if not better that the medical students hostel”.

One major constant agitation of students is about the availability of infrastructures, good laboratories, amongst others. At present, the university is witnessing massive infrastructural development. Thanks to the government of Lagos State under the leadership of our Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, visitor to the university.
 In the last twelve months, the Obafunwa administration embarked on a number of projects which include; seven storey Senate Building, four storey central Library, 2-in-1 Faculty of Law Lecture Theatre, New School of Transport, Faculty of Management Sciences Complex, Faculty of Sciences Complex, Students’ union Arcade, refurbishment of 3-in-1 building and many other projects that will change the architectural landscape of the main campus, Ojo.  
Most importantly, the administration completed some buildings which were eyesore on the Ojo Campus. Noteworthy is the New University Auditorium which was made ready for use for the recently concluded 17th Convocation Ceremonies of the university.  Also, the completion of Teslim Olawale Elias Law Library for the reaccreditation of the Law Faculty.

In September 2010, ten (10) major courses were disaccredited in LASU. The ugly development goes down to the root of image and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the university. To regain the strength of the university, Professor Obafunwa discarded the old saying “slow and steady wins the race” for “fast and consistent wins race” promptly, he constituted a virile academic planning committee headed by Professor Peter Okebukola, former National University Commission (NUC) Executive Secretary to keep an eye on the earnest accreditation of those courses. With anticipation, these courses will be reaccredited by the end of November 2012. 
Interestingly, more degree programmes will be added to the ones already offered. Discussion has been concluded with Centre for Space Exploration and Propulsion for the introduction of Aeronautic (Space) Engineering. Others are; Dentistry, Civil Engineering, School of Agriculture, Film and Cultural Studies.

Olusesi Ayobami a 300 Level student of Law perturbed “I am inspired by the inaugural lecture of Professor Sylvester Fajonyomi on “When the State Goes to Sleep: Of Citizens and State Relationship”. If I was told, I wouldn’t believe that such is happening on the surface of LASU. The LASU we know before gaining admission was a place for crisis. I choose LASU as the last resort after many JAMBs and because I am a Lagosian. Without any iota of doubt, with the inception of this administration, LASU has been peaceful with mouth wagging developments springing up. Wholeheartedly, we say a very big thank you to the new Vice Chancellor who has restored our hope and positioning LASU for excellence. We are indeed grateful.”
In a bid to get acquainted and exposed to international best practices, apart from theoretical classroom training, twenty-two (22) pioneer students of the School of Transport was sent on a seven (7) day tour of United States of America courtesy of the university. The delegation was led by Professor Sena Bakre and Dr. Ba’Wahala, the Acting Dean of School of Transport.

No wonder why reputable financial institutions and corporate organisations are fast approaching LASU for strong relationship. The effort of the management in the last one year made LASU the preferred choice has yielded positive results. WEMA Bank Plc and Skye Bank Plc donated a brand new 32 sitter coaster bus each to the University Management for the welfare of staff member.
One more significant fit attained by Professor Obafunwa, the pragmatist was in the area of appointment and promotion. As the Yoruba would say “inu didun ni o mu ori ya”   meaning “happiness is the incentive for productivity”. Long overdue Ph d holders have been appointed professors and some to Associate Professor. The promotion was not restricted to the teaching staffs; non-teaching staff were also promoted as required. This was accompanied with all outstanding payment of promotion arrears.
 
Does Professor meet the aspirations of students? “Yes, to an extent. With his coming, we can now check our academic profiles to see our results after exams as early as two weeks, registration is made easy with the facelift of the ICT, to be candid I got and ID card for the first time in four years, we now pay our school fee online to mention a few. The only problem as it is the issue of outrageous school fee which is not his making. I think with this pace, LASU will get there very soon but we want peace, good academic calendar, 24 hour internet facilities and others innovations to finally restore LASU’s glory” said Olaniyi Ajayi, 400 level Political Science.
 
The Chairperson of Senior Staff Association if Nigerian University, Mrs. Funmilayo Sessi have this say “We have witnessed tremendous peace in the university and we are witnessing operational changes also, the university is deviating from its past norm of administrative wastages and recklessness, and procedural ways of executing projects. We have also witnessed the way the academic and non-academic staff are striving so hard to improve themselves on their academic standard and qualification”.
 
Speaking further, she said “People are beginning to be aware that they have a lot of impacts to make for the development of LASU because the slogan of this school like that of Lagos State ‘Eko oni baje’, LASU’s is …Repositioning LASU for excellence … so all of us are now having the slogan in our minds and thinking on how we can reposition LASU for excellence and that is just the focus of this administration and the staff crew in LASU. I must add that the administration is taking the rights steps in the right direction to ensure that the students get proper education not only academic education and campus interactional education”.
 
“Lecturers are compelled to do what is right, after exams they submit their mark sheets on time and  to who are to impute it on the computer are always readily available  and as at  now,  students can know their academic standing without delay, I think  it’s one of the best thins that the university is trying to achieve” she submitted.

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