It has been said that any university that is not impacting on its community is not worth its salt, therefore, in this enounter with Vanguard Learning in Yola, five undergraduate students of the American University of Nigeria (AUN) share their experiences, saying they are being trained to bring about the much needed change in Africa, especially through their community service programme.
By EBELE ORAKPO
EBUKA Ukoh Williams is a fourth year student of Communication and Multimedia Studies, concentrating in advertising at the university.
“We learnt a lot of wrong things growing up but here, we are taught to unlearn some of them and learn the things we should be learning.
We are made to understand that how successful you are is not in being the king of the jungle but in how well you are able to live and society is grateful that you exist because you are making meaningful contributions,” said Ebuka, a member of the Honours Society (people who have excelled in academics, leadership and scholarship in AUN). He left the federal university he was attending in the South-West in his third year because “learning in class for me, was not what education is supposed to be all about.
“It was like things were dropped in my head and I was expected to pour them out in an exam hall. That was not what education is all about. If that was it, then I wanted none of it. The fact is that consumption is good but any consumption that does not underscore production is nuisance.
Model UN conference
“Our bane in the past 50 years has been that we always produce what we don’t consume and consume what we don’t produce,” he said, adding that he has been involved in a lot of projects such as representing AUN on various platforms like the Model UN Conference, hosted some major events such as Commencement, Founder’s Day, the first Homecoming, and others. He noted, however, that “of all my experiences, my involvement with the community stands out a great deal.”
Describing the community service programme as awesome, he said: “In my first semester, I helped about 15 orphans go back to school by paying their school fees for a whole year. I was involved in the Karatu Library Project. We went to the library on Saturdays and read books to little children. There is the adult literacy programme, teaching adults to read, write and speak.
We have also gone to high schools and to primary schools to prepare pupils for the Common Entrance exams. I dedicated two hours everyday to help them prepare adequately. Statistics show that 80 per cent of the students who took the exams failed, we tried not to blame the devil or the Nigerian soil. The point is that these children were not being taught. I saw the need to help because every time I looked at these less privileged ones, I know it could have been me, so I owe it a duty to give back to the community.
“My development as an individual hinges on how well I am able to make meaningful contribution,” said Ebuka, a Board member of All Literacy Age Programme.
“I am moved to tears when I see people who I don’t know, grateful that I am existing.”
Ifunanya Hephzber Obiora, is a third year (junior) student of English Language and Literature. The 2013 Miss AUN says: “AUN has impacted me so much especially in the aspect of writing. For long, Nigeria has not valued her writers. We regard them as people who do not know enough because we are only after science/technology but we forget that when people use their talent, they usually go far. Nigeria does not need science/technology for the sake of science/technology, no; Nigeria needs people who are talented, who are good enough at what they do.
“We should not push everyone into law, medicine or engineering. Let us not just concentrate on science/ technology,” said Ifunanya who has written two books and a couple of poems.
Blessing Douglas, a second-year student of International and Comparative Politics thinks a lot of things have gone wrong in our society and that politics is not being practised the way it should be.
“Worldwide, there are basic rudiments of democracy and certain rudiments like rule of law, sovereignty, individual respect, human rights etc., but how many of them are in place in Nigeria? We need a lot of reforms in Nigeria – individual, political, cultural and institutional reforms which will help us to move forward and curb corruption and every other factor that is hindering our growth.” Blessing who is also a writer, advises voters not to cast their votes based on cultural bias and ethnocentrism, calling for a strong judiciary.
Ibrahim Abubakar Rada, a year two Environmental Sciences student says: “We study Environmental Science for development. When the environment is being degraded, civilization is on the way to ruin the same way. Here at AUN, we embark on different projects to see to the protection of the environment. We are engaged in recycling, energy conservation and renewable energy. Recycling protects the environment.
We encourage energy conservation because sustainability is all about meeting today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generation to meet their own needs. He noted that most of their activities are aimed at protecting the environment and creating wealth for the community to to improve their social standards.I never thought there was a need to protect our environment, but now, I have seen the need.”
Yasmine Abdulkadir, a year two Petroleum Chemistry and Mining Economics student says AUN has taught her the importance of service to community.
“Two-thirds of the population in Yola are in poverty and we created something innovative to solve a social problem because AUN as a development university, is interested in improving the lives of people.”
So they came up with the Jathropha project to engage the poor people of the community to enable them improve their personal lives as well as provide a cleaner energy source, improve the soil and fight desertification.”