March 7, 2021

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UNICAL: A New Sheriff Enters

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Chiemeka ADINDU, Calabar

A few hours after her swearing in as the 11th substantive Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar, Professor Florence Obi has made some reshufflings and decisions to the amazement of the University community. However, many have affirmed that these are signs of a new beginning for the institution, stating that truly, a new sheriff has truly come to town.

In one of the recent courtesy visits to the Vice Chancellor when Executive members of the Calabar and District Society of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, ICAN paid a courtesy call on her, Obi identified accountability and transparency as hallmarks of her administration, stressing that she would not condone any form of sharp practices.

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She said sharp practices are inimical to the growth of any organization, emphasizing that her administration will not treat issues of financial misconduct with kid gloves.

It is true there are no visible transformations, but there are indications that the university will soon witness many following her prompt reshuffling of human resources of the university. Over 45 years of its existence, the University of Calabar may be set for the needed transformations that will enable it to compete globally considering the way things are going.

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Confirming this to TNN, a lecturer of the University from the department of Human Anatomy, College of Medical Sciences, Dr. Paul Odey was optimistic that the time has come for the university to compete with global best practices. He said the new pedigree of the new Vice Chancellor will soon be witnessed by the world, not just the university community.

Odey however listed some areas that require critical attention in the university. He also maintained that the areas will be positively affected in no distant time, calling on the VC to pay careful attention to these areas for the growth and development of the university.

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His words: “Change is a constant factor and there is bound to be a change of power and it is important that this time the university is enjoying a first female vice chancellor. And there is no doubt that the university community is very very happy and pleased with the development. Based on the immediate reshuffling of chief principal offices in the university; yes, it’s a nice and welcoming idea because for someone who has an aim, someone who has a target, someone who has a goal, he or she has to keep the ball rolling in other to achieve these good plans for the university community at large.

“She is a woman of integrity, she is God fearing, she carries people along, she is humble and the university community is really really happy about it. We know she is going to cause a lot of changes; she’s going to effect a lot of changes in the community at large.

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“Apparently, there are key areas that require much work to be carried out in; areas of training and retraining of staff, both academic and non academic. The idea of having staff that are outdated in their knowledge kills the educational system. When training is considered a key factor, it tends to improve the educational sector generally and you will discover that most of the equipment in the university, especially the University of Calabar are all outdated and some of us go out and see modernized equipment and it looks so strange and blank to us. It’s an insult to academicians; it’s an insult to scholars.

“So one of the key areas is to train and retrain sponsorship; because there are so many schools in the Diaspora that are willing to take in staff of our university so that they can enjoy some level of training. However sponsorship remains a very big problem. These universities are quite expensive and if you check the average for the whole year, TETFUND is usually skewed to one direction. A direction which I cannot tell for now, and of course by the time it’s opened for every staff who are qualified to enjoy this training, it helps the educational system.

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“Infrastructural decay is another problem that needs to be addressed. More buildings, more lecture theaters need to be constructed. For example, I teach second year medical students and basic medical students and in a class you will find up to a thousand two hundred students in one class and some students sitting on the floor. It’s appalling to say but that’s the least, the pressure on the lecturer, the pressure on the students; as a matter of fact, yield little or no result. So this is an important aspect that needs to be checked. Infrastructural development, more lecture theatre.

“Manpower is another key factor. The student to lecturer ratio should be one to twenty in some cases, one is to ten in some cases; but you see the ratio we find ourselves these days. I have taught a class of one thousand four hundred before and when you enter such classes the heat that comes out of such classes can even make you get yourself infected. Now with the era of this pandemic, is that what we are going to face?

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“We want to enjoy the newly Vice Chancellor that has been sworn in to look at these areas and other important key areas to better the educational system of the University of Calabar. Our internet system is, in fact, compared to twenty years back in some universities, no internet system.

“She will definitely effect the needed changes, I am confident in her, I’m confident in her abilities and I know very well that from the support of her appointees and other critical stakeholders as well as key officers in the university, I know she will achieve this. I am very confident in that”.

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Obi who is a Professor of Special Needs Education was appointed the VC of the institution on September 10, 2020, replacing Prof. Zana Akpagu, whose tenure ended on November 30, 2020.

Speaking at her inauguration, the new Vice Chancellor expressed her commitment to the enthronement of academic excellence through quality research output, teaching and learning, scholarly publications as well as integrity of examination results.

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