In this exclusive interview, President of the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students (PANS), University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Paul Chisom Festus, speaks on the intricacies of combining politics with academics as a pharmacy student in Nigeria. He also recounts his foray into Pharmacy, as well as the achievements of his administration. Excerpts:
Many students studying Pharmacy claim to have initially opted for Medicine. Is this true for you too?
Somehow, but not exactly so. After my senior secondary school certificate exams in 2013, my teacher advised me to apply for Medicine and Surgery. I was the best science student in my set and we had little knowledge about what Pharmacy was all about. I applied for Medicine and Surgery at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, with an average score of 240, but I failed to gain admission. Thereafter, I accepted admission into Federal Polytechnic, Nekede.
Fortunately, I got to know about Pharmacy in 2016, from a medical doctor, who was a Corps member, at the hospital where I worked during my compulsory one-year industrial training. After that, I applied for Pharmacy directly and got in.
It can be tough combining studies with active involvement in other activities, how have you been coping as the president?
Well, it’s evident in my results. I was a very excellent student in my 100 and 200 Level days, when my life was just all about school. However, after my dad’s death in 2019, which necessitated my taking up responsibilities in the family as the first son, and also my getting increasingly involved in politics and extracurricular activities, my grades dropped.
Since I’m naturally a good student, I will always find ways to do well but you know, the grades can never remain the same. Still, I am coping well.
What achievements have you recorded so far?
As the 14th executive president of PANS-UNIPORT, my administration has recorded a lot of achievements, but I will mention just some of them. We secured the position of the students’ union medical director, a position that had never been held by a pharmacy student in our school. Others include provision of teaching aids in classrooms to make lectures easier for students and lecturers; conducting free tutorials for students in 100 and 200 Levels, to ensure that they get a smooth sail in pharmacy school; introduction of an essay competition, tagged Poly-Mbah Essay Competition, with a prize worth over 200,000 naira, for the students
Also, with the support of the PANS-UNIPORT public health team and the supervision of pharmacists, we conducted a malaria outreach at the famous Choba Junction, where we reached out to over 200 residents with free malaria drugs, free malaria testing, routine drugs and health information. Also, through the office of the Director of Welfare, in collaboration with the Association of Lady Pharmacists (ALPs), Rivers State Chapter, we conducted a “Pad A Girl Programme”, in two secondary schools around the university.
In addition, we gave out over 200 free sanitary pads to female pharmacy students in 100 and 200 Levels. We also introduced the maiden edition of the Lecturers’ Appreciation Day, on 6 October, 2023, among several other achievements.
Are there peculiar challenges associated with studying Pharmacy in UNIPORT?
Well, the only challenge I know of, which is not peculiar to us in UNIPORT, is the lack of enough time to assimilate the numerous bulky materials available to us as pharmacy students.
Student molestation and “sex for grades” are significant issues in universities. How would you react to this as it affects the Faculty of Pharmacy, UNIPORT?
It is alien to us here. I have never seen or heard of such.
Where do you see PANS-UNIPORT in the next five years?
I see PANS becoming a chapter of reference in the country and an association where the student-lecturer relationship is further strengthened.