Chiamaka Gift Ogueri is the president of the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students (PANS), University of Ibadan (UI). Her emergence as the association’s head is a remarkable feat, being the first female to attain such position. In this exclusive interview with Pharmanews, Ogueri recounts her experiences before and after her election, as well as her administration’s plans for pharmacy students. Excerpts:
What prompted your uncommon decision to contest for PANS presidency?
My decision was triggered by my desire to make impact and show that a female can also lead the association rightly. Being the first to break the jinx, I contested for the presidential role because of some changes I anticipated, such as balancing projects with the social aspect.
How did your colleagues take the news of having a female student as their new leader?
It wasn’t really a big surprise to them as they all saw it coming. Although, some of them were happy, while some were indifferent, but at the end of the election, they all came together in the interest of PANS-UI, which supersedes any love they may have for the election candidates.
Have you been getting the needed cooperation from students, especially the male ones?
Yes. As I said earlier, the bitterness and rivalry that came with the election period is gone, and we are now back together as one family. Both the female and the male students have been supportive to me and to the administration.
Tell us about the activities and achievements of the association since you took over.
PANS-UI has been very active and lively since I took over as president. Our activities and programmes have been impacting both the students and the society. Our projects so far since my assumption of office include: community health awareness at Ojoo Market, Ibadan; visit to the less-privileged home in Ibadan; a symposium, which was graced by icons in the pharmacy profession; inter-pharmacy school debate for schools in the south-west, among others.
How have you been coping with the challenge of running the association and studying at the same time?
One major challenge has been the issue of getting funds for our activities – PANS Week, for instance. It has not been easy raising funds, bearing in mind that studying Pharmacy could be quite stressful, especially towards the end of the programme.
However, one major strategy that I have personally employed in surmounting this challenge has been to appropriately manage my time.
The educational sector has, for years, had to contend with many problems, one of which is university workers going on strike to protest at various times. Are there measures that can be taken to solve this challenge?
The educational system, as a whole, is faced with so many challenges that provide a conducive environment for strike actions to take place. If government can endeavour to put necessary infrastructures in place in our universities and also ensure that the members of staff, (both teaching and non-teaching) are well remunerated, strike actions would definitely become a thing of the past in our universities.
What would you say are the challenges facing pharmacy education, in particular, and how can they be surmounted?
There are several challenges facing pharmacy education, one of which is inadequate facilities and infrastructure for learning. Pharmacy is a practicals-oriented course, and to really appreciate what we are being taught in the classroom, we need the right equipment, reagents, to carry out our practicals.
Also, the issue of our curriculum needs to be looked into. There is what is called “functional-based learning”, that is, learning or training that is necessitated by the needs of the society. I believe our current curriculum needs to be pruned to meet the needs of 21st century pharmacy practice.
There is also the issue of the Pharm.D programme, which I think should be the standard in this present time as it is done in advanced countries.
What is your view on student unionism?
Student union leaders should project themselves as a body that ought to be respected. It is very saddening that unionism as a concept in Nigeria is associated with violence and protest. It is not a right approach to use a destructive means to achieve constructive ends.
The 3rd edition of Pharm. (Sir) Ifeanyi Atueyi National Quiz/Debate Competition was held in OAU, Ile-Ife, recently. What do you think of it?
It was an iconic event and since our first participation, we have always looked forward to the next edition. However, our emergence as the champion of this year’s edition is something that excited us all and this has reinforced our belief that when it comes to pharmacy education in Nigeria and beyond, UI Pharmacy School is a force to reckon with.