In this exclusive interview with Pharmanews, President of the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students (PANS), Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, Ayo Olusegun Adekunle, bares his mind on the challenges that unified academic calendars pose to pharmacy education in Nigeria.
The Ondo State-born scholar also speaks on his foray into Pharmacy, PANS politics, as well as the achievements and aspirations of the incoming administration.
How did you decide for Pharmacy as a course of study?
During my O-Level, my dream course was Medicine initially because that was what I filled in for in JAMB. However, after I was denied admission by UNILORIN then, I decided to change the pendulum by deciding with my parents to study Pharmacy, because they also wanted me to do a medicine-related course. I wasn’t moved by passion to study Pharmacy; the goal was just to go to school and get educated, and I found myself here. But ever since I started Pharmacy, I have been very grateful to God for making me choose the course.
What are the challenges associated with studying Pharmacy in this country compared to other parts of the world?
There are many challenges associated with studying Pharmacy in this country, compared to other countries. One major area of concern is the complex academic calendar. I believe Pharmacy is a professional course that should be taught in a professional way but the case here in Nigeria is different. You see pharmacy schools operating same calendar with other non-professional courses. This leads to a hasty conclusion of the curriculum and making students sit for an examination in few weeks.
This really traumatises pharmacy students because there is a lot to cover but the rush, caused by a non-independent calendar, makes students unable to cope with the stress that comes with it, compared to our foreign counterparts.
What achievements have you recorded and what challenges have you encountered so far?
There have been quite a number of achievements that I have made during the course of my administration. The first is the capital project. I was able to provide learning aids that we had lacked for some time in the faculty. We got the public address system, a projector screen and a new set of ceiling fans to improve the ventilation of our lecture rooms.
Secondly, we organised industrial visitation to Emzor Pharmaceutical Industries; as well as participations in professional development programmes, online webinars, essay competition and lots more. So far, all of these have been achieved, despite the little time we had, as a result of the ASUU strike.
It should be tough combining studies with active involvement in other activities. How have you been coping?
There is a proverb that says “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” The pressure on me as a visionary leader, coupled with my academics, has been very difficult. There are times that I will need to skip lectures to source for funds, alongside some of my executives. Coming back from there, I will have to read overnight to cover up for the lapses. And there is also the planning and execution of our events and all.
But God has been helping me with my tenacity; I have been able to balance leadership with academics ever since I was in 100 Level. So it’s now a part and parcel of me.
If you had the opportunity of changing some things about pharmacy education in OOU, what would they be?
The first thing I would do is to ensure the faculty creates more time to enable students to read and to get involved in other extra-curricular activities. I believe this is necessary for the total development and well-being of my colleagues.
There were speculations that high-handedness, anxiety, and fear were fuelling mass failures in pharmacy schools. How true is this speculation, and what is your reaction to it?
Well, I agree with this, because hardly can you see any pharmacy student that won’t be anxious or scared because of the workload and complex curriculum. This is one of the reasons why you see some pharmacy students underperforming. It’s not because they don’t read but the volume of materials to cover is too much within a limited time. I see this as a critical issue that the PCN should give priority to.
ASUU recently ended a prolonged strike action. Do you think the strike was a good decision?
The strike had its good and bad sides. The good side is the fight to bring a new face to the Nigerian educational system, which is on a verge of collapse; while the bad side is the negative impact that it has on the students In terms of extension of stay, mental health and the like. In my own opinion, the government should proffer a lasting solution to this national embarrassment called ASUU strike.
Where do you see PANS-OOU, by the time you will be leaving office?
I see PANS-OOU as one of the leading associations that will compete on a global scale. The evolvement of great minds amongst the students here will take PANS-OOU to the apogee of greatness.