With the gradual phasing out of the B.Pharm programme for the more patient-centred PharmD programme, President of the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students (PANS), Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State, Michael Olusola, has added his voice to those calling for a unified PharmD programme for all pharmacy schools in the country. Olusola, who is currently in his fifth year, also speaks on his foray into Pharmacy and PANS politics, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on his administration and other pertinent issues. Excerpts:
Tell us briefly about your journey in OAU as a pharmacy student.
It’s been a rollercoaster ride, I must say. All the stories I heard about OAU and pharmacy education turned out to be true, both the good and the not-so-good ones. I remember 200 level when I thought I was not cut out to make it here and the days when all we held on to was hope and nothing else. This is not to say that the academic pressure has ended now that 500 level is halfway done, but now we have a date when hopefully we will reach the end of the tunnel.
Tell us some of your achievements and challenges since you became the president of PANS-OAU.
I don›t think there can be a greater challenge in recent times as the COVID-19 pandemic. I resumed office on 23 December 2019 and a year and five months later I’m still president. Thanks to the pandemic and the efforts of our dear ASUU and the FG.
The road back to normalcy in academia has been a long one and unlike most sectors, we are not there yet. A huge restriction to physical gathering and the deployment of e-learning further presented another challenge but we are steadily overcoming it. Through it all, the administration has come up with different capacity-building workshops and seminars, particularly during the COVID-19 lockdown, to help enhance the skills and professional knowledge of the students. We still look forward to doing much more to further improve the capacity of the next generation of pharmacists.
What would you say are the challenges associated with studying Pharmacy in a federal university compared to those studying in private institutions?
Well, it goes without saying that more attention needs to be paid to the education sector, particularly our higher institutions. The lack of this attention and the requisite funding for public tertiary institutions and faculties of pharmacy have hampered the growth and development of pharmacy education in these institutions.
The lack of harmonisation of the PharmD programme in all schools of pharmacy in Nigeria is also a limiting factor. It’s obviously time for the academic arm of the profession to take the needed step to further increase the capacity of the 21st-century pharmacy student.
OAU announced the closure of the university on 20 March 2020, effective from Monday, 23 March, in order to prevent further spread of COVID-19. How would you assess the quality of learning through the improvised medium since then?
Learning in OAU after the closure, as a COVID-19 safety precaution, commenced on 8 February, 2021, with the majority of the academic activities holding online. Being a novel interjection into the learning experience, the first few weeks were low in terms of effectiveness. Different issues came up daily, regarding the improvised medium being used, with complaints from both the lecturers and the lectured.
With time, however, things have stabilised but I must say that the present improvised medium is still being punctured by numerous loopholes from every side hence deflating its effectiveness.
The education sector has had to contend with many problems, with university workers going on strike incessantly to protest at various times. Are there measures that can be taken to solve this challenge?
This is a question that can be best answered by lecturers. When students have agitations they want to iron out with school authorities, we have different measures they have put in place. Some end up being effective and some are not. But one thing that unifies it all is that while taking those measures, all we want is to ensure that those that can give us what we want know that we mean business. This is the same thing that we see when lecturers engage in strike actions. This is why I would still say that the best person to say if there are other measures to take without strike actions is a lecturer.
Folashade Salako, OAU best pharmacy graduating student in 2019 lost her life in a ghastly motor accident recently. How do you think such occurrence could be prevented?
Unfortunately, Folashade’s accident was the second of such occurrences in three months within the Faculty of Pharmacy, OAU. We also lost a Part 5 Pharmacy student, named Opeyimika Oluwatimilehin, to a road accident along the Ilesha-Ife expressway. The pain that such avoidable occurrences leave in our hearts cannot be easily taken away because it always comes with a cloud of unanswered questions.
Two cogent points I would want to highlight include the state of some of our roads. Their dilapidated condition plays a huge role in some of these avoidable accidents. The Ilesha-Ife expressway – though some parts are now under repair – is so bad that one part of the road is abandoned, while travellers going to and fro ply the other road.
It is high time the government and concerned agencies took the necessary steps to ensure that the roads are in proper condition with adequate road signs, bumps and other adjuncts.
The second issue would have to be the persons on the roads. Apart from the occurrences that pertain to our colleagues, the incidence of accidents so far has been on the rise, especially those involving youths. All road users must look beyond personal gratification while driving and be more concerned about general road safety. A good number of accidents occur because drivers are carried away doing something else, while driving or unnecessarily going overboard with the speedometer.
I believe that we need a nationwide clampdown on traffic and road offences and more penalties should be attached to such offences. We need not wait until the light of another bright star like Folashade is put off before we act.
Pharmanews has just clocked 42 years, having started in May 1979. How would you assess the contribution of the journal to the development of the pharmacy profession?
Pharmanews has set the pace as Nigeria’s leading health journal. Pharmanews has served as the link connecting the different arms of the profession, without leaving any behind. The journal also helps young pharmacy students in PANS chapters across the country to see what promises and potentials lie ahead in the profession to be explored.
Kudos also has to be given to the educational role that Pharmanews has played in keeping both pharmacy students, health professionals and the general public in the know concerning relevant health issues.