Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts,” so said Sir Winston Churchill. And this seemed to be the dominant thought in the mind of Ayobami Michael Olushola, president, Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students (PANS), as he reflected on the recent saga of mass failure in the Faculty of Pharmacy, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State. Speaking with Pharmanews in an exclusive interview, the final year student of the pharmacy faculty, bared his mind on this and other burning issues in pharmacy education in Nigeria. Excerpts:
Why did you decide to study Pharmacy?
To be honest, the choice to studying Pharmacy for me didn’t start as a childhood dream. It was never really in the picture and neither were a lot of the other popular academic options in the health sector. In any case, I have always felt that I have the ability to prosper in any field.
When I began my pharmacy programme, I probably wouldn’t have been able to give a satisfactory answer to this question. However, five years onward, I can say that I am studying Pharmacy to be a symbol and a drive for those behind me in the race of actualising purpose.
How did you arrive at the decision to become PANS-OAU president?
Ever since I came into Ife, I had always found myself in one thing or the other for the benefit of PANS. I served on committees in my 100 Level days. I was also made to serve as the public relations officer of the association under the Ojelabi Jesujoba administration in 300 Level. Through all this, I was a member of the debating and literary arm of the association, as well as the faculty football team.
I served as the head of Publicity and Logistics Committee for consecutive PANS week programmes. All this culminated in me seeing the beauty in the synergy that makes up Ife Pharmacy. For the purpose of continuity and increase, I decided to take the bold step to help channel Ife Pharmacy into greater heights as a body. And as God would have it, here we are today.
What aspects of your responsibilities as president do you consider particularly challenging so far?
Definitely a lot of aspects of leadership in such a sphere start off as being tasking at first and it is the responsibility of the leader to rise above them and succeed. For me here in PANS-OAU, the aspect that I consider most challenging so far is taking the numerous ideas, visions and potentials domiciled here in Ife Pharmacy and helping them get beyond the confines of Ile Ife to external bodies that will help push them to the needed destinations.
The scandal of “sex-for-marks” has become a major issue in universities recently, especially OAU. How would you react to this as it affects the faculty of pharmacy.
Such issues as this are some of the things that place a dark cloud on the genuine efforts of many honest students around, and it is sad that our very own Great Ife which is known for learning and culture, is in the public view for a matter like this.
However, I can confidently say that, regarding the lecturers and students in this great faculty, such issues have not and cannot be a thing to give thought to. With respect to the nobility we are known for, decency and honesty remains the crests written on the pages of the heart of all here in Ife Pharmacy.
Amidst a tight academic session, you are expected deliver on your mandate as president, as well as excel academically, how have you been juggling these?
I can only honestly answer this question at the end of my tenure. To be honest, I really do hope I can give a good account at the end of it all as this is a new challenge and I trust God for the strength to pull through. I have a personal target regarding this, which is known to a lot in Ife Pharmacy actually, as I would like to set a precedence of balance in excelling academically and also increase in capacity and ability.
Is it true that the pharmacy curriculum is cumbersome and does not allow pharmacy students to participate in social activities like other students?
If the flight ticket from Lagos to Abuja is 20,000 naira and takes one hour, the flight ticket to Ottawa in Canada from that same Lagos state will definitely require more, both with respect to time and amount. This is the case of the curriculum in pharmacy school. Does it require more from its students, with respect to volume and quality of knowledge? Yes, it does. Does it require more in terms of time and effort, as it pertains to the peculiarities needed to produce a competent and dependable pharmacist? Yes it does. Does this mean lesser time for pharmacy students, compared to their colleagues on campus? Yes it does and it also means that the average pharmacy student is more given to proper time management, multitasking ability, as well as the ability to find a balance amidst different pulls.
There have been mixed reactions towards the recent issue of mass failure in your faculty. As the number one pharmacy student in this school, how would you react to this?
As PANS-OAU, we are really disheartened by the news making waves, regarding mass failure from our noble faculty. The results do not tell the story of how much effort and work the students put in over the past academic year. As students, it is our wish and goal that, at the end of every academic year, we can boldly say we have confidently run the required race and can produce results that match our efforts. That is why, as a family, both the students and the faculty have carefully looked into the necessary things, the required checks, as well as improvements, as we all strive to ensure that the fruits of all our labour here will be pleasing to every eye that sees it.
There are reports that some pharmacy schools operate “withdrawal policy” over poor academic performance. What do you think of this?
I doubt that one can see any student that believes that withdrawal of students, especially pharmacy students, is the best way to go. True, the road that brings about withdrawal here in Ife isn’t one that doesn’t offer a second chance before a final verdict is delivered. However, we must also remember that some of the great men of science that laid most of the foundations that we now build upon are men that failed countless times but were unwavering in their quest for success.
I believe that all pharmacy students should be afforded this privilege as well. While understanding the rigorous amounts of work this involves, I believe that the second fall should not be what will make us bring the issue of withdrawal to the table, as a second fall is not enough to boldly say that such a man cannot stand again and jump to reach for the skies.
Where do you see PANS-OAU by the time you will be leaving office?
The goal is to have a more harmonised home of men with the same goals and potentials come together and begin to posit moves that will help benefit the profession, the country and the world at large.
PANS-OAU has always been a hub for great minds and this I believe can only get better. Years to come, I see an association filled with men and women of capacity, ideas and resources able to benefit and improve the profession, the country and the world, even from the early years of being undergraduates.