Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
The average Nigerian student is wrought with different challenges in the bid to get an education. Most of the times, these challenges are more financial than intellectual. There have been cases of students who were bright and passed through public school with flying colors, but could not afford to purchase Jamb forms. You find most times that the lady selling recharge cards at the junction, or the boy who is a conductor on a molue was forced to do what they do because they needed to make enough money to go back to school. Not every child is from a wealthy background, and so the education which some treat with so much levity is a prized possession worth fighting for to some.
I have no intention to mull over the sufferings of the “masses” in this article, my main aim is to let every student struggling with financial stability know that there are opportunities available on and off campus to support themselves while in school without having to lose their dignity in the process as is common with a majority of students in tertiary institutions.
A work study program is naturally designed to help participants get acquainted with the rigors of balancing both academics and work. Thus, most institutions consider the student’s academic standing before allowing him/her be a part of the program. At the University of Lagos for instance, to participate in the work study program, a student must have attained at least a 3.5 G.P.A after his/her first year at the university. This assures the authorities that the student is indeed intellectually capable to withstand the pressures that might come with combining work and studies. Preference is usually given to students who are from quite humble backgrounds who otherwise have little or no support from their home front, and who are industrious enough to want to work while schooling to take the stress off those at home. Currently, I can only categorically name the University of Lagos as one of the foremost institutions in Nigeria that operates a very functional work-study program. Students are placed to work in different facilities on campus, and are paid a reasonable wage on an hourly basis. Time sheets are given to the students, which must be signed duly after each day at their place of work. The work study program helps the student in more ways than one. Apart from the fact that such a student would be privy to important information on student initiatives inside and outside the school, the student also is privileged to have firsthand information on scholarship positions outside the country and could be a beneficiary of such.
A lot of the above depends on the willingness of the student to be involved in school-related activities. A lot of students sign up for the work-study program and never see it to the end because they feel the work is too “boring”, or they are ashamed to be seen by their fellow students working on campus, they feel “uncool” trying to make ends meet, and thus shy away from being beneficiaries of opportunities that sometimes are life changing in effect. As a participant of the work study program at the University of Lagos in the not-so-distant past, I was able to get the opportunity to work with the most efficient people I have ever met. Posted to work at the University of Lagos Main Library, I was glad to be surrounded by people who lived and worked for the love of books! (Nerdy, I know). Combining the work study and my academics was not really a problem because I was surrounded by a wealth of knowledge, and as a student of History, I couldn’t have been in a better place. That aside, I realized that the work study program did a lot of good for students. Apart from providing them with additional funds to cope with the financial demands that come with getting an education, it also provides them with the skills they need to survive in a typical working environment. I can say for a fact that majority of the people I came in contact with during the work study got steady jobs outside the university with the help of the people they had met during their time working in school. Others even got ideas of business ventures to embrace outside of their initial course of study in the university.
More tertiary institutions should have work study programs that harness the student’s abilities to study and work at the same time. Apart from paying these students, institutions could experience growth using these students in the appropriate manner. Now imagine a scenario where we have universities that pay students to be research assistants to seasoned academics, imagine the wealth of knowledge that would be generated and the impact same would have on the development of tertiary education in Nigeria. It would also make institutions financially independent. It is simply helping students to help the institution, giving students who are struggling with the payment of their fees the opportunity to be able to do so and still contribute to the greatness of their school.