Vice Chancellor Florence Obi’s 100 days of transformation in UNICAL
A news analysis by George Odok of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
On the 1st of December 2020, history was made when Prof. Florence Obi was sworn-in as the 11th substantive Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar being the first female VC of the 45-year-old citadel of learning.
Obi, a Professor of Special Needs Education with over 3 decades of academic experience, took over the mantle of leadership with the dexterity, passion and commitment to leave the Ivory Tower better than she met it.
During her investiture, Obi said: “My vision is to reposition the University in line with global best practices to a foremost Ivory Tower for the blossoming of quality teaching and learning, research and community service towards the production of quality graduates and research outputs, including publications that are relevant to the 21st century economies, and in line with the fourth industrial revolution”.
For her to get a clear picture of the state of affairs in the university, Prof. Obi constituted three committees; Strategic Planning, Needs Assessment and Baseline and similarly appointed Deputy Vice Chancellors and Directors of both teaching and non-teaching units.
It is imperative to say that as the first female VC of the institution, Prof. Obi is giving women the opportunity to hold more positions of responsibility in the University, following the appointment of many women into several positions, including those seen as the exclusive preserve of the menfolk.
These include, the Centre for General Studies, Entrepreneurship Development Centre and the Institute of Public Policy and Administration. In fact, at no time in the history of UNICAL have women been so recognized.
Mindful of the lack of capacity by the Security Department which was brought to the fore following the wanton destruction and vandalisation of the university’s properties in the wake of the EndSARS Protest nationwide, 100 security personnel were trained while over 50 walkie-talkies were distributed to them for timely response to emergencies on campus.
She took the comprehensive renovation of the abandoned Vice-Chancellor Lodge, and made it her official residence, as well as the renovation of the abandoned Pro-Chancellor and Council Lodges at Ekorinim in order to discourage unnecessary wastage of funds on the guests lodging.
Students’ welfare also took the centre stage during the period under review following the comprehensive renovation and furnishing of the students’ hostels which were vandalized by hoodlums during the #EndSARS protests.
The hostels renovated are Halls 4, 5, 6, 8 and 9 that were completely renovated; part of Hall 2 was renovated; and the renovation of the Moore Road and Calabar Road Hostels.
In keeping to her promise of strengthening the university’s Entrepreneurship Development Centre, Prof. Obi attracted the goodwill of Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Entrepreneurial Development Training for students of the University, who will benefit from a grant of 500,000 U.S. dollars to start their own businesses while still in school.
She said: “I am unwaveringly committed to the building of a generation of leaders who can drive the economy of the African continent and also compete favourably with other entrepreneurs across the globe”.
The University community was elated with the restoration of light in the University; prior to her tenure, UNICAL community had been in darkness since April 2020.
Speaking to journalists on the renovated students’ hostels and the improved light situation, the VC said: “We have installed sophisticated angle bar so that the security of the students can be guaranteed.
“The standard of material used is guaranteed because we want quality accommodation for our students. All the cabinets have been fixed, the wooden doors have been replaced with metal ones and its jam-lock.
“A conducive environment for students to read and be in good health is what is paramount to us. The assurance is that, with the huge face lift of the hostels amid improved power supply, our students will concentrate more on what brought them to the university.”
As an ardent apostle of safety first, Prof. Obi inaugurated the university’s COVID-19 Taskforce with a matching order to adopt and enforce all relevant COVID-19 protocol of World Health Organisation and the Presidential Task Force for the good health of the university community.
To deepen the fight against the ravaging pandemic, the university engaged a reputable consultants to instal essential COVID-19 sanitizing equipment, including entry and exit tunnels, heavy duty humidifiers, automatic hand sanitizers, standing thermometers, and infrared thermometer as well as the establishment of a 20-bed Isolation Centre.
In her determination to run without holding back, Prof. Obi is vigorously promoting the blended teaching of online and physical contact in order to shift from the complete dependence on the conventional face to face contact in teaching, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To this end, the Centre for General Studies, has commenced the online teaching of General Studies courses. Meanwhile, the university intends to instal and deploy massive Information Technology infrastructure to promote e-learning.
Pursuant to her quest to improve the relationship between the University and host communities, Prof. Obi paid courtesy calls on the Paramount Rulers and Youth Councils in the host communities with a promise to enhance the Social Corporate Responsibility of the University to the natives who according to her ‘’donated their lands freely to the Federal Government for the take–off of the University in 1975’’.
Again, due to her robust engagements, Prof. Obi has attracted the support of some well-meaning Nigerians who are determined to give-back by investing in the University.
Notable among them include, the former Director-General, Department of State Services (DSS), Mr Ita Ekpenyong, the former Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Sen. Florence Ita-Giwa and the Chief Executive Officer of Dozzy Oil & Gas, Mr Daniel Chukwudozie.
In her zero tolerance to all shades of corruption in the University system, Prof. Obi’s administration rebranded and customized Answer Booklets, including Examination Attendance Sheets.
The VC has also issued New Guidelines for Quick Release of Students Results, thereby putting in place processes aimed at making serious minded students to graduate as and when due.
Prof. Obi is also consulting with local and international stakeholders and institutions so as to attract developments to the institution and making it a 21st Century University.
The new administration, however, is in need of financial interventions and it’s ready to work with relevant government institutions, especially the Federal Ministry of Education, National Universities Commission, Tertiary Education Trust Fund and the Central Bank of Nigeria in infrastructure development.
Prof. Obi has also shown willingness for the support of relevant development partners, Non-Governmental Organizations, public spirited individuals and indeed, the entire UNICAL community in her sustained commitment to take the university to exceptional heights.
++++If used please credit the writer and the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)