By Collins Azu
Monday, June 8 2020 was a landmark in the life of Coal City University, Enugu as it held its fourth matriculation ceremony for freshmen. In line with the Nigerian federal government’s official safety protocol for the COVID-19 pandemic as outlined by the National Centre for Disease Control, Monday’s ceremony was seamlessly migrated to a virtual platform, as all participants, officials and guests hooked up live on Zoom, Google Meet, YouTube, Face Book and other interlinked online platforms. Two hundred and forty-seven students were admitted to the university’s oath, and formally took their places in the three faculties of the four year old citadel.
In his address to the students, the Vice-chancellor of Coal City University, Professor Afam Icha-Ituma charged them to “prioritise their study and strike the right balance between academic and extracurricular activities”, a necessary prerequisite to acquiring the well-rounded education that the university prides itself on. He explained that the forward-thinking university, true to its tradition of excellence, is actively responding to ongoing developments with the Coronavirus outbreak and wouldn’t want to expose anyone to any unnecessary risks a crowd may pose, that is why the University resorted to a virtual ceremony as against the norm of an open air physical event.
The Vice-Chancellor pointed out that “the Coronavirus pandemic has resulted in the closure of all universities in the country to contain the spread of the virus, and has necessitated some adaptation and change in lifestyle to ensure adherence to government guidelines on public health”. The Professor of Human Resources Management stated that “at a time that the global viral scourge has taken an adverse toll on academic activities across Nigerian universities, Coal City University has forged ahead unhindered by reaching into its robust technological infrastructure to deliver programmes to appreciative students. Many universities in Nigeria are unable to rise to the challenge and have closed down completely, particularly due to lack of technological infrastructure for e-learning. Coal City University is providing digital leadership in the higher education sector and has maintained teaching, learning and research activities, thanks to our prompt migration to our robust virtual learning environment (myCCU)”, he explained. He stressed that in spite of the disruptions engendered by the Coronavirus disease in all spheres of human existence, the university has been able to live up to its steely resolve to deliver “a stable academic calendar and timely progression and graduation of all our students”.
To buttress the university’s unwavering commitment to excellence in research, the Vice Chancellor outlined the several veritable alliances between CCU and foreign universities, especially in the area of staff and students exchange programmes. This, he said, will enhance students employability, unleash entrepreneurial spirit and ultimately afford the students much-needed “international experience and a future centric mind-set”. The online audience expressed its excitement when the VC revealed that CCU was collaborating with Delaware State University in the United States of America in developing a partnership programme that will provide opportunity for students to spend part of their study time at Delaware State University. In furtherance of these very lofty objectives, CCU students, on a per semester basis, will be periodically placed under the physical and remote tutelage of British- and American-trained academic dons.
Professor Icha-Ituma reminded the students of the need to remain focused on the primary purpose of coming to CCU, which is to acquire a sound education, irrespective of societal pull by extraneous factors. He urged them to avail themselves of the extracurricular activities within their environment (including “sporting and recreation facilities on campus”) without misplacing their priorities. The Vice-chancellor also reminded the virtual audience that the University is open to applications from prospective students for the next academic year starting from September 2020, and assured them of nothing short of world class education experience without leaving the shores of Nigeria. He rounded up by assuring the matriculating students that the university management remains committed to warmly welcoming them during an in-person ceremony on a later and safer date.
The Chancellor of Coal City University, Sir Chinedu Ani congratulated the University Management for blazing the trail in technology-based pedagogy in Nigeria. He praised the Vice-Chancellor and the management team for the resounding success of the virtual matriculation ceremony, noting that while matriculation ceremonies and academic activities have been halted in many Universities in Nigeria amid the coronavirus pandemic, Coal City University is thinking without the box and adapting effectively to the new normal. He commended members of staff for their hard work and shared determination to do their best for students during the coronavirus pandemic. He assured the University Management of his unalloyed support in the University’s quest to become a world class institution and the pride of Africa.
In his inspirational remark aptly titled ” Health Pandemic: The Impact of Technology in Transforming Education”, the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of Coal City University, Professor Chinedu Nebo, harped on the innovative strides that have come to be associated with Coal City University, as exemplified by its emergence as one of only two universities in Nigeria to hold a virtual matriculation for new intakes. He lauded the Vice-chancellor and the management team for the rare feat. He, however, bemoaned the general sad state of affairs in the education sector which has been utterly exposed by the advent of the Coronavirus disease. He pointed out that, “the current pandemic known as COVID 19 has taught us that the education sector is grossly inadequate and unprepared for global pandemics or meltdowns that will take a long time”. He prescribed a revolutionary overhaul of an imperfect status quo operating at suboptimal levels in order to steer the sector back on track. Professor Nebo called on all relevant stakeholders, especially the federal government and players in the telecommunications industry to subsidise the cost of internet data for students currently engaged in e-learning in order to increase participatory access. He also reiterated the Vice-chancellor’s assertion that the university will continue to provide online lectures during the current lockdown to ensure that all admitted students enjoy uninterrupted academic activities.
After the administration of the matriculation oath, the university registrar, Mrs Loretta Udeh informed the students that on formal resumption of the university, they should submit the hard copy of the oath to their respective faculties, and sign the matricular, noting that, it is only students who comply with this directive that shall be deemed to have formalised their admission, and therefore become entitled to all rights and privileges accruable to members of Coal City University. The matriculation ceremony attracted personalities from all walks of life, including academics, corporate gurus, political leaders and other friends of the university, all of whom converged online for the event.