A tree is, no doubt, of immense benefits. From a miniature seed in the nursery to a mature stage, one can imagine its benefits, especially during the seasons of harvest. The tree would be appreciated for its alluring quality. If it is the type that bears sweet fruits like orange, mango, cashew, hurling targeted stones at these fruits is not an uncommon habit of children. Birds would pitch their tents under it and insects would form a queue on its bough. In our African society, people would relax under its shade, basking in the aura of relaxation. Such are the benefits of a fruitful tree. A tree which has been nurtured by careful hands is expected to give back to its environment. A great concern is if the tree refuses to give back.
The analogy in the previous paragraph could be brought to bear in our academic communities. Like the tree, in schools, universities and colleges, students are trained, instilled with values, knowledge, technical know-how to be useful to themselves and their community at large. It is a social expectation that graduates of higher institutions come together as alumni to better the lot of their alma mater, manifested in a range of duties such as lending a helping hand to achieve the institution goals, giving in cash and in kind, issuing constructive criticism as well as encouraging students of such institutions with scholarships.
However, of note in Nigeria is an unexplainable detachment from the things that gives one attention, when one leaves school. Against expectation, we have big wigs, great men and women, influential figures who have forgotten the hey days of campus life, and are unconcerned about the little they can offer to salvage its present deteriorating condition.
The problems of funding and infrastructure of our higher institutions are issues that the alumni of an institution can show concern about. Sources, however, show that people seem to feel unconcerned about their alma mater when they leave school . Not too long ago, added to the voice for independent funding of Nigeria’s university is a statement made by the Pro-Chancellor of the Governing Council, University of Lagos, Dr Gamaliel Onosode. He reiterated the need for effective alumni cooperation as a means of generating fund and assisting to tackle the infrastructural challenges of the university. “A good way of generating fund for the university community is to target the alumni. They have emotional attachment to their alma mater, he said.
Onosode’s call is not new in Nigeria, exposing a number of issues affecting people’s willingness to give back to their alma mater. Even Beautiful Nubia, a musician, laid emphasis on this in one of his albums that “everyone dips in the pot but no one replenishes it”. What we hear at graduation ceremonies, valedictory services are the usual clarion call of “to whom much is given, much is expected.” It has become a hackneyed expression with little motivation. It is not new in Nigeria that people lack the value of sacrificial giving.
According to the College Librarian, Federal College of Education, Pankshin, Plateau State, Mr Bulus Damen, there has been no record of any donation to the college library. This might sound strange since a good number of the ex-students benefited immensely from same. “There is no record of alumni donation or assistance to the library. We are making efforts to constitute a committee to invite the alumni to be part of the change in the college.
A survey conducted by Facebook alumni E-group of a tertiary institution in Nigeria shed light on some of the factors affecting the poor attitude to giving back. “When last did you visit your alma Mater?” the caption on the page reads. The responses that run under it were poor negatives. Some cash in on the excuse of the maltreatment and victimisation meted on them by their lecturers during their undergraduate days. Some complained of the distance between their alma mater and their domicile. Others gave the impression that lack of effective communication link was the problem. While some others concluded that not until they ‘arrive’ as a big man in the society, their essence or presence at their alma mater is an abomination. To what extent are these justified? Hear the views of three ex-students.
A graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Mr Adenaike Michael is no doubt grieved of the academic rigour and ‘wickedness’ of his alma mater. “I need to be sincere with you, we are not happy about what we pass through at Ife. Our academic goal of two one was thwarted .As a result of this, some of us are not happy to go back to the institution .Who are you going to meet there-wicked lecturers. The attitudes of our lecturers to students need to be addressed to encourage them to have a sense of belonging, even when they leave the institution,” he said.
OAU graduate of English, Ajayi Daniels believes that the academic experience should not be an excuse not to give back to your alma mater. Hear him: “To me, I don’t believe that going through a strict lecturer should be an excuse not to give back to your alma mater. I believe it is an innate thing to be frugal in Nigeria. As for me, I want to be part of the change in the institution. I will give back when I am in the best position to do so.”
Another graduate, of Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Akerele Samod, gave another reason. “Organisation and co-ordination are problems of OOU alumni body. This is responsible for the low turn out as regards giving back. There is a better level that the alumni can function. Inability to communicate effectively and hold programmes are not helping the matter. To give back to your institution is good but the mentioned problems may be the reason,’ he said.
However serious the problem may be in Nigeria, it is true that no problem defies solution.
The President of the University Of Ado-Ekiti Alumni Association, who doubles as the Regional Director, Capital Express Assurance limited, listed the challenges impeding the alumni and how they can be tackled.
“Basically, one major challenge we have as alumni body is that of mobilisation. Generally, there is no database of the ex students for follow-up. The sense of commitment is low because members are not carried along. The alumni are the mainstay of a university. UNAD for instance has over 150,000 graduates. If they are committed, there will be enough funds to actualise the infrastructural projects on the campus. The alumni also serve as a role model; they are good welfare back-up for a university.
“First, to improve alumni participation in the development of higher institutions, there must be a reliable database for communication. All the graduates must be carried along on the daily progress and challenges of the university. By doing this, you would be surprised to know that a lot of them are yearning to be felt. They would volunteer to help. Programmes and activities should be regularly organised.”
“For those who say they don’t have much, the little N500 and N1000 you give can do something to help your alma mater,” he advised.