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UNN HONOURS FIRST SET OF GRADUATES . . . 50 years after (Plus full list)

By News Express on 07/10/2013

Views: 11,419

Fifty years after they blazed a trail as the first Made in Nigeria graduates, the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) is rolling out the drums to honour the 1963 class.

The Golden Jubilee celebration of the UNN Pioneers is part of activities to mark the 53rd Founder’s Day. UNN, according to Vice Chancellor Professor Bartho Okolo, is celebrating the pioneers because the university earned its reputation for excellence based on their performance on graduation.

Records show that the University of Nigeria admitted 200 persons on October 7, 1960 but 150 persons graduated three years later in 1963. UNN was the first full-fledged wholly indigenous university in Nigeria; it beat a new path of offering its own degrees from inception rather than being tied to an existing institution.

Okolo, the 13th Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, said there were many reasons to celebrate the pioneers.

He stated: “Firstly, they were the results of an experiment in higher education, aptly dubbed the Nsukka experiment and championed by Nigeria’s first president, Rt. Hon. (Dr) Nnamdi Azikiwe. Secondly, the circumstance of the establishment of the University of Nigeria was such that bystanders wondered what manner of graduates these men and women would turn out to be. It was reported that their excellent performance at the next national civil service exams was the beginning of the reputation of excellence at University of Nigeria.

“It is against this background that we celebrate this generation of distinguished graduates on whose shoulders our much cherished reputation first rested. We salute them. We congratulate them. We salute them for the legacy of excellence which they bequeathed to us.”

Other events for the 53rd Founders’ Day and Golden Jubilee of the Pioneers include lectures by distinguished public servants who are also alumni. Last Saturday, October 5, Dr. Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu, the Deputy Governor (Financial System Stability) at Central Bank of Nigeria, delivered the first lecture titled “Human Capital Dimension of Transformation.” He is a distinguished alumnus of the University of Nigeria, class of 86, whose experience cuts across legal practice, diplomacy, journalism and financial management.

Dr. Humphrey Umunna Orjiakor, Ambassador/Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations based in Geneva, speaks today, October 7, on “Higher Education Experiment in Nigeria – the Nsukka Experience, 53 years After.”

The Vice Chancellor remarked that the Founders’ Day offers the institution a chance to reflect on what it has achieved over the years in relation to the mandate it received at inception. He said, “The 53rd Founders’ Day celebration is unique in the sense that we are celebrating another milestone – the golden jubilee of the first graduates of the University of Nigeria,” he stated.

Speaking further, the Vice-Chancellor said: “The unique history of the University of Nigeria and the remarkable men and women whose vision and foresight gave birth to the university just after Nigeria gained independence from colonial rule. Notable amongst these men were the first president of Nigeria, the Rt. Hon. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was the first visitor to the university and later-on the chancellor of the university, and Mr. E. U. Akpabio, the Minister for Education in the former Eastern Nigeria, who moved the motion for the establishment of the university.”

He described the first graduates of the university as “first generation of Lions and Lionesses, who numbered just 200 on admission and bore the registration numbers of 60/001 to 60/200, deserve a special celebration for more reasons than one.”

Prof. Okolo noted that his vision is for the university to become “a functional, globally competitive & research-focused university which is responsive to the needs of the society, and delivers world-class education and Knowledge. Thus, the University of my Vision is one with a befitting environmental ambience and adequate ultramodern infrastructure fitted with modern cutting edge teaching and research facilities. It is also a university which collaborates with many reputable universities across the world in diverse disciplines and one whose faculty and graduates can compete with their peers from across the globe.”

He said he aims to place the institution at the forefront of research and development, innovation, knowledge generation and knowledge dissemination, human resource development and community service. UNN, he said, has witnessed environmental and infrastructural upgrade with newly completed buildings and some at various stages of completion.

Prof Okolo added that the institution has pursued a programme of internationalisation that involves the revitalisation of existing relationships and the establishment of over 50 new mutually rewarding partnerships with reputable higher education institutions across the globe. This, he noted, will increase the visibility of the university on the global stage. He said these collaborations would continue to create opportunities for our faculty to improve their research and teaching competencies by exposure to global best practices 

He said his administration would continue to sustain the standard of employment to first class graduates and best graduating students of good universities.

“As at the last count, over 300 of such young scholars have been hired. Through the many partnerships, which we established with universities overseas, TETFUND grant, the Fulbright scholarship, the Commonwealth scholarship and many other grant outlets including internally generated resources, we are able to create opportunities for these young academics to be exposed to international best practices in teaching, research and administration,” Prof. Okolo said.

Pioneers P. Olisanwuche Esedebe and J Okoro Ijomah, writing in University of Nigeria 1960-1985: An Experiment in Higher Education, recalled the ridicule initial students suffered from the media, the public and students at the University College Ibadan over some of the courses introduced by UNN including the General Studies programme. “The idea of B.A. Nsukka instead of B.A. London became a standing joke. ‘Can you imagine’, asked one newspaper editor, ‘a Nigerian university with M.A. Awo-Omama, Ph.D Onitsha and LL.B Jankara and LL.M Oshogbo’. He did not foresee that barely four years after the inception of the University, B.A. (A.B.U), B.A. (Ife), B.A (Lagos) would be a reality and a little later B.A. (Benin), B.A. Port Harcourt) B.A. Jos, B.A. Sokoto., B.A. Kano, B.A. (Calabar) and so on. Undaunted by what proved to be misguided criticisms, the authorities at Nsukka wisely stuck to the General Studies programme.”

Almost all universities in the country now have a General Studies component for broadening the knowledge of students across disciplines.

The pioneer set of UNN went on to record many other firsts and had illustrious careers as civil servants, diplomats, and scholars. Many of the scholars made remarkable pioneering contributions and include Prof. Onigu Otite, Prof. B.C Ijomah, the literary scholar Prof. Romanus Egudu and the political scientists Mazi Ray Ofoegbu, a professor, and Peter Onu.

Gabriel Toby rose to be head of service then Deputy Governor of the old and larger Rivers State. Elder statesman Chief Nduka Eya was one of the pioneers of the civil service of Eastern Nigeria and rose to be head of service in Anambra State.


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•Photo shows UNN VC, Prof. Bartho Okolo.

Source News Express

Posted 07/10/2013 1:03:51 PM





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