Since the dreaded Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) hit mankind some decades ago, there have been massive global efforts to find cure to the scourge with little or no attention given to another deadlier AIDS “the Acute Integrity Deficiency Syndrome.
Not so many people are aware of the grave dangers the latter poses to humanity, hence the kid gloves with which it is been treated. But Rhema University, a private Christian University owned by the Living Word Ministries and located in Aba, the commercial capital of Abia State, is not caught in this web of ignorance about the threats of the latter AIDS. Apart from its acclaimed and commendable efforts towards academic excellence, the university says it has also developed a therapy for this scourge ravaging the very fabrics of the human society. It is important to note that corruption as being witnessed today in our society is not perpetrated by the victims of Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome rather, the victims of Acute Integrity Deficiency Syndrome. The Vice- Chancellor, Professor Ogbonnaya Onwudike, who announced the discovery of cure for the deadlier AIDS by Rhema University during the pre-convocation press briefing of its maiden convocation, said the institution was able to achieve this feat through its Head and Heart Connection concept which forms the pillar of its education. The philosophy, according to him, places equal premium on training both the head and the heart. His words, There is no shortage of material knowledge in the world today, there is great shortage of integrity even among those who are internationally acclaimed in terms of academic knowledge and technological breakthroughs. If a university produces engineers, doctors, lawyers, etc without character, the world would be worse for it since such a university will only produce learned pedants, cunning sophists and pretentious practitioners. Continuing, the VC posited, But here at Rhema, we train both the head and the heart, producing men and women whose parents will be proud of; those who grow in academic excellence, integrity and the fear of God; those will not be lost to the vices prevalent in society. These are possible because the children are trained and brought up in an anointed environment where there is no cultism, intimidation, sorting and other vices common in some other universities. We take care of our students as children given to our custody by God. Godly discipline and character formation are important to us. We believe that if we neglect this in our education, we will have trouble for ourselves, our nation, our families and society in general. We therefore, emphasize academic excellence and a life lived in the fear of God. The former Vice Chancellor, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike, in an exclusive chat with The AUTHORITY on Saturday, expatiated on how he intends to use his wealth of experiences, national and international contacts to project Rhema University to a global reckoning. The university started in 2009 with a Provisional License by the National Universities Commission (NUC) but got its full license in 2015. It started in a rented building belonging to the popular Sab Motors along Aba-Owerri Road, Aba, but today, it has erected over seven massive structures in the adjourning streets running into several hectares of land. The VC disclosed that the university has already acquired 107 hectares of land in Owerrinta near Aba for its permanent site. Upon relocation to Owerrinta, the Aba campus will be converted to its College of Medicine as the premises already houses one of the famous hospitals in the South East zone which will serve as its Teaching Hospital. The hospital was at a time the only hospital in the South East with functional dialysis machine and CT-scan. Professor Onwudike said his preoccupation now is to build the best medical school in Nigeria, a project he has set 2017 as deadline. He emphasized quality above quantity as one of the guiding principles of the university. Thus, it is no surprise that only 44 graduates including three first class students will be awarded first degrees in the maiden convocation ceremony of the institution. The university currently offers few but fully accredited programmes. These include Chemistry, Biochemistry, Applied Biology, Computer Science, Physics, Statistics, and Mathematics. Others are Accounting, Banking and Finance, Economics, Sociology, Public Administration, and Mass Communication. With the massive development going on at the permanent site, the university with special bias for science and business courses has its eye on expansion but vows not to run any unaccredited programme contrary to the bastardization in most public universities. Determined to excel in Information Technology, the university has already set up Microsoft IT Academy to professionally deliver various capacity development courses leading to the award of certificate in Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco, etc. The university also has a campus radio station fully licensed by the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission. The university is already into partnership with the National Human Rights Commission, and Chartered Institute of Bankers. The VC said efforts were being intensified towards linking the university with other international institutions for exchange programmes. Among the unique qualities of the university is the philosophy of ensuring that its students acquire entrepreneurial skills in other areas apart from their core fields of study to make them job creators upon graduation. The management is already tapping into the vast Small and Medium Enterprises in Aba where students undergo some vocational trainings in addition to their academic works. The VC frowned at the preference of public universities to private universities on the argument that the former are cheaper, contending that the many advantages of good private universities give them an edge over public ones in the long run. He advised candidates seeking admission into tertiary institutions to embrace private universities because of its many gains including uninterrupted academic calendar. The VC also advised parents against the craze for sending their children and wards overseas for university education without first degrees in Nigeria. This, according to him, may be counter-productive. He lamented that candidates rather scramble for limited admission space in public universities ignoring the vast and often unutilized vacancies in private tertiary institutions. Faced with admission problems, parents who can afford it may resort to finding university spaces overseas. But it is important for parents to understand that in as much as it may be a noble idea to train our children overseas, young people generally need parental guidance in their youthful stages of development. It is, therefore, advisable to send them overseas after the completion of their first degrees at home. Parents stand the risk of losing their children if they send them outside the country without parental guidance at a tender age. He also frowned at the award of cosmetic First Class honours to graduates by some institutions for the sake of winning awards. This, he said was unacademic. He said, It is worthless making a feat that cannot be defended. Professor Onwudike, however, lamented the inadequacy of private universities in the South Eastern states which arguably produce the highest number of candidates seeking university education in Nigeria. He challenged investors and stakeholders from the zone to rise up to the challenge in the interest of the highly enterprising people of the zone. He noted with regret that during his stay at the NUC, 90 percent of the applications for private universities emanated from states in the South West zone alone, and called on Igbo investors to wake from their slumber. As ways of improving facilities in private tertiary institutions, Professor Onwudike who served as Co-Chairman of NUC Standing Committee on Establishment of Private Universities (2006-2007), Chairman, NUC Standing Committee on Private Universities (2007-2008), called for the inclusion of private universities in the TETFund. He argued that private institutions also need funds from TETFund to finance their projects since they dont depend on government subventions. The highlights of the universitys maiden convocation ceremony, included a pre-convocation lecture by the Minister of State for Education, Professor Anthony Onwuka, and the installation of the first Chancellor of the university, Bro. Emma Okorie, who is the President of Living Word Ministries. Hopes are high, that Living Word Ministries which has maintained a leading position in primary and secondary school education, will also make a mark in tertiary education in the country.
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