In 2013, Dr Taiwo Folashade Ipaye was appointed University of Lagos (UNILAG)’s registrar. By July 2018, her tenure will end. In this interview with ‘KEMI AGOYI, ARIYO AYOMIDE, SOLOMON OLADIPUPO, MARVELOUS KOREDE ODE and OLUFOLARIN AYOMIDE of The Press Club, UNILAG, she highlights the pros and cons of her tenure, issues on course registration, wrong exam docket combination as well as events leading to the introduction of ‘indemnity forms’ after the ULSU protests of April 2016. Excerpts:
Can we meet you? I am Dr Taiwo Folashade Ipaye. I obtained my first degree from the University of Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University. I graduated in 1985, I read Education History. Subsequently, I came after my National Youth Service –during which period I taught as a teacher—I came here, the University of Lagos for my Masters Degree in Educational Administration which I obtained in 1987. And in 2007, I capped it with a PhD.
You studied Education History, what passion drove you the Registrar post, a job many think should be for people who are into Management Sciences or Business Administration? My desire in life since I was in primary school is to become a teacher. But during the National Service Year, I didn’t like the way teachers were treated so I thought for my Masters Degree, I would still love to do something that would keep me within the Educational system –that’s why I opted for a Masters Degree in Education Administration. In fact, I thought that if I did that, I could come in as a principal of a secondary school only to realize that I couldn’t jump because no one can buy experience. You cannot be a fresh graduate without experience and become the principal or vice principal. Luckily for me, Lagos State Polytechnics advertised for an Admin Officer, and I taught with the courses I have taken in Education Administration, it could be a good way to pitch.
Being the registrar of UNILAG must have come with its challenges. Can you give us the highlights of your tenure? The only downside, I would say, is the need for attitudinal change, from student , staff and across all members of the university. The typical Nigerian is still lay back, either as students or as adults. So, even when we come up with innovative ideas, we find it hard to make it work. We’ve seen them; we see a lot of apathy. Even the students, getting the computerisation programme, getting everything into the e-platforms—one of the key points of the university administration—was a lot of push and pull, push and pull for many people to buy into.
You mentioned the mechanism being put in place to ensure upgrade of staff. What has been done to ensure that students are also carried along, especially considering the rumors after the ULSU protest that the indemnity forms was from your office? That indemnity form is actually not new to the university system. Somebody who was admitted to the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN) brought a similar form. And we felt, “Oh, this is a good way…” We’ve been talking about branding, maintaining, and sustaining the brand (of UNILAG). There is no way we would be committed to something and not protect it jealously. What we saw was quite down despite the… We say, “Look, don’t tarnish the school’s image, it’s going to affect generations after you—it may not affect you directly.” And we were in the process of initiating it (the indemnity form) when that ULSU saga came in. And I want to believe that that indemnity form has actually helped us to put a stop to all those who wanted to rubbish the image of the University. Secondly, by way of further sensitizing students, the Quality Assurance Unit has been very proactive. Unfortunately, our students are not forthcoming. We have served SERVICOM boxes all over but we don’t get enough feedback. As it is done in universities outside, we also assess the lecturers. We have tried all means to get students to key in… We say, “Okay, before you do your course registration, you must assess…” And we’ve been getting feedbacks,the first year the assessment took place, two lecturers—one from Environmental Sciences or Science, I’m not sure—the feedbacks we got were investigated and the lecturers were sanctioned and they corrected themselves.
You mentioned SERVICOM boxes for feedback all around school. I don’t think that is obtainable in the College of Medicine? Each time I to go the college, by the lodge beside the porters, on the way to … and by the Luxury, when you are going to Tafawa Balewa plaza, I see it there. And I want to believe that it is in the various faculties.
Apart from feedback, are there other efficient and transparent mechanisms for students to report sensitive issues? Recently, the alleged case of sexual harassment hit the English Department. That’s why we have the SERVICOM and the Office of the Quality Assurance. On a semester base, they do address situations like that. The counseling centre is also another source. Students who have those kinds of challenges can go there. The Director of Academic Affairs is also there. You see, during the Orientation Programme, all these information are always given but students don’t make use of that. The Director of Affairs attends to these issues. The counselors come and tell them when they have this kind of challenge, whether sexual harassment or any other kind. We used to have toll free numbers but I think something went wrong with our service provider. And the DSA’s number is known. The Information Unit has Facebook page, Twitter handle and they have a blog where you can raise issues and maintain your anonymity. They’ve brought some of these issues to our attentions which we have attended to. So, there are various levels by which students can seek redress, and I believe that those who actually come through will get redress.
Most students complain of wrong subject combination on exam dockets during the Exam period. What is the Registry Unit doing alongside CITS to avoid the situation? The problem is students being economical with the truth; because I’ve worked with the Examination Office. What you discover is that most students don’t do their registrations themselves. They go to business centres that they are very familiar with. And there is one smart attendant at the business centre who claims to be very fast. What we realize is that they sometimes pad your submission—you know, you would have written your course code. And all of a sudden, all 300 level Sociology students, like seven courses are showing—it is repeating. He is just doing PDF registration alone; whereas along the line, one or two elective might defer. When you are doing multiple registrations, it’s faster to just repeat the figure. And then you just look at the first four and think, “Oh, the guy has done it.” You don’t look at it properly. That’s the registration fault. When it’s now time for examination, that is when you pay close attention and you realize, “Ah, he gave me 212 instead of 214.” But then you say it is the ‘system’ that gave you. For those who do their registration themselves, they don’t usually have problems.
What are your final words for this interview for the students and the University community in general? I just want us to realize that right from the time you filled in your first course registration form, we all became ambassadors of great institution; and whatever we do, we must not tarnish its reputation, which is what gives other outside this country leverage. You may acquire all the knowledge in the world, if you’re not a good person, then you’re not. Even your knowledge will be rubbished. But if they know that even with your knowledge, you still care for the average person you come in contact with; you want to live a positive mark for everyone and anyone you come in contact with, then maybe that will make all of us be on our best all the time.