JOHN CHARLES writes about the crisis brewing between the management of the Benue State University and its students over the timing of the implementation of the new grading system
Students at the Benue State University, Makurdi, are fuming. Their anger is as a result of the alleged refusal of the authorities of the institution to implement the directive of the National Universities Commission, which returned the grading system for universities to what it called a five-point system.
Recall that the regulatory body of the ivory tower had in October 2018, approved a new grading system for universities. The directive jettisoned the earlier practice of four-point system. The new directive of five points grading system was to take effect from 2018/2019 academic session.
Reasons for the new directive were explained in the circular sent to universities.
The circular read, “Vice chancellors would please recall that in early 2017, Directors of Academic Planning met to discuss the issue of course credit system and Grade Point Average in the Nigerian university system. In particular, the issue of the removal of pass degree was discussed, leading to the adoption of a four-point grading system.
“However, the four-point scale, which some universities started implementing, was also found to have severe implementation shortcomings, with some universities observing serious difficulties in getting students to acquire average class of degree, while the scale made it easier for students to have first class degree.”
Continuing, the circular noted, “Furthermore, the commission was recently inundated with series of inquiries, particularly from international organisations and foreign universities on the status of the four-point scale in use and previous degrees issued using the five-point scale.
“In view of this, I am directed to inform all vice chancellors that all Nigerian universities should revert to the five-point scale hitherto in use, with effect from the 2018/2019 academic session.”
But a year after the directive was given; Benue State University had yet to commence the implementation thus fuelling insinuation that the management of the university had jettisoned the idea.
However, going by the academic calendar of the university, the implementation of the grading system might not have been delayed as being alleged by the students.
The directive of the NUC indicated that universities should commence implementation from the 2018/2019 academic session which Benue University just commenced few weeks ago.
Registrar of the university, Dr Mfaga Modem, in a statement issued the day students protested maintained that the Senate of the university had constituted a committee to consider the appeal by the students for the recalculation of their erstwhile results from four-point grading system to five-point grading system and submit its recommendations.
According to her, the committee requested and received memoranda from the university community including the students; met on several occasions and its report was to be considered at the forthcoming meeting of the Senate scheduled for Thursday, September 5, 2019.
“But the students started their protest before the day,” she added.
She said that the students must acknowledge the fact that the university had already complied with the directive by the NUC by reverting to the five-point grading system with effect from the 2018/2019 academic session.
“In the interim, the university management met the students and informed them of the efforts of the Senate and appealed for their patience to enable the committee to complete the assignment. Management also, through the Dean of Students, issued a circular informing the students of its efforts,’’ the statement added.
Checks however revealed that some students were not duly informed on the new directive and when to commence implementation.
Some of the students, particularly old students, expected that their old papers should be recalled and re-graded.
For instance, a 300-level student in the Department of Sociology, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being punished, alleged that the university management declined to implement the new grades resulting in the failure of many students.
According to him, their scripts from 100 level should be recalled and re-graded to reflect the five-point system.
He said, “To me, this is not too good for some students particularly those in 400 level who are about to graduate. The school authorities should allow our scripts from 100 level to be re-marked and re-graded so as to reflect the new grading system.”
However, Paul Msugh, a 300 level student of the Department of Political Science, alleged that students at other universities were already enjoying the gesture. He said this was the reason why the students of the university protested.
He stated, “We decided to protest because the school management was not ready to implement the new grading system. The old system is too hard making many students not to excel.
“What we want the school management to do is to revert to the five-point system, but the management refused. Students had tried in vain to dialogue with the school authorities. So, the last resort was the protest.’’
When asked what was the difference between five and four points grading systems, Msugh explained that under the hitherto four points grading system, the last grade was Third class but that it would be Pass with the new five-point system.
When informed that the implementation of the five points system was meant to commence with students admitted from 2018/19 academic session, Msugh said, some universities started long time ago.
“Some universities in our neighbousrhood have started years back because the 300 level students of those universities are already enjoying it,’’ he said.
A lecturer in the department of Mass Communication, Dr Daniel Bo, decried the demand of the students. He said the students were looking for a law to cover every student, including those who had been admitted earlier. He said this was not possible.
Bo said, “This is because at the end of every session, the Senate sits and approves results. You can see that it is not possible for scripts that had been graded to be re-marked. At a time, there was a four-point system and we were marking script based on that, now that they have reverted to five points, students want all their scripts from the time of year one to be re-marked and re-graded.
“There was a time we were using five-point system. Later, the government introduced four points. Those who started with four points will be graded as such while the new system is for students admitted when the rules were made, which is 2018/2019 academic session.”