Abubakar Umar is president of the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students (PANS), Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto (UDUS) Chapter. In this exclusive interview with Pharmanews, the 500-level pharmacy student reveals some of his plans for PANS-UDUS within the next one year. He also expresses his views on some crucial issues affecting pharmacy education in Nigeria. Excerpts:
Whose decision was it for you to study Pharmacy?
It was a personal decision, even though I had some form of motivation and orientation from different personalities, including my family members, since there is no self-made man. Besides, it has become a tradition, though it can be faulted, that majority of the students who pass through Nagarta College, Sokoto, where I had my secondary school education, end up studying health-related courses. So, it was natural that I too should have such ambition and I must admit that it also contributed to my decision to study Pharmacy. I have never had any regret choosing Pharmacy, despite the enormous challenges I encountered.
What prompted your decision to get actively involved in PANS politics?
Actually it was coincidental. It began with consultations and suggestions made by some members of my class who observed that I had some potentials in me which they believed could be useful for the development of our institution. Also, it had been my dream and aspiration to add my quota to the development of PANS-UDUS. And to the glory of God, I started working towards it and, today, the dream has come to fulfillment.
Tell us about some PANS-UDUS’ activities and programmes for 2016
The activities and programmes of my chapter are in two categories – those that have been successfully accomplished and those that are still in the pipeline. Those in the first category include renovation of the general faculty’s notice boards and suggestion box; as well as constitution of committees, such as education committee, financial committee, editorial committee, guidance and counseling committee, among others.
Programmes that are still in the pipeline include orientation of fresh students; students-lecturers interactive session, which will be organised by the social committee; inter-state quiz/ debate competition, which will be organised by the education committee’; creation of an official website for the chapter; construction of a “pestle and mortar” statue; publishing of the chapter’s magazine, which will be launched during the Pharmacy week, among others.
What would you say are the challenges facing pharmacy education in Nigeria and how best can they be tackled?
The challenges facing pharmacy education are numerous, but the major one is non-conducive learning environment. Most pharmacy schools have the challenge of inadequate laboratories and classrooms that can conveniently accommodate students. Therefore, there is need for adequate laboratories, classrooms, libraries and other learning facilities.
Another issue is the discrepancy in the pharmacy curriculum. It has been discovered that different schools adopt different versions of the curriculum. This negatively affects many students; so there is need for a uniform curriculum across the nation.
Manpower challenge is another important issue that is affecting pharmacy education in the country. There’s inadequate manpower in pharmacy education and this has a great drawback on the profession. Those concerned should put this into consideration. There is also the challenge of lack of research grants for pharmacy students,
What can you say about the activities of your chapter of PANS at the national level?
Our chapter has never been inactive at the national level – more so now with the coming in of a newly restructured PANS administration, under the able and mature leadership of Comrade Chika Emeghebo, PANS national president, I will say we have been more active at the national level. We have been part of all the programmes, and I am hopeful that the forthcoming convention will be an unprecedented one.
In addition, one of our own, Mr Jubril Chado, is currently an executive member at the national level. I too had the opportunity to attend the last National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held at the national secretariat at the Faculty of Pharmacy, Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK), Anambra State, early this year.
However, I would advise the national body to find other ways of bringing the associations from all pharmacy schools together, with the aim of engaging them all the time, rather than waiting for the annual convention which comes only once in a calendar year. Also, the executive members should endeavour to visit other chapters, if not all, before the end of their tenure, so as to give them a sense of belonging and enhance cordial relationship among them.
What areas of the pharmacy profession do you think stakeholders in the profession should address urgently?
First and foremost is the issue of recognition. Even though a lot has been done, there is need to put more effort to enlighten the general public about the role of pharmacists in the health care delivery system.
Next is the need for sufficient raw materials to enable efficient manufacturing of pharmaceutical products. There’s also need for access to funds by the government and stakeholders, so as to boost the manufacturing process all over the nation. This will go a long way in reducing the importation drugs into the country.
Where do you see PANS-UDUS by the time you will be leaving office?
With the few innovations I have brought, combined with the efforts of my dedicated executive members – majority of whom will be in the next cabinet – I see PANS among the top associations in this University.