In this exclusive interview with Pharmanews, Chukwudiebube Israel Poly-Mbah, national secretary, Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students (PANS), lends his voice to the persistent call by pharmacy students in the country for a review of the pharmacy curriculum.
The 500-Level student of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, also speaks on his foray into Pharmacy and PANS politics, the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the current administration of PANS national body, and other issues. Excerpts:
Tell us about your experience so far as a pharmacy student?
My experience as a pharmacy student so far has been thrilling, exciting and, at the same time, filled with bittersweet memories. I recall that I was filled with excitement when I was offered admission to study Pharmacy. Also, I was quite enthusiastic to start my undergraduate training in pharmacy school, with high hopes that the journey was going to be an easy one.
However, I discovered that the actual storyline is far different from my fantasies. Pharmacy school is challenging, stressful and very demanding in order to bring out the best in a student.
What prompted your decision to study Pharmacy?
My decision to study pharmacy wasn’t a forced one, but was born out of my fiery passion to save lives; and the noble profession gives me a wider opportunity to affect and touch millions of lives at the same time.
What aspects of your responsibilities as the national general secretary of PANS do you consider particularly challenging and how have you been coping?
Serving the interests of pharmacy students nationwide as the national general secretary has been quite exhilarating and challenging. The most challenging aspect is adequate record keeping and monitoring of activities going on in each chapter and at the national level. So far, I have been able to tackle this challenge effectively through competent documentation and round-the-clock communication with the national vice-presidents who are also chapter presidents in their respective schools.
There have been complaints concerning the pharmacy curriculum, which many say is cumbersome. Can you shed more light on this?
The pharmacy curriculum is truly strenuous, demanding and challenging to pharmacy students nationwide. The scheme of work in the pharmacy curriculum is bulky and filled with some archaic contents that are not suited for the modern pharmaceutical practice.
But the most challenging problem lies with the academic calendar. Most pharmacy schools do not have their own academic calendar; rather, they use the academic calendars provided by the university management for the entire school. These academic calendars provided by the university management are generalised and do not take into consideration the bulky scheme of work in pharmacy school. It thus favours other faculties and departments with lesser scheme of work and course contents.
This phenomenon forces the management of faculties of pharmacy to squeeze the huge scheme of work into the small time frame provided by the university’s academic calendar. Consequently, pharmacy schools force their students to learn from 7 am to 6 pm, receiving lectures non-stop and even on Saturdays and sometimes Sundays. This puts a lot of pressure and severe hardship on pharmacy students causing huge adverse effects such as frustration, insufficient personal time and insufficient time to work and relax before the next day or next academic week.
I would therefore recommend a revision and harmonisation of the pharmacy curriculum nationwide to meet the needs of the constantly evolving pharmaceutical practice and care, as well as to avoid churning out half-baked or outdated pharmacists. There should also be a separate and unified academic calendar for all pharmacy schools to avoid building sociopathic pharmacists.
What would you say are the challenges associated with studying pharmacy here in the south-south, compared to those studying in other regions of the country?
The contents of the pharmacy curriculum used by Pharmacy schools are all the same and they are tasking and demanding to the students. The only challenge with studying Pharmacy here in the south-south is cost of education. This includes school fees and cost of accommodation, among others. Cost of Education is quite high in the south-south, compared to other regions, especially up north.
What is your view on student unionism and recourse to violence?
A student union is a group run by students that devotes its time and resources to provide fairness, opportunities and a voice to the whole student community of the institution. A student union should be a place that brings students to connect, collaborate and learn. Student unionism helps in advancing the work of school authorities and establishes a therapeutic communication and relationship between the management and the students.
However, no student should resort to despicable acts, such as violence, to achieve their aim. Great battles are not won by the fists but by wits. Violence never achieves positive results; rather, it yields unwholesome consequences. Students should learn to fight for their rights peacefully and in an intellectually diplomatic manner.