Ajibola Quadri Omotesho is president of the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students (PANS), University of Ilorin (UNILORIN), Ilorin, Kwara State. In this interview with Pharmanews, the final year pharmacy student discusses pharmacy students experiences in UNILORIN, being the institution with the most recently accredited faculty of pharmacy in the country, as well as the achievements of his administration and ways to improve pharmacy education in Nigeria. Excerpts:
How did you come to choose Pharmacy as a course of study?
As a kid, my happiest moment always came from making people feel better with everything I had. Also, my dad being a medical doctor and my mum, an optometrist, I took the initiative of wanting to make people healthy from both of them. Although, I initially wanted to be a medical doctor, I fell in love with Chemistry in secondary school; so I sought for a course that would balance my obsession with my subject of interest and Pharmacy was that course. Since then, I have been enjoying the ride.
What were your motivations for contesting for PANS presidency?
As the first child in a family of six, I was a born leader. Growing up, I was always motivated by the powerful quote which says “leadership is the ability to turn vision into reality”. So, for my vision to advance the status quo of PANS in the University of Ilorin, I have to be in leadership position. In order to realise my vision, I contested for the post of the president and to the glory of God, I won. In addition, motivations from friends and classmates were also important.
Could you tell us some of your achievements and challenges?
Ever since this administration came on board, we have been able to achieve giant strides. In this administration, we have maintained discipline in ensuring that students wear their laboratory clothing which was designed by us and this has been standardised for all laboratory activities.
We have also been able to actualise the commencement of the PANS Enterprise, a project initiated to provide basic services to our members, such as basic ICT services and provide for sales of laboratory materials, snacks, drinks and other essential items to ensure that every student gets everything they want at the faculty.
This administration also achieved a milestone at the last PANS national convention by mobilising the largest number of delegates so far from the University of Ilorin. Other novel ideas conceived by this administration are near realisation.
Your faculty produced its first set of pharmacy graduates in 2017. What would you say are the challenges facing pharmacy education in UNILORIN, and how can they be surmounted?
Being a new school of pharmacy, virtually all of the finances for maintenance of the laboratory materials and equipment come from the university board and sometimes generous donations from friends of the faculty from within and outside the faculty. Other schools of pharmacy have large and strong alumni associations that support the faculty in different ways which then serve to uplift pharmacy education in those schools. Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, UNILORIN doesn’t have such solid alumni base which is understandable but still a challenge of sort to the pharmacy education.
Another one is on accommodation for pharmacy students. Accommodation has always been a challenge for pharmacy students in the school, as the school hostel has always been shared based on the total number of students in the faculty; and ours being a new faculty with low population of students always gets a very small slot. This affects pharmacy students’ academic performance, considering transportation issues too.
This can be resolved if there is a separate hostel built for pharmacy students; or better still, more consideration from the school for pharmacy students in allocation of hostels.
If you have the privilege to change some things about pharmacy education in UNILORIN, what would they be?
Pharmacy education in UNILORIN is a complete one, equipping every graduate of the school with solid practical knowledge with sound theoretical background. But if I am to change one thing, it is the conduct of the Students’ Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) for pharmacy students, an initiative designed to expose pharmacy students to practical experiences of how the profession is being run.
The duration of this training for pharmacy students is about three months in a particular establishment, which, from personal experience, is not usually enough. Hence I will change the duration of this training to about six months in a particular establishment, allowing students to grasp full practical knowledge, including the confidence which will help them after graduation and during internship.
The management UNILORIN recently released a circular regarding dress code for students, and there has been uproar in the media with regards to some of the dress codes prohibited. How would you react to this?
In the university, all students are assessed both in character and in learning; and a subset of character is the dressing of all students in the school. The saying, “The way you dress is the way you will be addressed “, is being preached far and wide within the school. Every student of the school is an ambassador of the school, so there is a need for the university to have a say in how students of the school should be perceived; hence the dress code.
Although some students termed the dress code prohibitions as being too harsh but I believe there are very good reasons for this prohibitions. This control has contributed to the school being the most sought after university in Nigeria as parents are assured of inculcation of good character in the students by the school.
There has been another controversy surrounding the Nigeria Bar Association and the UNILORIN law graduate, Amasa Firdaus, who was refused her call to bar for failing to remove her hijab, what is your take on this, especially as regards pharmacy students in the school.
The issue of the University of Ilorin law graduate who was refused her call to bar just because she didn’t want to remove her hijab is being viewed from different perspectives in the school – some commend her, while some condemn her. For me, it is a subject of modesty and principles. As men of honor, we must uphold both at all times; and this can be observed amongst pharmacists and pharmacy students as the wearing of hijab in line with religious injunction is viewed as an excellent dress code in pharmacy school, UNILORIN. There is no discrimination concerning wearing of hijab over here and this should be replicated elsewhere.
What is the level of support PANS-UNILORIN is receiving from technical bodies like PSN and ACPN in Kwara State?
The backbone of PANS-UNILORIN has been both the faculty board and the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Kwara State. The support received from PSN Kwara State has always been superfluous, both morally and financially, as they are always ready to welcome PANS whenever we go knocking.
The support of the PSN, Kwara State, and other technical bodies of PSN, especially during the organisation of our first PANS week cannot be overemphasised. PANS is usually given the opportunity to present its update during the monthly meetings of PSN. Important contributions from these notable personalities have been a driving force for PANS-UNILORIN and we are rapidly developing.
The national body of PANS has also been supportive, as PANS-UNILORIN has always been carried along, even before we were fully accredited