Why Government’s Fiscal Policies Must Prioritise Education – PANS-OAU President

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As almost all universities in Nigeria offering Pharmacy are now expected to phase out the B.Pharm programme and replace it with the more patient-centred PharmD programme, President of the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students (PANS), Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State, Jesujoba Ojelabi, has called on the alumni of the institution under the aegis of the Great Ife Pharmacy Alumni Association (GIPAA) to help expedite action on it. In this interview with Pharmanews, Joba, as he is fondly called by his colleagues, also discusses pharmacy students’ experiences in OAU, being the foremost institution to offer pharmacy as a degree course in the country. Excerpts:

Has Pharmacy always been your dream course?

No. As a matter of  fact, looking back now, ten years ago, I could not have predicted that I would be here. I was merely one of those kids who were strongly under pressure to study a professional course, and considering the intense competition associated with Medicine, I just switched to Pharmacy. And although on some days, the stress of the programme makes me wonder why I didn’t ask enough questions about it then. On some other days, I am glad I made that choice.

Jesujoba Ojelabi

As president of PANS, what is your assessment of pharmacy education in OAU, compared to other pharmacy schools in the country?

I am going to try very hard to be modest in answering this one. But the reality is that the Faculty of Pharmacy, OAU, is one of the best, as much as pharmacy education in Nigeria is concerned. A major reason of course is that it is the premier school of pharmacy in the country. This, by default, gives Ife Pharmacy an advantage over others.

In terms of infrastructure, we stand among the best and courtesy of the magnanimity of our alumni body, I doubt that this will change anytime soon – certainly not even with our current dean’s vision to make the faculty the best in Africa.

Indeed, the faculty is not without its flaws and the intensity of the programme, the B.Pharm programme, especially, might cause some counter opinions. But I believe this only goes to show how thorough the programme is and, although it can surely get better, what we currently have is one of the best in the country today.

What is your general view of the current state of pharmacy education in Nigeria and what do you think government can do about it?

To streamline my comments to pharmacy education alone might just be selfish. The entire educational system in the country is obviously not what it should be and the reason is not far-fetched – there is a great underfunding of education in this country.

In my little time here in Ife, I have seen things go from bad to worse in some practical labs for the mere reason that departments can no longer buy the needed facilities and it is like that almost all over the university. There can only be one way out of that: The Nigerian government needs to pay more attention to education in its fiscal policies.

What specific areas in pharmacy education in OAU do you want stakeholders, like GIPAA, to address urgently and why?

Well, since GIPAA has been mentioned, it is only courteous that I appreciate the association before making any demands of them at all. GIPAA has remained one of the standing pillars behind the Faculty of Pharmacy, OAU and, certainly, PANS-OAU cannot appreciate enough the many alumni who have always come to the rescue in our times of need, both financially and otherwise.

As regards demands based on pharmacy education, I believe the Faculty of Pharmacy, OAU, is about to cross a major milestone as it is about to join the few other schools running the PharmD programme. This process will require a curriculum review. I believe GIPAA would be doing pharmacy education a great favour by contributing ideas, based on current realities in practice, to this process. Some of the members of GIPAA are practising pharmacists and are therefore the closest to these current realities in pharmacy practice in Nigeria. This puts them in a good position to contribute to what the Nigerian PharmD curriculum should look like.

The first Great Ife Pharmacy Alumni Conference and Reunion was recently held in this faculty. What can you say about the conference and what impact did it have on PANS-OAU?

The conference, being the first of its kind, is a welcome development. Conferences are definitely very important in academic environments and it’s interesting that it took the premier school of pharmacy this long to have one. But it is surely a welcome development. Our students were exposed to oral and poster presentations and actually got to appreciate a scientific exhibition.

The conference also featured an alumni reunion which brought back a number of alumni to the faculty. This in itself is a privilege. Students could tap into the wealth of experience of these alumni and have some form of mind preparation for the realities beyond school.

I must appreciate the initiative of the current dean, Professor Wilson Erhun, and every other brain behind the conference. Personally, I look forward to more of it, both as a student and, hopefully soon enough, as an alumnus.

Who are your role models in pharmacy practice and why?

I have quite a number. There is Pharmacist Victor Afolabi, of Wellness; Sir Atueyi, of Pharmanews; Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi; Professor Wilson Erhun, and a host of others. I appreciate men that break new frontiers, creating new paths for others to follow. Some areas of practice in the pharmacy profession can be stereotypical and it takes a creative mind to break out of these stereotypes.

The names mentioned are major pioneers in what they do, even though it still stands in the scope of pharmacy practice – Sir Atueyi with the media and health journalism; Victor Afolabi with health insurance; Prince Adelusi-Adeluyi has a number of “firsts” in the profession; and Professor Erhun was the first professor of pharmacy administration in West Africa. So, you see where I’m coming from.

When you graduate from pharmacy school, which area of practice would you consider and why?

Well, I think I’m still in the streamlining process. Nothing is cast in stone yet. But I have a strong feeling it won’t be hospital for me. As mentioned earlier, I believe in exploring new fronts. But if I have to choose from what is already on ground, I’d strongly consider health journalism, community practice or public health. The first because of my personal skillset and the latter two because I feel they are closest to society.

Where do you see PANS- OAU by the time you are leaving office as president?

I see PANS at the next level – exploring novel heights. Interestingly, that picture is already taking form. My team and I are already committing to a number of infrastructural and personal development programmes to contribute our quota to the association and the PANSites that brought us in. We are currently in the funds generation phase and, hopefully, with adequate support, these projects should come to completion soon enough.

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