When drums of big masquerades are played for a small masquerade, it’s a dicey situation where one is under compulsion to succeed. And succeed he must or face the music!
That is how Vice Chancellor Celestine Ntuen views the fact that his Ritman University won the award for West Africa’s Best Private Educational Institution in its first year of existence. Distinguished Prof. Ntuen would wax even more proverbial: “This baby is learning to crawl and it has already won a prize meant for those who run and outrun others. We will learn to crawl and walk at the same time, then we’ll run faster than the pack.” With mixed feelings he received the award from the West African Youth Parliament, noting that it frightens and motivates him at the same time. Fright for the responsibility of performance it confers on the institution’s management and motivation to work for maintaining the ward-winning streak.
From conception to inception, it has always stood out. This Ritman University. Conceived as far back as 1962 in the head of the six-year-old Emmanuel Ibok Essien, the land on which it is sited was a thick forest in those days. By 1977 at the age of 21, Emmanuel acquired that land. The master plan for the first set of structures began to be prepared in 1989 and studies went on over the years for actualization of that dream. A former Executive Secretary of the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), Engr. I. I. Inwang was commissioned in 1994 to set the machinery in motion, and in 2005, a technical committee for establishment of a University was set up on the advice of the NBTE. The dream materialized first as highbrow nursery, primary and secondary schools – the famous Ritman Group of schools – that has bestrode the educational threshold of Nigeria like a colossus from 2003 to date. Hence, though Ritman University was less than a year old in January 2016 when the award came, it has for several years undergone painstaking work in the formative stages for it to be born already made and spew forth wisdom like an infant of aged parents.
On March 5, 2015, the National Universities Commission (NUC) presented a provisional license to Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien on behalf of the proprietors , empowering them to operate Ritman University in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State, South-South Nigeria. The dream had finally come true, and with a bang!
Its first set of students came into campus in November, 2015 after a seamless online registration process, and on the 23rd of the same month, classes commenced in earnest. A glance at the goals and expectations of staff as presented by the Vice Chancellor shows that appointment, reward and promotion of staff is determined by judging Teaching, Research and Publications, as well as Community Development by reaching staff. Sales of handouts and erotic relationships between staff and students are forbidden, and demand for any form of gratification for services rendered by staff are prohibited at Ritman University.
Teaching quality is measured using quality metrics which include teaching rating by students, maximum contact hours by lecturers and content of examination questions. Delays in grading of students assessment tests and absenteeism of lecturers from their beats are not tolerated at all. Moreover, the possibility of disruption to academic calendar has been eliminated by prohibition of staff or student unionism. Staff welfare is given prompt attention with an open door policy of management and adequate provision for paying good salaries and allowances to staff on time – salaries are paid before month ends. The pay-packet is almost at par with what the federal government pays, and pension is assured on retirement. Students on the other hand are given ample opportunity to meet and discuss with the Vice Chancellor as well as other management staff. The institution entrenches student leadership structures rather than unions.
George Obot, a 100 level student of Economics at Ritman University says the experience here is quality education made easy. They have unlimited access to basic facilities and amenities – water, electricity, security, Information Technology, a vibrant social life etc. with a crop of teaching and non-teaching staff that are amply qualified and great achievers in their different fields. Dr. Joseph Udondata, a senior lecturer, opines that students at Ritman have a sense of being in a family because all staff no matter how highly placed relate as friends to the students. It was inconsideration of these feats and many more that the West African Youth Parliament came all the way from Ghana to honour Ritman University as its Best Private Educational Institution of the Year. A child that runs while still learning to crawl is an exceptional child; clairvoyance is his next of kin. That’s what one gets in settling for Ritman University.