Most of the past two weeks I have spent going to and fro between Ilorin and Oro College. My job has been to assist the College management in reviewing and strengthening their Teaching Practice Cycle.
After a non-welcome from the Provost, who managed to ignore us the whole time we were there, we settled down to do business with the Teaching Practice Committee and some of the Deans/Heads of Department who rose to the challenge - in between their other duties - and advised us on the system as it currently exists and commented constructively on our suggestions as to how things could be developed.
They were focussed and positive and left me with the impression they were serious about the need for a root and branch overhaul of the whole process (I almost used the word 'shabbang' but wasn't sure how to spell it. Spellchecker was not very enlightening).
Anyway, after four days, we have managed to produce a solid foundation on which to base student-teachers' teaching practice, hopefully for years to come. I felt an upward surge of reassurance, confidence and expectation that I rarely, if ever, have experienced here.
The next stage was to have it approved by the management - a tougher nut to crack. The principal qualities that seem to be required for these posts are lethargy, indolence and avoidance with a distinct aversion to engaging with anyone who they think might be in boat-rocking mode. In spite of 5 days' notice of an agreed meeting, at the appointed time there was no-one to meet with. We had travelled 40 miles or so to be there early while they were travelling 40 miles or so in the opposite direction. Apparently our respective drivers recognised and saluted each other in passing on the road - but nothing was said to us.
We were not best pleased and consoled ourselves with a luke-warm bottle of Coke. (I don't know who this 'Luke' fellow is but I wish he would get a proper refrigeration system set up here!)
We returned the following morning at an agreed time - they weren't there. A phone call 30 minutes later revealed they were in another meeting two rooms away and had completely forgotten about ours - but arrived within two minutes.
We presented them with all the work that had been done by their TP Committee over the preceding days. They seemed to accept - in fact they DID accept - all that we presented to them. We also stated what they were expected to contribute to the process and you could feel an almost physical effort to lift the heavy fire blanket of lethargy and allow the blood once more to flow, activating brain cells that had lain dormant for years. The next stage, we said, was for them to train their lecturers in the new procedures. There was a momentary flicker of panic and a weak, embarrassed laugh before they realised we weren't joking. Their next response was to ask if there was not a consultant who could deliver the training for them. 'No!' This was their responsibility - their job, in fact - for which one of them had gone on an all-expenses paid trip to the UK two years ago to brush up his mentoring skills for just this very development. They were then looking at me. Now, I have had many years experience of concocting cunning plans and I could see one being hatched before my eyes. I was not going to be drawn into delivering this, but assured them I would be there to help them plan their workshop and present it to their staff. We came away reasonably confident that they would come together to plan their next move - but what that next move will be, only time will tell!