I had been watching all the preparatory activities with a cynical eye. First cos it reminded me that my days in Durham university were numbered (by July I was done with my final exams), secondly it reminded me again that universities in the West have become education factories and thirdly I was waiting to see the white-wash my university will get up to (remember how the roads and sidewalks get whitewashed in Nigeria when a dignitary/governor/president visits?) lol.
I had only had a virtual open day before I arrived at Durham. To be honest the concept of open day was lost to me. It isn't a common event with Nigerian Universities (I hadn't visited UI prior to penning it down in my JAMB form). I only knew it was a top university and that most of my friends from secondary school were heading there. I also knew I didn't want to attend a university in the East (well, the only one I would have deigned to attend was UNN and I would probably have been married by now or so my eldest Sis moans.).
Anyway somehow in a moment of madness, I squealed my love for my DU on the application form and was invited to join the Open day team. Our job was to welcome parents and students, hand them goodie bags and maps, give directions to seminar venues, answer questions about our own experience and praise the school to high heavens.
On the D-day, the only whitewash was the weather. It was a bright warm summer day, and DU practically beamed a welcome. Quite opposite to our usual dreary weather.
Parents and kids came in droves. I noticed how parents of African origin made a beeline for me immediately they walked into the hall. Some families came with the family dog. One mom was a bit taken aback when i asked what course the dog was planning to take, then she caught the joke and started laughing.
One elderly woman with her grand daughter in tow, told me she was an alumnus, so also her daughter and her husband and now their child - her grand daughter. I thought it was sweet.
I remember one dad asking me what the entertainment was like in Durham. Are the pubs alright? Do you have clubs, parties, sports facilities or is it all about academics. lol. I cod just imagine a Nigerian dad asking that....not.
Not everyone liked what we had on offer. Some parents criticised our library ..that it was old fashioned...'Durham still uses books??!' "So so and so university's library is practically virtual. no need for old and musty-smelling books" o__O.
A number weren't impressed by our historic castles and colleges. My beloved college (originally built in 1846) was called 'olde worlde' by a sneering father. No vex.
I came away from the open day with a deeper appreciation. Open days are very vital for a school. any school. Students are the life-blood of schools not the other way round. Schools NEED their BRAINS, their BRAWN and their MONEY. Hence they need to attract the best who will contribute to new knowledge, new records in sports and become credible ambassadors. They also need their money to help run the school. And this is what motivates the school to keep improving and exceeding expectations.
I also left with an appreciation of the importance of parents attending open days with their kids. When you send your child away to a school - be it boarding school or University, it is important for you to have a feel of what their future learning environment will be like; the classes, the chairs, the accommodation, the toilets, the fun/sports facilities. I believe the challenge of parents and students visiting keeps the school on its toes.
Lastly, it is an opportunity for the staff of the university and current students (eg. Me) to re-evaluate why they chose this particular school. You can only truly convince another person to share your zest for your university if you truly believe it. Well, unless you are a good
I was actually surprised at the positively passionate answers I gave to questions like 'what do you like about Durham University', 'what has been your experience as an international student', 'Was it value for your money' cause it wasn't practised.
I read somewhere that Universities have 3 principal, direct functions: In the 1st place they teach; 2ndly they accumulate great stores of acquired and systematized knowledge in the form of books and collections; 3rdly they investigate or in other words they seek to push out a little beyond the present limits of knowledge and learning year after year, day after day, some new truth. They are teachers, storehouses and searchers for truth.
Durham University satisfied on all three 100%.
I feel most Nigerian Universities nowadays would satisfy 90% of the first stipulation. 40% of the second and 5% of the third.
What has been your University experience?