FUNAAB has introduced virtual basic digital film making to engage its idle students, writes Adewale Kupoluyi

Since the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) began to take its toll on national life, the adverse effect of the pandemic has seriously disrupted academic calendars of many institutions while students have been idling away and becoming unproductive. Aside from a very few institutions that took advantage of technology to engage their students and prevent time loss, a lot of undergraduate and postgraduate students across the country are anxiously awaiting the resumption announcement.

Conscious of the negative effects of being idle, the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Ogun State recently embarked on some initiatives to keep its students busy following the advent of the pandemic with the holding of the Virtual Basic Digital Film Making Course, which was put together by the Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies (CENTS), under the supervision of the Visiting Fellow to FUNAAB, Alagba Tunde Kelani. Popularly called TK, Alagba Kelani is a respected Nigerian filmmaker, director, photographer, cinematographer and producer. He is renowned for his love of the adaptation of African literary material into successful movies such as Oleku, ThunderBolt, Arugba, White Handkerchief, and Maami, among others.

At the formal opening ceremony, the Vice-Chancellor of FUNAAB, Prof. Kolawole Salako said that concerted efforts were made to keep students of the university busy and productively engaged since the outbreak of COVID-19; which forced schools, institutions, and offices to be locked down across the country. As part of the measures, the vice-chancellor recalled that he had charged students to take advantage of the break to acquire essential skills capable of increasing their knowledge-base by placing them at vantage positions above their counterparts. According to the vice-chancellor, “What we are having today is part of the painstaking efforts to mitigate the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 since March this year when the university management posed a challenge to Alagba Tunde Kelani to use cinematography as a tool for the mitigation of the pandemic.

Prof. Salako added that the essence of the digital course was to keep students productively occupied while also ensuring that such engagement has a lifelong impact in terms of knowledge and skills acquisition. He further explained that the university had invited Alagba Kelani to improve the skills of FUNAAB students in the areas of cinematography because his credentials, as a renowned filmmaker and cinematographer, had spoken for him in terms of quality film-making skills and contributions to the development of the Nollywood movie industry.

The vice-chancellor lauded the students for showing interest in the virtual training, noting that there are still some other aspects of entrepreneurship that the university is planning to focus on. He encouraged them to be dedicated, adding that as youths, they should not remain idle but be positively engaged. According to him, “We are still not sure when the federal and state universities will reopen but we must not allow the time of our youths to be channeled toward negative things. The event taking off today is a concerted effort at ensuring that our students keep learning during this lockdown. We hope to let it be bigger and better than this, as we forge ahead”.

Salako, Professor of Soil Physics, revealed that the online course was designed to run on Virtual Learning Management System in line with standard practices in open and distance learning programmes, while the training would be centered on a workshop approach in which participants would be engaged in hands-on tasks, based on regular film screenings of instructional and exercise materials that are supported with discussions. On his part, Director of CENTS, Prof. Babatunde Adewumi stated that the Centre is responsible for the development of the intellectual, technical, and vocational skills of the students, adding that the CENTS is also tapping from the opportunity of having Alagba Kelani working with the university.

Prof. Adewumi stated that FUNAAB, as a vibrant and progressive institution, has many entrepreneurial student clubs such as the Enactors, through which students had been able to demonstrate their inherent gifts, talents and intellectual capabilities, which can promote them later in life. He noted that from his experience, he had discovered that most students fully discover their inherent gifts and talent at the tertiary education stage, stressing that the virtual course might just be the boost they needed to define their future.

Earlier, Alagba Kelani commended the vice-chancellor and the university management for coming up with the initiative of developing the students through the virtual training, noting that the idea was initiated by the vice-chancellor. He appreciated the university for allowing him to interact with the students, stating that he has great plans for FUNAAB, some of which are still budding. He stated that the world needs various storytellers and filmmakers, adding that “the more prepared we are, the better we will be able to cope with the new world order”. Kelani, however, cautioned the students that the training is not a reality show but a serious classroom experience where they would be challenged to be at their best at all times with lots of exercises.

He encouraged them to pay maximum concentration to events and be determined, while also appreciating his collaborators for the concern shown and for preparing him for the great task ahead. The deputy vice-chancellor (Development) and chairman, CENTS Board, Prof. Clement Adeofun, congratulated FUNAAB for the initiative, stressing that it was a way of telling the world that the university had been a trailblazer in many areas of socio-economic development. He noted that although FUNAAB is a university of Agriculture but with the new development, people and the government would start having a change of mind, thereby seeing the importance of having other areas of development such as accountancy, marketing, and film making among others, as being relevant to the total development of the students. He appreciated the vice-chancellor for his proactiveness in initiating the programme, which he said would be of great benefit to the students.

The Registrar, Dr. ‘Bola Adekola expressed his deep appreciation to the vice-chancellor for bringing the university to the world in the area of art and culture. He commended Alagba Kelani for accepting to be part of FUNAAB, stressing that having been with the university for some time, he had been able to see the passion of the vice-chancellor and the management for art and culture, adding that in the world of agriculture, there is both agriculture and there is culture. He thanked the students for keying into the university’s vision, stating that it is a demonstration that FUNAAB is going to have a lot of electronic courses. Dr. Adekola admonished them to make good use of the opportunity and wished them well.

Engineer/Linguistic and Culture activist, Dr. Tunde Adegbola; Art and Culture Journalist/Executive Director, Committee for Relevant Art (CORA), Mr. Jahman Anikulapo; Information Technology Consultant, Mrs. Yetunde Elebuibon-Craig; and Director, FUNAAB Drama group, Miss. Titilola Ladipo, among others, delivered goodwill messages at the occasion. Some students that are participating said they had benefitted immensely in the programme by being productively engaged and learning new skills that could make them become sound entrepreneurs in digital filmmaking. This is certainly the main lesson to take bearing in mind that our universities should remain relevant, not only in teaching, research, and outreach/community service but in intellectual, vocational and entrepreneurial advancement for the much-needed national development.

Kupoluyi wrote from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State