A week ago most universities in Rwanda opened doors to new students for the first academic year. For the first one or two weeks, the culture has been that these higher institutions of learning orient freshers about university life before normal classes kickoff.The practice is also believed to help naïve students prepare for the challenges that come with joining university.
Unfortunately, for many students joining university, orientation has now become an option. Some institutions, dedicate just a day or two for the activity. While, some students deliberately choose to report several days after orientation is concluded.
Missing orientation is the first step to failure at university. A serious student should take orientation seriously.
Professor Philip Cotton, the Vice Chancellor at the University of Rwanda points out that much as orientation is a way of welcoming students, it is another opportunity for them to set targets before lectures begin.
“It is right to welcome people but setting expectations as soon as they arrive is crucial. This is why orientation continues throughout the first semester,” he explains.
Prof Cotton also emphasizes that part of the orientation that engages students on rules and regulations ensures that they follow the right procedures while at the institution.
“Before the semester advances students are informed about regulations including those relating to the assessments,” adds Prof Cotton.
Just like Cotton, Dr Marvin Mbassana, a lecturer at College of Business and Education explains that through orientation, students receive training on observing law and order for their safety on the campus grounds.
“When you look at primary and secondary, it is completely different from what happens at university. Unless students are informed about such issues before starting school many are likely to take simple rules for granted.Because of limited knowledge some crimes once committed could involve the police,” he says.
Knowing your way around campus
Each year, both private and public universities in Rwanda admit more than 10,000 students from different corners of the region but on the first day of reporting to school, many are seen wandering on the campus looking for lecture rooms.
Like Prof Eugene Ndabaga, a specialist in Education Management, Policy and planning at the University of Rwanda explains, without orientation activities many students are likely to encounter similar challenges.
“Remember these students are coming from different areas. They need to be guided on where to find the basic facilities such as the university clinic, washrooms and lecture rooms,” he explains.
He adds that another important aspect that students need not miss out from orientation is the introduction of their new teachers and course administrators.
“Dodging orientation today may be easy but when one gets problems with tuition or academic results they will understand that it is inevitable to consult administrators. Only those who attend orientation will know the right places to go to,” adds Ndabaga.
Effect on career guidance
Dr Wilson Cheruiyot the Kigali Campus director of Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology that opened its doors last Saturday for new entrants advises new students to always participate in the first week of orientation for sufficient career guidance.
“Several sessions are conducted during this one week to help students deal with their career choices. This is the period when some may find reason to make up their minds to change programmes,” says Cheruiyot.
Dr Mbassana echoes similar views claiming that without the necessary career orientation majority of students fail to observe the necessary rules.
“Some classes they are likely to encounter will be of more than 100 individuals within a single programme. Other course units are shared meaning that the numbers are likely to be high. During orientation, they are advised about certain course units where they have to endeavour being in class at the right time,” adds Mbassana.
Boosting academic performance
While some students attend orientation for a few days, others turn up days after the first semester has started.
However, Joyce Kirabo, a counselor in Kigali, explains that those who attend the entire orientation are likely to network with fellow colleagues and lecturers, which eventually boosts their academic performance in the long run.
“Besides getting accustomed to the learning environment, it is during orientation that students get to know each other. Overall this could have an effect on their academic performance since they already have individuals to consult when it comes to group work and assignments,” says Kirabo.
On the other hand, Humphrey Mutegi, a lecturer at Mountain Kenya University believes that the process prevents student alienation to the learning environment.
“At a time when learning starts, students wont completely feel out of place.This will improve their concentration in class and chances to access good resources for enhancing academic performance,” explains Mutegi
Whether directly or not, several studies show that students who receive orientation had better grades at the end of their course.
A descriptive study published in the International Journal of Education and administrative policies conducted at the university of Cape Coast in Ghana found that fresh students who participated in orientation gained information on academic programmes, policies and learning.
Overall the outcome showed that there was a significant difference in cumulative grade points between students who participated in orientation than those who did not.