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NUC introduces PG courses in gerontology, geriatrics

The National Universities Commission has collaborated with the Dave Omokaro Foundation to design a curriculum for postgraduate degree programmes in gerontology and geriatrics in the nation’s university system.

This collaboration is coming against the backdrop of the recent projected ranking that the country would become the 11th nation with the highest population of older persons by 2015.

The collaboration is to develop a curriculum that would impart postgraduate students with the skills needed to deal with the expected challenges peculiar to older people.

A visiting professor in charge of curriculum for gerontology and geriatric at the NUC, Emem Omokaro, said that a two-day consultative meeting involving representatives of about 10 universities and experts from foreign institutions had been held with a view to designing a framework for the delivery of postgraduate programmes in the two courses.

She spoke with journalists after the end of the collaborative meeting.

The objective of the meeting, she said, was to deliberate on how to develop a sustainable framework for the delivery of the programmes in universities.

“We invited 10 universities, experts, provost of colleges of medicine. And sometimes in March, we invited a group of experts to deliberate on curriculum development, so as to produce a preliminary draft benchmark statement on Gerontology and Geriatrics. This involved some international experts from the University of Valparaiso, Indiana, United States of America and several Nigerian professors in different fields,” she said. Omokaro added that the meeting also deliberated on the limitations of the present curriculum in the nation’s universities, which, he claimed, that barely mentions ageing,” she said

On the outcome of the deliberations, Omokaro said it was such a fruitful deliberation.

“The excitement was in the passion for ageing, the realisation that it had long been neglected and the realisation of the demographic trends, showing a steady rise in the number of older persons and then the projection that by 2015, Nigeria would be the 11th country with the largest population of older persons.

“Right now, you can see that our population is very young. Older persons account for about 5.4 to 5.6% of the population, but that is a percentage of 171 million persons. We are talking of family support structures that have long been eroded, about the fact that government, over the years, have not put any structured programme in place for the aged, not to talk about the inequity in budgeting, which favours the younger generation.”

She said that the curriculum was one of the measures to lay the foundation, to start developing the human resource, by producing skilled people in the specialised field, who would influence policy, legislation and advocacy and ageing administration facilities.

Asked why the programmes were to start at the postgraduate level, Omokaro said it was because gerontology and geriatrics had wide academic scopes and therefore required specialisation.

“It is a postgraduate programme because it is an area of specialisation, just as you have paediatrics after general medicine, although, right now, we have gerontology as a unit course in sociology. But Gerontology at postgraduate level will either be for professional or academic certification. So, anybody with a first degree in Nursing, Sociology, Economics, Law, Public Health, anybody with a sound first degree, can come into Gerontology and go on, up to the PhD level and specialise,” she said.

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