By Tolulope Ayeye
Walking through Nnamdi Azikiwe Hall of Residence from or towards Independence Hall, you might first notice the flock of students going through the course of their day, some heading to the cafeteria, some going to classes, and others just lounging around. Unless you pay close attention to detail, you would likely not notice the rickety wooden shelf blending with the wall that is full of predominantly orange and brown file jackets. A closer look at these files, you’d realize that they contain documents and information of some students of UI, both past and present, who had, at one point or another during their time in the University, been legal occupants of the hall.
Usually, the first thing that might come to mind is to laugh and jest with friends at the old passport photograph on the files you managed to lay your hands on. However, when you think of the condition in which the files are kept and how it could be your file being laughed at in your faculty or hall of residence, you realize that it is no joking matter.
The issue of Record management and file storage in UI has been going on for a while. At some point, an average student in UI must have had issues where their files and documents get missing from records or lost in a sea of other files, making them impossible to find. This issue doesn’t just stop at the hall of residences, but it goes further to the faculties and departments.
For example, Ife, a 200-level Uite, had submitted all of her documents for departmental and faculty registration before the strike. However, eight months later, when we resumed, her name was not on the list of those who had submitted their documents. Although she laid a complaint, she was given no explanation as to what had happened to her documents, but she still had to start the registration process all over again.
“When I saw the list, I realized that my name wasn’t on it and I went to meet the Class representative where I was told to resubmit and no explanation was given.”
WHY DO FILES GET LOST?
One thing common with the storage system around UI is the fact that the method of storage is traditional. In other words, files and documents are stored in hard copy form. Students submit their documents as hard copies to the right authorities, and they are kept in files for reference purposes. It is one thing for these files to be submitted as hard copies, and it is another thing for them to be stored properly. For one, storing the files in an orderly manner would give little to no chance for lost files or presumably lost files.
However, considering this reality where technology keeps improving, the method of the story stands as the most logical reason for the inadequacies. The Zik files, for instance, which sometimes lay sprawled on the walkway, would not even have been seen by anyone who wasn’t authorized if it was stored online or on a computer. And Peace would not have searched through over a thousand files in her hostel’s storeroom only to find her file after 629 other files if they were stored electronically. However, everything might not be as black as white as you think of it. When asked how the files she had to search through were adequately kept,
Peace answered in the negative, saying, ‘Nope, it was disarranged.’ While traditional file management is tedious and ill-advised, it is not directly the cause of missing or scattered files. However, if considering the fact that record management extends beyond collation, to safety and maintenance, it is safe to conclude that UI sub-structures can do better. Traditional hard copy storage may not be so optimal after all.
WILL TURNING TO E-STORAGE BE THE SOLUTION?
The answer to this is yes. It can if the tech is good and okay. After establishing that above, the answer to ‘what is the solution?’ would be evident to many: e-storage. With e-storage, students only have to submit soft copies of their documents, and the authorities will seamlessly create folders for different purposes. That is, build a digital database. However, just as in traditional storage, opting for e-storage in UI is not black and white.
There are some factors that should be put into consideration. It is important to consider if the school has the means to maintain and handle a digital database across hostels and faculties. The portal has been down, the admission portal was hacked, and so many things have happened in the University’s web space. Adopting an electronic storage system cannot be immediate. Instead, it is going to be a gradual process that would start with consolidating the capacity and security of the existing web services.
Files can get missing both in traditional and electronic storage systems. However, when it is a common occurrence and there are repeated complaints of students having to start a process over again, it becomes clear that it is an issue to be taken up. The school can choose to stick to storing files as hard copies and make provisions for better storage rooms pending the time. It is pertinent that officials in charge of database management see to the orderly and tidy arrangement of these documents, especially in halls of residence. It is however important (and almost inevitable) that the school adopts a digital record management system. However, if the school would start at all, it needs to start strong and continue well.