Hard Work Brings Profit

By Vic Odarve

I placed all the examination papers in my table preparing for a week-long marking or checks for the final grade. I know it would be a long way to work it out. As usual, I looked first to my favorite students to check their performances and see to it if they got correct answers on the difficult problems. In engineering courses, problems are usually a part of the exams.

Sometimes a university life is a pain

It is the joy of the teachers that the majority of the students will pass the exam, and of course, checking first among the class best performers serves as the jumpstart of the undertaking to lift up your day.

To my surprise, the script of the best class performers was not in the bundled answer sheets. Just a day before I completed the work, I called the attention of the Department dean if any information about this student on why she failed to take the final exam. To my dismay, the dean informed me that the student failed to secure the required exam permit. She failed to settle her outstanding school fees obligation.

As the grade submission drew nearer, I proceeded to compute the class grade following the established guidelines. I am no longer interested to see her as the top performers of the class. Like in a game of chess, trying to salvage a draw from a difficult position is itself a win. True, as I encoded her overall final period performance without final exams, she still passed with a barely passing grade of 75%. Somewhat a miracle! Her admirable performance during prelim and midterm periods contributed it all. Then, I think to myself, ‘life is sometimes cruel.’

Recently, I took a vacation to my birthplace and attended their annual fiesta celebration. On the land of my ancestors, I visited a piece of land I inherited from my parents. There, I saw beautiful and bearing flower trees. They look like Christmas trees.

A rocky terrain but trees struggle to grow

But I was shocked to see that it grew from the rocky lot where other plants seldom survived. How the roots can obtain water during summer where rain seldom pour down? I pondered for a moment. While walking slowly seeing the beautiful scenery of rice terraces, I remember my student who was struggling in pain over her grades in the mathematics of the last semester. What an irony! This beautiful tree is trying to survive from a rocky ground like my student salvaging a grade of 75%.

Obstacles are part of our journey in life and sometimes destroyed many people because they gave up and turned their focus away from their dreams. When times get rough, life simply falls apart. But for the student and the trees, they have to live and work hard in order to survive.

Despite all these trials, life marched on and turned out positive.

The Bible puts it, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” Proverbs 14:23

So, be it!


I Know Why Students Jog

By Vic Odarve

Every Thursday morning at 7 am! It’s a jogging time. Security people check the girl’s and boy’s hostels if somebody are still on their rooms or quarters. All must leave their rooms and join the weekly jogging. It is a minimum 3-km run affair; that is all students have to jog at least 3 kilometers in an oval playground. Around 5000 students must join the jogging as part of their school fitness program. This is integrating physical activity into the school curriculum. Sound body means sound mind!

Students jogging at Caritas University , Enugu State, Nigeria, Africa

Students jogging at Caritas University, Enugu State, Nigeria, Africa

This is the picture of the student’s life at Caritas University, Enugu State, Nigeria. Uniquely African way of life! We seldom saw thousands of students lined up once a week for the jogging activity in a university. After few minutes of an important announcement, the game started by stretching exercises evidently to loosen their muscles prior jogging proper.

Jogging is a slow pace running and virtually all the students can do it. Some do it to get in shape, stay fit, and have fun. But most participants do it for fun, indeed, imagining themselves to be one of the thousand students doing a circuitous route in a campus playground. And they enjoy themselves! Their faces show a thousand smiles! This is also a part of their social activity and camaraderie.

The school, on the other hand, believes that regular exercise enhances the student’s mental well-being along with their physical health. In fact, numerous studies indicate that student’s achievement and physical fitness are positively related. Jogging also increases life span and reduces an aging effect, fights obesity and high cholesterol level, and improves study level concentrations.

Thus, the school teaches the students the importance of physical fitness, incorporate regular exercise as part of their lives, and jogging as the main exercise. In this way, students are kept fit, active, and healthy.

Seeing thousand of faces smiling as these students jogging their way along the university oval playground of Caritas University is something to behold. This is a fun run for a cause in some part of the world!

Now I know why these students jog!



 “It was so simple but challenging”, quipped one student after the quiz. Definitely students love this type of quiz. They find the quiz on finding the determinants, inverse matrices, and eigenvalues/eigenvectors give them the opportunity to test how far their learning progresses on that particular course. That is, taking a simple but challenging quiz!

Engineering Mathematics 2 Batch 2012-2013 Second Semester

Engineering Mathematics 2 Batch 2012-2013 Second Semester

What makes it simple? It is simple because the given matrices during the quiz were almost similar to the examples discussed in details during classroom session except a change on one of the entries in every row. This type of quiz is challenging because it is open notes, books, and other related materials. Laptops are allowed where they can use the program MS Excel. But everybody has to observe the” strictly no borrowing materials from the classmates!” rule.

Another word of caution! Solutions must be legibly written and presented in detail or step by step. Laptops are used only for counterchecking or guide as their works in progress. That’s it and nothing more!


Open books, notes, and related references during quizzes are welcomed by engineering students. Mathematics especially dealing on matrices is difficult to work with. As matrix size increases, the difficulty in computation also increases. Rules are sometime complicated and requires complete understanding before our confidence of getting correct answer develops. Memorization of procedures does not work well if without understanding as you will soon forget the procedures as the solution progresses. Most often in matrices a change of a single element or entry will change the whole environment of computation. The solution is very sensitive to the slight changes in the initial condition of the matrices. Just like chaotic theory, any error in a single step can produce large error in the final answer. That’s why open notes, books, etc during quizzes works well with matrices. The main objective is to make students familiar the algorithm on how to get to the final answer.

The reason is clear. Let the students learn the basics of matrices operation. With almost all computation nowadays done by a computer, we are preparing our students to this world ahead. It is then the classroom learning works in the open fields after completing their course. In a real world, computers and engineers work hand in hand in the industrial fields.


As expected silence engulfed the whole classroom as quiz started. Everybody was busy and concentrated on their works. No ogling for solutions on another paper. All eyes were on their own paper. Time limitation for the quiz was enforced. A real world in a classroom!

What was the result on that quiz? Only sixty percent (60%) passed. Failed students came to me with various reasons. Some confided that they had not prepared well and not listening during classroom lectures. In summary, failed students had reasons with the same denominator. They same old stories! Still clinging to their old ways of bad habits! They vowed to change the old ways. They blamed themselves for failing the quiz! One thing is certain…not blaming to the lecturer!

So, what is next? Some wept and admittedly vowed to change for a better! Then I told these poor youngsters, “Go and change your ways for it is not too late, more quizzes are coming. Unless you change your ways, you will not pass this course”

Sounds biblical?  Yes. Students must change their ways in order to pass the course. Jesus at the early part of his preaching often told the crowd to change the ways and believe the good news so that they will not be perished. Everybody must be prepared.

“He said, “The time has come; the kingdom of God is at hand. Change your ways and believe the Good News.””

– Mark 1,15

“I tell you: no. But unless you change your ways, you will all perish as they did.”

– Luke 13,3

That’s it. Failed students must change for a better for they will they will not only pass this course but one day they will also meet the One sitting on the throne for final judgment to all mankind.


How to Mark Math Scripts?

        By Vic Odarve

Examinations in Mathematics are usually given as problems or exercises. In order to assess their acquired skills, lecturers are not concerned with the memorized facts; instead, they are particular on the details of the solutions on how they arrive in their final answer.

Marking Mathematics scripts soon to follow after the examination

Marking the scripts to follow soon.

Marking Mathematics scripts soon to follow after the examination  In most cases during the final exam, partial credit is available if the solution leads to the correct answer. And the credit depends largely on the judgment of the marker. Points or credits depend on the magnitude of the committed error. This is the same thing for marking essays or discussion types of examinations.

Giving partial points or credits must be above all fair to all students. If the error is near the completion of the correct answer, more points compare to the one committed at earlier stages. Your experience and understanding will guide on how much points or marks you have to give. In some cases, students may get the final correct answer but still the deduction of points is done due to careless or stupid mistakes along the way. Common errors are on algebraic signs, unclear steps of presentation of the details of the solution leading to its final answer.

But in reality more unexpected things in the scripts meet your eyes. Especially on giving partial credits! Sometimes mind-boggling! Several scenarios will crop up. How do you give a partial credits or marks if the mistakes of two or more students are the same? And you discover that they have the same steps of solution from the beginning to end? The scripts are like a photocopy! And what will you do if you come across with correct answer but somewhere along the way of his solution are big mistakes or some of the important steps that supposedly precede the next step are missing? It turns out to a big mess! You will be likened to an archeologist deciphering ancient scripts!  Your judgment and long years of teaching experience come into play! That is to give partial credit or not to give! It largely depends on you! By giving partial points to the imperfect solutions, this does not mean we encourage the students to achieve this kind of attitude. Giving credits simply means measuring or recognizing their acquired skill level.

In real works, a small mistake in a solution sometimes results to astronomical disaster! It might be in thousands or millions of dollars in rework and other related expense! Remember what happens to the Hubble telescope? This is a giant project that gives us the confirmation on black hole existence, improves the calculation of the rate at which galaxies are receding from our Milky Way, and gives the best view images from colliding galaxies in our cosmic ocean. The first picture in space was delay simply due to math error! According to some scientists, a simple mistake in arithmetic–an addition instead of a subtraction! Hence, a tremendous repair was made in space! Marking math scripts is troublesome to many lecturers. Students are sometimes making magic to their solutions and you will be tempted to give or not to give partial credits!   Partial points or credits work only in classroom instruction. The real works need perfection! This is the time that mathematical solution will not be marked.




Computer Science Classroom and Exam Room

Computer Science Classroom and Exam Room

A make up quiz in Math 227 will be conducted on Saturday, February 23, 2013. Only those who failed to take the previous quiz are allowed. Study the following chapters;

Chapter 6 – Application of Differential Equation

Chapter 7 – Second Order DE

Chapter 8 – Non Homogeneous DE

Don’t forget to bring your own calculator and workbook “Differential Equations”. Nobody is allowed to take the make – up quiz  without calculator and workbook.

Please be guided.






“It is disgusting! I do not expect it! Do this in computer please!” the Head of the Department said.

That was 20 years ago! It was my fault. I did submit the grades of my students in a handwritten and tabulated format. There were computers but I was not comfortable in using them.

What followed was a stern warning from the Head of our Department. “All reports must be done in computer”! The memorandum was loud and clear. That’s it! No recourse, follow the leader!

Grading sheets kept at Records Office

Grading sheets kept at Records Office

Since then, all grades/reports and its computations were done in computers. We saw its benefits and we were all conquered. Imagine grade computation by MS Excel! Just copy the formula and paste the computation, it solves everything. Saving time and effort! It’s amazing technology! Making the life of teacher or lecturer better!

But when I began teaching here in Africa, the picture 20 years ago was alive and kicking! Grades either posted or submitted to the Record Office were done as we did it before. Handwritten and tabulated format! I remember the year of black and white television! Oh my God that was our life before! It is alive here!

But they have every reason. It was just a few years back that large natural oil deposits boomed up in this country so as the educational institution. A reason to justify! So the best thing to do! Stern warning from the Head of Office and the system will be changed!


Expatriates lecturers/teachers are needed to spark the technology of the institution. So the management did it! Several expats are now on the fold of the university. This school may now catch up the technology trends. This is where this school is heading! On the right track! Today we see voluminous files of students records placed in cabinets, stockrooms, etc. Records office, registrar, libraries, enrollment procedures, and similar activities are not yet computerized. As a result, no expeditious information delivery to the students, teachers, and parents! You have to wait a week or months to get your transcripts of records and similar documents. Perhaps tomorrow, these pictures will be gone! We will be on computerized system. Technological revolution is underway and it is changing society. It is not make-believe anymore. It is real! It is a major societal trans formative force that shapes the modern world.

What’s the big difference on computerized records system? Computerized system can provide almost everything you ask for information on a student. Just select and look at anyone of the documents on-screen and you got it!

Nothing in this world is constant except change. Move to computerization!

A Little Patience Please!

By Vic Odarve

Madonna University,Elele campus, Riverstate, Nigeria, Africa

Madonna University,
Elele campus, Rivers state, Nigeria, Africa

Incessant request for good services is annoying and irritating. And sometimes you did not know that you have paid for it. It takes your precious time for follow-ups and disrupts your daily activities. How much more if it takes almost a month to iron out the things instead of having it completed in a 4 days transaction!  But here in Africa, it is not surprising. It is a common scenario. A little patience is required to work your things out. Patience, please!

It might be a complex for a foreigner to understand the picture unless you do a close look or until you are drawn in one of your business transactions.

Take a case on one of my bank transactions! Just a simple money transfer! It was December 8 that I made a bank transaction. The money was meant for December 25- a Christmas day. And it should suppose to arrive at that date. But after 7 days the recipient did receive nothing. I made a call to the bank manager and he then fixed the problem. So I waited another more working days and to my surprise, the same thing happened. Delayed for the second time! So I called back the manager again several times and begged to give an attention to what had happened. Finally after several calls and follow-ups, the recipient did receive the money. It was already January 2 after New Year! It took almost a month! Instead of 4 days!

There might be something wrong in the bank management. It is difficult to imagine how a simple transaction that could be done in a four working day period ended up in almost a month-long with constant monitoring. In both transaction failures, the bank did not merely notify thru phone or email to its customer.  It seems that this thing is normal in their daily transaction. In their working atmosphere, there’s no such thing as urgent! How about the customers? Customers may keep on calling at the office for follow ups and struggle in pain over their services.

Here it requires a lot of patience than demanding your rights as a customer. It is quite complex for a foreigner to understand the management system the bank is having. Can we do something more? Nothing other than to adopt in order to live and survive in this world where patience reigns supreme than fighting over your rights as a customer.