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THE EFFECTS OF STRESS ON ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE OF STUDENTS

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THE EFFECTS OF STRESS ON ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE OF STUDENTS

 

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background to the Study

Universities all over the world are places where learning is sought at its maximum level and it is the center for academic pursuits.  It is necessary to remind ourselves of the objectives of a university because for a proper chart of the university course, it is paramount to state the mission of universities.  According to Henderson (1969), re-echoed by Omoregbe (1973), universities are meant to fulfill the following functions:

·        To provide places for pure culture and learning for learning sake.

·        To conduct research and advance the boundaries of knowledge through outlet like workshops, conferences, publications, etc.

·        To serve as training schools for the professions.

·        To turn out trained leaders for every walk of life.

·        To act as liaison between the so-called “academic men” and the “good solid practical men” acquisition of balancing theory and practice, and

·        To be the custodian of intellectual freedom, safe guarding liberty and the unfettered search for truth.

These functions indicate the onerous responsibilities resting on the universities’ shoulders.  For a university to attain such goals, it has to be properly equipped and focused to carry out such responsibilities.

Regrettably, Nigerian universities especially the University of Benin have fallen short of what these ideals are and they are beset by numerous problems which are affecting their proper functioning and the student in particular.  These problems include:

i.                   Provision of basic infrastructural facilities such as accommodation, power, water and transportation.

ii.                Funding of university which include payment of lecturers’ salaries, allocation of part-time jobs for students and scholarship, inflation, deflation and unemployment of graduate after graduation.

iii.             Parents’ economic status, income of parents as it affects students.

According to Awe (2000), the problem of Nigerian universities as it affects undergraduate students have increased over the years with increasing enrolment and poor funding.

The Faculty of Education in the University of Benin is not left out of these inadequacies.  The lack of basic infrastructural facilities and parents economic status would in turn directly affect teaching and learning for the students and this would reflect on their grade level in school.  The lack of these necessities can be a source of stress to the students.  For effective learning to take place, the right conditions that would be favourable to this memory needs to be set in places.

Learning and memory can be affected by stress.  Although an optimal level of stress can enhance learning ability (Kaplan and Sadock, 2000), too much stress can cause physical and mental health problems (Niemo and Vainiomaki, 1999), reduce students self esteem (Lenn and Zeppa, 1984; Silver and Glicken, 1990) and may affect academic achievement.

According to high school psychology textbook, stress is a particular pattern of disturbing psychological and physiological reaction that occurs when an environment event threatens important motives and taxes one’s ability to cope.

The Medical Review Board, also defined stress as the body’s reaction to change that requires a physical, mental or emotional adjustment or response.

The term stress was coined by Han Selye.  Hans was born in Vienna in 1901, Early on, in his second year of medical school (1926), he began developing his now famous theory on the influence of stress on people’s ability to cope with and adapt with pressures of injury and diseases.  He discovered that patients with a variety of ailments manifested many similar symptoms, which he ultimately attributed to their bodies efforts to respond to stress of being ill.  He called this collection of symptoms, this separate stress disease, stress syndrome, or the general adaptation syndrome (GAS).

Selye defined stress as the non-specific response of the body to any demand made upon it.  Each demand made on the body is unique in that there is a definite response.  When we are cold, we shiver; when we are hot, we perspire; a great muscular effort increases the demand upon the heat and vascular system.  However, whatever the specific response, there is also activated non-specific response which is independent of the cause.  For example, the woman who is told that her husband suddenly died, suffers a terrible mental shock if sometime later, he walks into the room alive and well, she experience extreme joy.  The specific results of the stress are opposite, but the non-specific effects are the same.

This pioneer in stress research, Professor Hans Selye has gathered together tens of thousands of pieces of medical study which describe the body’s reaction to just about every conceivable type of stress.  He describes this bank account of nervous energy thus:  It is as though at birth, each individual inherited a certain amount of adaptation energy.  The magnitude of which is determine by his genetic background.  There is just so much of it and we must budget accordingly (The stress of life, page 15).

Agunlana (1990) has said, that stress is that which man experience when is under pressure and feel unable to cope.  Stress can be associated with personal goals.  Stressful period of life such as judging the demand of college with the responsibility of job, a family or both has impact on an individual’s academic achievement.

Stressors abound in our everyday life as would condition and unsatisfactory living continues to be a problem especially in a challenging academic environment like our Nigerian universities.  With all the multiplied blessings of civilized westernized, urbanized living comes stress and almost everyone suffers from it at some time (A guide to family Health, page 24).  Basically, stress is the result of an internal or external disturbance, which threatens the homeostasis of the human system.  All humans whether at work or outside work environment develop stress when life or well-being is threatened or when they are faced with such discomforting factors such as induced intense heat, cold, pain biotic stress vectors, etc (Gherman, 1981).

Many factors have been identified as being the sources of stress in the university environment.  Some of these are:

1.     Aspiring to achieve more academic status

2.     Examination Anxiety

3.     Inadequate sleep or rest

4.     Poor dieting

5.     Over schedule stress caused as a result of poor management of time.

Knowing all these as a fundamental to a favourable academic performance of university students, who are important to our economic development, one way to protect our investment is to help them stay healthy; hence the study of the effects of stress on the academic performance of students.

Statement of Problem

University students have many obstacles to overcome in order to achieve optimal academic performance.  A number of researches have been done looking at the correlation of many stress factors that university students experience and the effects of stress on their GPA.  However, a review of literature indicates that not much have been prioritized on the stress-related research.  Moreover, a majority of the investigation has taken place in the United States of America and the emphasis was placed more on the students in the medical field.

However, there is not much research conducted to examine these particular findings in our local universities and Nigerian university particularly in the University of Benin.

Therefore, it is timely to conduct research to examine this particular issue as findings from the present study would benefit various parties in the university especially the students and the Academic Affair Department in planning and conducting necessary programmes for the students so that stress-related factors could be reduced and better academic performance could be achieved by the students.

Research Questions

1.     Are the University of Benin students under stress?

2.     Does stress affect academic performance of students?

3.     What are the common causes of stress for the university of Benin students

4.     How does stress affect the health of the University of Benin students?

Purpose of the Study

The study attempts to find out the effects of stress on the academic performance of students of the University of Benin.  Also, if there is a correlation between stress, academic performance and the health of students.

Significance of the Study

The finding of this study, after it has well been disseminated will create an awareness on what stress is, its causes and its effect on academic performance of students.

Delimitation

This study is delimited to the University of Benin undergraduate students only.  The respondents would be randomly selected with questionnaire for the students.

Limitation

There are some number of factors that might affect the findings of this research.  Some of which are:

1.     Students may not be honest with response to questionnaire.

2.     Students are currently on vacation and that would result to limited response.

3.     Difficulties in sourcing relevant materials.

4.     Low level of enlightenment on subject area on the part of the respondent which may result to low quality response.

Definition of Terms

For the purpose of clarity, the following terms are used in this essay are defined as follows:

1.     Stressors:   These are chemical or biological agent, environmental condition, external stimulus or an event that causes stress to an organism.

2.     Mental Health:  According to WHO, it is not just the absence of mental disorder.  It is defined as a state of well-being, in which every individual realizes his or her own potentials, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make contribution to his or her community.

3.     Stress Syndrome:  These are groups of symptoms or characteristic of stress.  It could be a psychological disorder or an abnormal condition.

4.     Academic Performance:  It refers to how students deal with their studies and how they cope or accomplish different task given them by their teachers.

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