Universites or Colleges as they are known in some environments are established to be citadel of knowledge. Since they are communities of highly priced academics, knowledge dealers, Researchers, scholars or whatever names they are known, one always looks up to these institutions for policy direction, outstanding and ground breaking researches in every field. Since they do nothing outside knowledge building, one expects no year will,pass without a solution to one of the challenges facing the human race.
One of the drivers for establishing university is that human knowledge can be improved on in every area of human endeavours. Humans, because of existence of Universities are not to be bereaved of knowledge, right policy and solutions to various diseases around the planet. But with Nigeria and Africa experiences, we cannot absolutely beat our chest in this regard. Nigeria Universities till 1980s had world recognised standards/ratings. Nigeria University certificates could stand at per with frontline Universities like Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard and many others. The curriculums were very rich, Lecturers were real time lecturers and not Politicians, business men and women nor ‘professional beggers’ among others. The entire focus of Academics in those days was not to look for money by all means.
The lecturers we had then valued their callings and did not compete or compare themselves with others who were in the corporate world. They were relatively paid well and given basic necessities that could help them achieve their purpose. Staff quarters then were lime paradise. The students of those days were dedicated,matured and focused. They knew they had to face their studies because jobs were already waiting if they could just finish their degrees. There were holiday jobs then also. Feeding, hostel accommodations were in good supply. There were bursaries also from state and community members for undergraduates to draw from. Universities were properly funded as well.
But from the 80s, the story of Nigeria Universities changed. The quality dropped significantly. The facilities became inadequate because of the turn out of students in secondary schools and limited space that universities could take. The Lecturers also began to envy counterparts in the corporate world, whom they taught, who are now collecting fat salaries and living large than they are. Lecturers’ take home could not take them home, hence they needed to augment the salaries with ‘handouts’. Some even used style to ask students to replace their car tires among others. Because the lecturers have to search for new streams of income, absenteeism from classes and lecture rooms went beyond control.
The Professors became overlords, semi gods, younger lecturers, students could not approach. Feedback mechanism and appraisal of lecturers’ performance from their major stakeholders was erased. Students graduation in some cases depended on being in the good book of many lecturers who took advantage of the students. Selection and appointment of University Vice Chancellor became highly politicised especially in the Public universities. Rumour also had it that the competition for this number one post often leads to death of some aspirants.
Being in the good book of the power that controls this appointment, ethnicity, favouritism often take the lead over meritocracy. We all know that being a Vice Chancellor, it is expedient to have a Doctoral degree plus being a Professor as added advantage. But beyond this there are other criteria which are fundamental if the person occupying this position must deliver. Many had argued that to get the best from our universities, Vice Chancellors must be appointed based on performance and contract basis. Even if one is qualified, a Vice Chancellor should be given a target such as numbers of proven academic and scientific breakthroughs in various field his/ her Universities must produce within specific time. It is also argued that Lecturers’ claim to his/her position should be assessed by students’ performance.
In many climes, at the end of each session or semester students are given lecturers performance sheet to assess them. If a lecturer had been absent for a specific period, if his attitude is bad, if he could not deliver on his terms of appointment to the students among others, they will be asked to leave the university. Unfortunately here, no such thing is done. Lecturers are semi gods.
Many have the habit of using their Masters’ and Doctoral degrees students as substitute for what they are paid to do. But they will tell the students if you are not in class for certain time, I have power to disqualify you from taking exam. No wonder we have not seen many outstanding breakthroughs to myriads of issues facing the country. One has also noticed, many of our lecturers as great philosophers with the ideal situation when they are teaching in class but when appointed as Federal Minister of Education, things moved from bad to worst within the sector. We can cite many examples if time permit. Even with the advent of technology, which is aiding learning, some lecturers are still finding it hard to adapt.
The Federal Government here also is not helping the matter. To meet the need of backlog of potential university students who are aspiring to be admitted, Federal as well as State governments have created many more universities without required funding. Some of these newly created universities are more like ‘glorify’ high schools. The only exceptions are in some Private Universities which had been mandated to cut their coats according to their sizes by starting with minimum number of faculties they can handle. Even at that their is shortage of human resources. Many qualified candidates had gone in search of the greener pasture abroad where there are availability of basic amenities, infrastructure that can help them perform at the maximum output.
The outcome of all these, many students are in school studying courses that are not accredited for years. Many students, universities community members are also taking advantage of these failure to corrupt the system by giving out money to buy question papers, marks or good grades. Most parents here are to be blamed also. They will rather help their wards to take the short cuts which will eventually jeopardise the peace of the society as we now turn out half bake professionals.
Even in curriculum management, most of our universities curriculums need a lot of updates. The writer attended an international summit in Education last year in Doha Qatar. Fortunately some of Nigerian Universities’ Vice Chancellors were in attendance. At a point, the writer asked one of the Vice Chancellors if Nigeria education is in line with the new trends we were being exposed to? The VC only shook his head and concluded lots of things are wrong here. But should we continue to walk in darkness because of the past mistakes?
Do we really want a change in Nigeria development? We really need a lot of soul searching. Quality and applicable education is not only the gateway to life, it is Life in itself. We must redraft our vision. Interestingly, Nigerians are outstandingly good if they have the resources. If in doubt, check great people behind some of the outstanding breakthroughs in the world, many Nigerian descents who had become naturalised in different countries of abode have inputs. Governments at different levels need a new level of commitment to education.
The required yearly budget percentage (20%) as stipulated by United Nations must be adhered to. There is need for facility and infrastructural upgrades to be done. Vice Chancellors(VCs) must be appointed on performance terms and not just academic excellence. A search light must be placed on judicious use of the fund allocated to the universities. Federal Ministries of Education officials must stop cutting corners with Universities’ funds at the source.
University community and stakeholders must become active participants in the running of the school systems and make them accountable. Corporate Nigeria must continue to support great university Initiatives that can eliminate or reduce societal ills and challenges. Parents and university students who are not ready to work hard to earn their degrees should be exposed and shone the way out of the system.
Corrupt, lazy lecturers who take advantage of ladies, ask for money to award marks must also be dealt with in the same tone. Government should treat lecturers well so they can focus on their primary assignment. Lecturers also need to ‘internalise’ what they are signing in for before accepting letter of employment and not wait till when they are employed before they start crying foul with regards to salaries, wages, benefits etc.
This essence of this piece is to serve as a wake up call as we still have many outstanding individuals within Nigeria University systems who are driving hard the wheel of education progress despite all the shortcomings.