Tertiary Education in Nigeria has been on the front burner in the past one year for the wrong reasons – nine months of ASUU Strike, court cases between the Federal Government and ASUU, recognition of two new Labour Unions from University Teachers’ Union, and the latest issue – pro-rated salaries for Nigerian University Lecturers. These issues have made tertiary education in Nigeria descend to its lowest level. Teachers and students who can afford it have been leaving the country in droves for greener pastures abroad, facilities in the universities have been deplorable, and quality of teaching and research has been very abysmal.
The situation is so bad that this writer personally knows a full time staff of the National Assembly who was also a full time student of a university in the East for four years at the same time and eventually received the university degree certificate after four years. How could this have been possible without the ‘student worker’ engaging in all sorts of malpractices and irregularities.
Therefore any suggestions, ideas, innovations and legislations introduced to ensure that university education in Nigeria is improved upon will be very much appreciated by all development oriented Nigerians.
One of such opportunity for discourse along this line was provided on Wednesday 16th November, 2022 in Abuja at the Launch of a book Nigerian Universities: Echoes from the background, authored by Rt. Hon. Dr. Eddie Mbadiwe, a former member of the Imo State House of Assembly (October to December, 1983) and House of Representatives (2011 – 2015).
The Father of the Day at the occasion was a well known educationist and two tenure Minister of Education in Nigeria Prof. Ihechukwu Madubike. He stated that Education in Nigeria should be declared an emergency, to enable far reaching measures to be taken to improve it. He recalled that during his stint in the Federal Education Ministry in the 1980s, he observed that the then existing universities in Nigeria could only admit about 26% of eligible students due to lack of space. He personally ensured that none of his children went abroad to study, to enable him and his children have personal experience of Nigeria Education. He also disclosed that following his study of Open University system in the United Kingdom and other Western countries, he presented a Proposal for Open University in Nigeria to the Federal Executive Council which was endorsed and eventually implemented in Nigeria as a means of satisfying the yearnings of Nigerians who could not go through the formal university system in Nigeria.
In his speech, the author Dr. Mbadiwe informed that having experienced first hand the value of high quality education at the Government Secondary School Owerri with such contemporaries like Chief Felix Ohiwere the well-known Nigerian industrialist, Igwe Alfred Achebe, the Obi of Onitsha and others, and later at University of Ibadan the premier unity university in the country and lectured for a brief period at the University of Nigeria Nsukka before travelling to the UK for further Post graduate studies, he had become fully acquainted with the dysfunctional educational system in Nigeria at the moment. He proudly stated that there are however still a few highly principled Nigerians in public office like himself who cannot take bribe or be compromised in the Nigerian political and economic system, and that he wrote the book with a view to calling attention to the various ills of education in Nigeria – funding, teaching, students welfare, infrastructure, curricular, learning environment etc and proffering suggestions on Ways and Means of turning education around in Nigeria.
In his review of the book Dr. Paul Dike OON, a former Director General of National Gallery of Art stated that the book is undoubtedly one of the most significant publications on academic and social life ever written about Nigeria’s ivory tower. The book discusses the ideals and requirements for the growth of a 21st Century University and suggests that apart from Government support, the private sector, alumni associations, endowment foundations and other related interest should also be involved in funding universities in Nigeria. The author suggests that Nigerian University should reach out aggressively to their prominent Alumni and get them to make financial provision for university departments in their wills. They could endow professorships or long term prizes to be named after them. He cites the example of Stanford University in the US where Hewitt Packard a company owned by Alumni from the university has made numerous donations, some of which are in excess of 400,000 USD. The latest projects they are involved with is to raise money and make sure that Stanford University goes 100 percent solar by 2025.
The author questions what appears to be the apparent insularity of Nigerian universities and advises that they should open up their facilities to International competition and scholarship. He further recommends substantial improvement in salaries and allowances of university lecturers, improvement in teaching facilities in teachers’ accommodation and in promoting the favourable public perception of University teachers. He observes that the squalid conditions under which the students live outside the campuses and pay exuberant rents give rise to the restiveness of students which in the long run, become a threat to the security of their environment and society.
These unfavourable environments result in cultism, drug trafficking and other societal maladies.
Dr. Dike recommends the 120 page book as a must read for those who seek understanding of the interplay of the positive and negative forces that characterize that aspect of our national life.
The Chairman of the occasion Dr. Segun Ajuwon, former Chief Medical Director of National Hospital Abuja and Personal physician to President Obasanjo during his eight years in office praised the author for finding time for the three books he has written within a short span of five years.
In his Vote of Thanks, the Chairman of the Planning Committee of the book launch and a past President of Rotary Club of Abuja Municipal Mr. Robert Itawa expressed his gratitude to all the distinguished personalities who attended the event and ensured that it was a huge success.
Many dignitaries attended the occasion including John Maijiagbe SAN, the only African President so far of Rotary International, Benbella Anachebe SAN, a cousin of the author, the Cuban Ambassador to Nigeria, Her Excellency Clara Margarita Polido Escandell and many others.
*Sam Ekpe is an Abuja based Media Consultant