By Tunde Olofintila
“The journey of a thousand miles”, as the saying goes, “starts with a step”. It is with this understanding that the founder and chancellor of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), Aare Afe Babalola, SAN, has announced that, with effect from the 2021/2022 academic session, the university would be awarding scholarships to two students in each of its five undergraduate colleges, no matter which part of the world they hail from.
The lucky students will be the Best First Year Student and the Poorest First Year Student in Colleges of Engineering, Law, Medicine & Health Sciences, Sciences and Social & Management Sciences, making 10 in all, to start with. This way, the university, which does not want to be a mere certificate-awarding university, will be advancing towards its dream of being different from the extant ones in many and diverse ways and particularly in teaching others how a university should be run.
His words: “We were happy when the visiting NUC Accreditation Team commended our efforts on cleanliness, world class equipment, aesthetic structures and the five new programmes we introduced into the curricula. Because they were impressed, they suggested that our university should be among the best ranked universities by Webometrics. But we have a different opinion. Our plans are beyond Webometrics. ABUAD will go international as from next academic session”.
The scholarship package, according to the frontline legal icon and educationist, will include free tuition and $5,000 for each of the 10 students. This is in addition to the annual prizes, which the university instituted as far back as 2013 and under which it has expended a total of N476.8 million by October 2018, to students who scored between 4.5 and 5.0 CGPA.
Addressing the new provosts (equivalent of deans in some other universities) of College of Postgraduate Studies, Prof. Abdulwahab Giwa, College of Law, Prof. Tunde Yebisi, College of Sciences, Dr. Oluwaseyi Adeyemo, and College of Medicine & Health Sciences, Prof. Olaofe Ogundipe, and their sitting colleagues in the College of Engineering, Prof. Joseph Dada, and College of Social & Management Sciences, Prof. Ademola Azeez, Babalola said that even though the university has overshot its expectations in all the colleges, winning many national and international awards, accolades and recognitions in the first decade of its existence, it cannot afford to rest on its oars because of its dreams and plans of wanting to be among the first 100 universities in the world in the next 10 years.
Babalola was, however, not under any illusion that this would be an easy ride. According to him: “We know that this will not come by just replicating what we have been doing but through innovation, strategic planning, partnerships, hard work, determination and support and cooperation of all educational stakeholders, ranging from the regulatory authorities like the NUC, the Council for Legal Education, the Nigerian Society of Engineers, the Medical & Dental Council of Nigeria, the parents, our teachers and of course the students themselves”.
He, therefore, urged the provosts to do everything humanly possible to build on the successes and the achievements of their predecessors by being innovative and original in their ideas, by seeing their appointments as a call to duty, by striving to surpass the records and achievements of their predecessors in punctuality, by enforcing the university’s dress code, by attendance, by maintaining the attendance register and by maintaining a clean environment, by ensuring that the cankerworm of sex/money in some public universities does not creep to ABUAD, by ensuring that assignments are regularly given at the end of each topic, by ensuring that interactive boards and projectors are used regularly, and by reporting any damage to any of these to the vice-chancellor.
Babalola emphasized the fact that, with the university’s attractive welfare package, which includes the recent increase of staff salaries by 5 per cent over and above the highest in any private, state and federal university in Nigeria, a functional pension scheme, a reliable insurance scheme, payment for journal articles, study leave with pay, annual teaching methodology workshop, the Fulbright Scholarship, which, unfortunately, has not been pursued, and the scholarship by Germany, which is yet to be plugged into, it should not be difficult for the university to realize its dream of being among the best 100 universities in the world in the next 10 years.
The legal colossus believes that his university is really on course in this matter, bearing in mind that ABUAD is the only university in Nigeria today that has introduced five new programmes: Mechatronics, Intelligence and Security Studies, Social Justice, Human Biology and Dietetics, Tourism and Event Management to the Nigerian university curriculum in addition to the ones introduced by NUC when it came into being about 60 years ago. The five programmes have not only been approved by the NUC, they have been adopted for other universities.
Congratulating the outgoing provosts, he urged them to “appreciate that the position of provost is not a permanent one, rather, it is for a term. So, those bowing out should not see the change as if they had not performed. On the contrary, it is a time-honoured practice all over the world. When a vice-chancellor completes his/her term, he/she goes back to the classroom under a new vice-chancellor. The change of baton is unique and it is the surest way of sustaining the university system anywhere in the world”.
He encouraged new provosts to also appreciate that they are there for a specified term and so they should strive to work hard and be innovative.
The founder thanked the entire ABUAD staff for their cooperation and the achievements of the university thus far. His words: “I want to particularly appreciate you all for your cooperation during the period when COVID-19 ravaged the world, including Nigeria. It seems to me that we have passed the peak of the COVID-19 crisis. I am happy to note that, in spite of the pandemic, we were able to complete the mandatory 37 weeks of academic work as recommended by NUC. Besides, we were able to run our convocation on March 13, 2021, albeit through the virtual mode and our matriculation on March 21, 2021, a combination of physical and virtual”.
He added: “I also want to specially thank you all for sacrificing your holiday, which has enabled our students to stay in school. With all of these, I hope and pray that the 2020/2021 academic session will end by mid-July and we will commence the 2021/2022 academic session by late August, this year. In essence, we will be the first university to cover the lost grounds post-COVID-19.
•Olofintila, writes from Ado-Ekiti