Clement Adeyi, Osogbo
The new Vice Chancellor of Adeleke University, Ede, Osun State, Professor Solomon Adebola, has expressed delight that the COVID-19 pandemic has inspired a fresh innovation that would improve academic excellence in greater dimensions in tertiary institutions.
In this interview, he sheds light on steps being taken by the university to maximise the innovation as well as other sundry issues in the university system.
You officially assumed office recently as the vice chancellor of Adeleke University, what are you bringing on board to make a remarkable difference in the institution?
In my maiden speech, I told the staff that we shall be building on the foundation laid by my predecessor, Professor Ekundayo Alao. When our team came on board, Professor Alao was the arrow head and I was next to him. Then, there were only a few academic programmes but there was a massive expansion based on what was available and what was left behind before we came. From about 16 undergraduate programmes, we later increased to 29.
By the time the former Vice Chancellor left, we grew from a zero postgraduate to postgraduate and almost 38 undergraduate programmes and have gone as far as 40 already. So what we are doing as a team now is building on that by consolidating.
For now, my intention is not really to expand literally by expanding undergraduate programmes. We might want to expand vertically by building on the existing postgraduate programmes. However, I have in what I call “the three-point agenda.” These are godliness, firmness and fairness in all we do. By godliness I mean that ours is a university built on God’s intention. The man who built this school, Dr Deji Adeleke, did not build it to look for money. No penny goes to him up till now. It is impact on the community based on what I believe that God has given him to share with others that is spurring him. That is why I said the issue of godliness comes into play. By firmness I mean that the rule of law must take its place. In this country, there is decadence from the high to the low.
Even with educational degrees in leadership circles, there is no firmness and no sanction is applied. But at Adeleke University, I want to change that totally. We will appreciate if you do well, but if you do wrong, there will be sanction. Fairness, in terms of having a human or humane heart in doing things. That is, though we punish, we must look at the issue and see how and why we must punish. It is not to punish per se but to effect a corrective punishment.
For students who are the primary focus here, the school has what is called holistic education aimed at developing a total man.
So we are saying that a holistic education will take into account the individual students development of the heart, head and hands.
So, every student here would not just have what he has read but can also learn at least a skill on his own and can go out there and be a job creator and not just a job seeker and that is the issue of using the hand. The heart is the idea of godliness and the head which is for academic.
What is your assessment of Adeleke University’s contributions to proffering solutions to the current global health challenge, the corona virus?
A press conference was held recently in the institution, where we showcased our development of a COVID-19 vaccine which will be the first in the country by any Nigerian university. We have gone very far. Our researchers and the team leader Dr Oladipo Kolawole have done very well in collaboration with the Vice Chancellor of Precious Cornerstone University (PCU) Ibadan, Professor Kola Oloke in the development of the vaccine. It has gone as far as approaching the level of the World Health Organization (WHO) assessment to see how it can be unveiled and used. What we did then was just to disclose how far we have gone. But the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) had yet to be officially informed. However, they got to know about what we were doing and called us and we explained that what we were showcasing was not a final product but an ongoing process and how far we have gone. The major challenge is financing because the project is very expensive. We had spent almost 10 million naira as at that time. We will still spend about 200 million naira before we can say we have finished it. Though the vaccine cannot be tasted on humans yet because it might be too dangerous.
As a Christian (faith-based) institution, how much freedom do your students and staff who are not Christians enjoy?
I am lucky to have been a bridge between the old and the new systems in the universities in those days and the universities of these days.
I think we are fair enough in guaranteeing freedom to non- Christians. Adeleke University is not a church-owned school but a school owned by a faith-based man. Like any faith based school, we staff and students have our way of worship. We are liberal enough to allow non-Christians to head critical areas. Also, Muslim students are taken outside school every Friday for their Jumat prayers.
In any case, students and staff, whether Christians and Muslims must abide by the school’s religious regulations by attending the school church fellowships. We are also careful about what Islam do not like. We are conscious of the fact that the community where we are is predominantly Islamic and don’t run contrary to its doctrinal principles.
Even, the school proprietor gives out gifts to every community not minding their religion. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, he donated a billion naira in cash to the government as palliative and food stuff to the community.
What is Adeleke University’s pedigree of success in terms of quality academic standard and isolation from the vices bedeviling the public universities?
Despite obvious limitations especially in not getting any dime from the Federal Government through Education Trust Fund, private universities are doing very well.
At Adeleke University, students who pass through the school come out better not just as scholars but as well refined human beings and responsible members of the society.
In academics, we have also done very well. In the examinations in six Law schools in Nigeria (Abuja, Lagos, Bayelsa, Yola, Yenagoa and Adamawa), the University of Ibandan had 23 first class in Law, Obafemi Awolowo University(OAU) had 13 first class, followed by Babcock University that had 10 first class. Our own set went to Law school this year and recorded 81 percent success. Generally, we are doing very well in academics.
What innovation has the university been able to come up with to drive academic activities and whether the storm that the COVID-19 challenge has posed to tertiary institutions?
The pandemic has defined
a new bench mark for doing things. It has defined a new norm and plans for technology. As soon as students left the campus on the 23rd of March, we began to think of what to do.
A week after we shut down, we started teaching immediately online. Though it was new to us in many ways as it was not expected or planned. I’m proud to say that we we were the first university to have a virtual convocation in this country. It was held in July via zoom. By the time students return, many things will change. We will begin to think more about external and online teachings so that those who are at home and cannot come to school can still be productive and add value to the economy by learning something new without leaving their jobs.
What is the level of your preparation to cope with the COVID-19 challenge, following the Federal Government’s decision to reopen schools?
A committee was set up and chaired by our medical director and he wrote a number of things to say we are prepared for people to come in.
The Department of Engineering in Adeleke University has produced a ray sensor hand wash for the university and our high school. Also, the entire Adeleke University High School had been fumigated two weeks before the SS III students came in for their WASSCE. When the university is reopened, students will be arranged in a way that there will be no congestion. Instead of six in a room, it will be two or three at most, both in hostel and cafeteria. It is likely we resume in batches to avoid over crowding as much as possible. But above all is educating the people to keep complying with the pandemic control measures.
We have not lost a day on one unit of teaching since the pandemic started and the students have not been in school. It is very likely that education in the next five to 10 years will not be physical anymore, which means that most students will virtually be on campus but there won’t be physical teaching as we are doing these days. So in the next three years, Adeleke University will be establishing and consolidating on the aspect of online teaching without losing quality.
E-learning has been there by Nigerian universities, but only very few have been allowed to do it and it is mainly for the elderly people. For example, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). But it has not achieved the main objective yet. So what we are looking at is, in the next few years there will be complete online teaching. However, some students must still be in school physically, particularly those studying laboratory-related courses, Bio-chemistry, Nursing, Engineering etc. In any case, we are going to build more on areas that we can manage and teach without having the students on campus.
In what particular areas of knowledge are you positioning the university to have an edge?
I was in Kenya last year and was asked a question about the school’s basic area of strength in academics. We are still very young because the school is barely nine years old. However, it is positioning itself for strength in Law, Nursing, Microbiology and Computer Science. Law because of the legalistic nature of the country. Nursing because of the impact on health. Very soon, we shall start a medical school by God’s grace.
The COVID-19 vaccine we are developing is from the Microbiology Department.
Online teaching is virtually new in this country, but not too new. We have the NOUN, which is not entirely online. Many students still cheat in exams. So we are currently working on a device so that students will not be able to cheat during online exams.