I am saying the current plan (Economic Recovery and Growth Plan) is inadequate. The current quality and quantity of investment in these young generations in health and education just isn’t good enough. So, I was very direct. If they can get health and education right, they will be an engine of growth not just for themselves but for all of Africa (Bill Gates, 2018)
Facing facts about the true state of things in Education and Health sectors of the Nigerian society by Nigerian leaders has been daunting. Every new government would claim education and health sectors they met were in shambles when they came on board but they have now built ultra modern hospitals and fixed education. However, their wards graduate in UK varsities while their parents treat hidden ailment in the colonial homeland. At their return, red carpet is laid to welcome them at airport while hypocritical Pastors and Imams invoke the Supreme Being to elongate them so that the nation can be behindhand perpetually. The summary of Bill Gates’ intervention is that a policy that fails to capture human development in its implementation is playing to the gallery. Little wonder the economic recovery plan of the Buhari government has failed to recover the Nigerian masses from recession. As the Yoruba will say omo tí a kò kó ni yó gbélé tí a kó tà (untrained child will become prodigious and sell-off the built castle).
Is it not a shame that the 70-year-old University of Ibadan is the only Nigerian varsity in world 1000 ranked varsities? While UI is eleventh in Africa and 801 in the world,South African (SA) varsities dominate the ranking in Africa with University of Cape Town ranked first and 171 in the world. This is not magic. SA votes 17percent of her budget to education. Recall that Late Nelson Mandela was treated within that country and not flown abroad. However education budget in Nigeria has reached a nadir since 2015 and got a paltry 7percent in 2018 budget across all levels of education in Nigeria! For failing to plan quality education and health for the teeming masses; Nigeria now budget more money to ‘cater’ for Boko Haram, kidnapping, vandalism, cybercrime and armed robbery as consequences of unmet needs of Nigerian youths. If UI and University College Hospital (UCH) were global centres of excellence when the present crop of ‘progressive’ leaders were youths, why have they allowed public education and public health retrogress? What do we need to do to have global competitive Varsity system? Let me use the premier university as case study here.
Lack of quality in our university system has earned Nigeria poor world ranking. The 12th Vice Chancellor of UI, Professor Idowu Olayinka in a discourse identified the challenges of building a world class university in Nigeria. The students, quality lecturers, relevant curriculum and the facilities are critical inputs which will determine the quality of outputs and their usefulness for the transformation of Nigeria. The 2013/2014 student-lecturer ratio of UI was 19:1 as against 7:1 in Havard University. According to him “the key indicators of a world class university include student satisfaction, entry standards, quality of research, graduate prospects, good honours degree, completion rate, and student to staff ratio, services and facilities as well as the ranking among peers. The use of technology, smart learning facilities such as multimedia and flipped classroom have become imperative in order to meet up with the generation that he referred to as Screenagers. If our university is world-class, it is going to provide some benefits to our students. It will enhance their chances of being employable”.
Like many Nigerian varsities, UI is confronted with challenges of inadequate lecturers (about 1,500 lecturers teaching 30,000 students), deplorable students’ accommodation,in-conducive working and learning environment and funding difficulties. The Federal government NEEDS assessment report of 2012 which culminated into the agreement between government and ASUU indicated that Nigeria cannot train human beings in zoological garden-like milieu and expect such characters to transform the larger society. Since they were never produced in the right clime, they cannot appreciate providing standard facilities for others when they become leaders. Despite agreeing with ASUU to pump in N1.3trilion spread out in six years (2013 (N200b); 2014 (N220b); 2015 (N220b); 2016 (N220b); 2017 (N220), 2018 (N220b); only the Goodluck Jonathan administration released N200b in 2013 and that was all! Not even a kobo for revitalization has come from the Muhammadu Buhari government since 2015!.
UI has maintained quality in terms of screening of quality applicants with 200 as the minimum score. But a world class university goes beyond this and to become a first class university with the intent of improving its ranking globally, UI requires a special status funding from the Federal government to be able to attract world class scholars; retain the best brains, attract students from the international market and attract a high proportion of postgraduate students/foreign students, and have sound financial base. If this is done, UI will surely improve its standing among world class Universities. The ingredients are already there.
How then can a Nigeria President ask UI, for instance to improve its ranking without providing what it will take such to become global rather than local? The VC Continues “Lack of financial autonomy is also another challenge confronting the building of a world-class university. This is so because anything that affects the price of crude oil will affect the Nigeria economy which will adversely affect the university’s project. Unless funding is addressed positively and aggressively, there can be no turnaround in the status of Nigerian Universities. For the UI to be ranked as a world-class University, it is required that there are: highly qualified staff that are leaders in their disciplines; increased research publications and innovation; well defined autonomous governance structure; international mix of foreign staff and students; well equipped laboratories for teaching and research; and highly talented students.”
A short-sighted leadership is one that jettisons Education because it does not yield immediate returns. Institutions like UI has pivotal role to play in the training of Nigeria leaders on the essentials of public policy. But at 70, UI still aim to become a research intensive institution for the transformation of Nigeria in a 21st Century knowledge-driven and rapidly globalizing economy. The Muhammadu Buhari government has a choice in making UI a model of global university by providing all its needs. This is because as Bill gates averred “the current quality and quantity of investment in these young generations in health and education just isn’t good enough”. Mr President, if you can fix these two, the spirits of Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Tafawa Balewa can rest in peace. Otherwise, “One day the children of the poor will have nothing to eat but the rich” because the untrained children will become prodigious and sell-off the built castle.
Dr Tade, a sociologist, writes via [email protected]