Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, recently announced the Federal Government’s plan to establish six new science universities in the country. He told a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) forum that it had become imperative to expand university admission spaces, considering the high number of Nigerians seeking tertiary education and the limited spaces available to absorb them. The minister recalled that over one million young Nigerians applied for university spaces in the last admission season but only 150,000 could be admitted. We wholeheartedly agree with the minister on the need for more university spaces in the country. We, however, observe that such spaces could also have been created within the existing institutions, thus skipping the birth pains and the prohibitive cost of setting up new universities as planned by the government.
The decision to dedicate the institutions to the teaching of science and technology courses is in order, even though arts courses are also important as they contribute in no small measure to the creation of a healthy and socially balanced society. It is also good that the government has decided to spread the universities across the six geo-political zones of the country in the interest of national unity and balanced development. This will help to douse some of the controversies that the location of the institutions could have generated. We hope the minister will continue on this path of equitable location of federal institutions in the country. His proposal to actualize a rational and utilitarian development system by creating a technical school in each state and a vocational centre in every local government in the country is encouraging.
Nigerians have, however, had similar ambitious, rational and forward-looking proposals from government officials in the past, only to watch them come to nought. And yet, a strong commitment to technological education is the irreducible minimum that Nigeria needs to compete effectively in the knowledge-driven world of today. We must do all that is required to put the country on a sure technological footing if we are to achieve our development goals and meet the basic needs of Nigerians.
While we support the plan for the new universities, we will like to draw the minister’s attention to the fact that virtually all the existing Federal universities appear to be in crisis. Some of them have been closed down for weeks, while others are just limping. All are in a state of disrepair and in dire need of rehabilitation, if not reconstruction. Infrastructural facilities such as libraries, laboratories and hostels are mostly in poor shape. Basic needs such as water, electricity, sanitary environment and general conducive atmosphere for studies that should be taken as given in universities are missing. These inadequacies sometimes create an explosive brew of unhappy students and discontented lecturers and administrators, which when not moderated, leads to the strikes that have been the bane of the Nigerian university system in the last few years. The uncertainties in our university calendar have forced thousands of Nigerian students to seek tertiary education abroad.
When the six new universities are added to the 11 set up by the former Goodluck Jonathan administration, we will have 17 new universities established between 2011 and 2016, which by all standards is an explosion in the number of Federal universities. Although this is a positive development, where are the professors and other lecturers that will teach the students?
We urge the minister to discuss with the National Universities Commission (NUC) on the need to review its hiring policies as they concern lecturers. More lecturers should be employed and the commission should also review its insistence on the hiring of doctorate degree holders. That policy has, for decades, denied our universities and their products the vital inputs of highly experienced professionals who would be in a position to contribute real life experiences and properly groom students on the real world of work and business. This limits the exposure of students to real entrepreneurial knowledge and experience which they would be able to use after their studies. We urge the NUC to re-orientate all our universities toward entrepreneurship. That way, the universities will produce graduates who are thinking not just about self-employment but also how to employ other people.
Let the work on the establishment of the six universities begin in earnest. Above all, they should be properly funded to meet, and possibly surpass the standards of our existing federal universities.