‘Teaching of science, technology should begin from primary schools’
Vice Chancellor of Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin, Kwara State, Prof. Olalekan Ibrahim, says for a developing country like Nigeria, the foundation for learning science and technology should be laid in primary schools in view of its numerous benefits. Also in this interview with ABIODUN FAGBEMI, in Ilorin, he said his school remains an exemplar in religious tolerance among faith-based tertiary institutions
Dichotomy between academic standards in public and private universities
There exists no difference between standards in public and private universities. Anyone who alleges standard disparity between them is doing so on a wrong premise. We only try to make public universities seemingly more important, but if you look critically into it, you will see that many of these public universities don’t really have the much-needed facilities.
The struggle for admission into them again makes them seem better. Many of the candidates who are qualified don’t usually gain admission into public universities, so what are we celebrating in public universities? We have a country that can’t meet all the admission needs of her youths, so if we have private universities giving the qualified, but denied candidates admission, then do we call such private universities weak institutions? We don’t admit people who are below the benchmark because you must have your five credits in all the relevant subject areas. In addition to that, you must have gotten very good scores that meet the required cut-off points of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). Few days ago, we had some candidates who scored 230 points in UTME still begging for our admission slots.
On the clamour for three-year validity for UTME results
I think it makes a lot of sense if that is done, I mean if we have the guts to make it work. But I wish when that eventually happens, candidates that could not be admitted the previous year, should be given priority during the admission procedures ahead of the ones that did the examination that year. It will aid their level of preparation and as well reduce their level of frustration. But those who aspire to study highly competitive courses above the ones they initially qualified for, could be allowed to re-sit for such new courses.
Rising interest in vocational, entrepreneurial training by universities
At Al-Hikmah University, we have a undergraduates self employment skills programme, which they learn several vocations, and they are encouraged to register their products with the appropriate authorities, especially the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). Besides, we fully support the decision of the school’s senate to design modules that would enable prospective candidates to have degrees in vocational scheme. There are good candidates who may be skillful in block making, furniture works, fashion designing and so, on who may be incapable of coping with the academic rigours posed by courses like law, medicine and the likes. If such skillful candidates are awarded degrees, they would be proud of their achievements, and this would reduce the rate of unemployment in the country.
Preference for science, technology above humanities
In the quest for proper development in a developing nation like Nigeria, I think we should put more emphasis on the science and technological education. This is because they are more oriented to products creation. This should be the direction we should all follow for now. But we need to be serious and honest with ourselves in this respect because there must be commensurate investments into this especially at the formative level of our education. We need to start the teaching of science and technology from the primary school level, rather than the post primary school level, which is the practice now. For instance, what proportion of science oriented teachers do we have at the primary school introducing our pupils to sciences? We need to get it right at that level of our education. The science and technology foundation must be built right from the elementary level. That may be the strongest reasons why few students always opt for courses that are not science and technology oriented at post-primary level.
Corporate Social Responsibility to host community
The university has been greatly giving support in the area of scholarships to members of our host community, and its adjoining settlements. Besides, we have fully given support to some civil society groups in their activities. We have equally empowered economically, many less privileged members of the society, and some Islamic organisations have also benefited from our kind gestures. Not too long ago, we donated a fully equipped security vehicle to the Kwara State Police Command, to boost their patrol activities at our Faculty of Education Campus at Igbaja, at Ifelodun Local Council. Already, we have earmarked the sum of N18m for crop development just as we periodically churn out diploma students at our Abdulraheem Oladimeji College of Advanced Studies, Igbaja.
Tolerance of people of other faiths and inherent lessons
There should not be an imposition in terms of religious bearing and that has been our stand here for all categories of students and staff alike. We have set our standards for religious activities as well, and only those who are ready to comply will be accommodated here. We have our dress codes and elementary courses in Islam for students. But I must stress it again that there is no imposition of any sort here. Those who are non-Muslim are allowed unfettered access to their places of worship outside the campus. I am not aware of any other faith-based institutions that allow this level of tolerance as we do here. We have heard of cases of many other faith-based universities in Nigeria that impose religion on their staff and students. For us what we allow is better because it would allow others to see what we do in Islam, and allow them to draw lessons where necessary.Basically Islam says there is no compulsion in religion and at Al-Hikmah University, we can’t set any new standard outside this.
Selling point of Al-Hikmah University.
The actual selling point for us is the very high standard of our educational policies. This is intertwined with morality where in we churn out graduates that are not only very knowledgeable but of very high integrity. So, the blending of these two virtues could be regarded as our selling point.
Tips for President Muhammadu Buhari in the midst of recession
One year is enough to assess the performance of those in any cabinet. However, I will agree with others who are of the belief we need to be a bit patient with the nation’s battered economy. But I think we need a more pragmatic approach, extra effort, and intelligence to get out of the economic quagmire, which we are at present.
Safe return of Chibok Girls?
You have asked me a very difficult question and I don’t think I have a ready-made answer for it. But what we should consider as impressive today is the successes recorded against the insurgents in our country. The truth has eventually been brought to light on this Boko Haram thing, in the sense that when the group launched its serial onslaughts against the nation and her people, during the tenure of the immediate administration, many people linked these attacks with alleged ineptitude of the past government. Today, this government has pushed us out of the darkness we were heading to before. We should therefore give gratitude to God. So the issue of getting the Chibok girls out and the conditions attached to this are to me terrible, I mean the exchange of the release of Boko Haram prisoners for the girls.
We have set our standards for religious activities as well, and only those who are ready to comply will be accommodated here. We have our dress codes and elementary courses in Islam for students. But I must stress it again that there is no imposition of any sort here. Those who are non-Muslim are allowed unfettered access to their places of worship outside the campus. I am not aware of any other faith-based institutions that allow this level of tolerance as we do here. We have heard of cases of many other faith-based universities in Nigeria that impose religion on their staff and students