Exploring foreign teaching opportunities without LEADS’ support
Despite having none of its scholars securing an international linkage with any foreign university through the influence of National Universities Commission (NUC), University of Ilorin, Kwara state Nigeria prides itself in individual efforts of its teachers securing foreign grants for the development of the institution.
According to Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academics) of the University, Professor Nike Ijaya, in a chat with The Guardian in Ilorin, the varsity teachers rely more on Internet browsing for foreign grants just as she praised the TETFUND for its opportunities for the tutors.
The developments according to Ijaya showed that neither the University nor its scholars have till date any synergy with the Experts and Academics in the Diaspora Scheme (LEADS).
LEADS is an initiative of the National Universities Commission (NUC) designed to attract experts and academics of Nigerian extraction in the diaspora on short term basis to contribute to the enhancement of education in the Nigerian University System. Established in 2007, the scheme is to support the Federal Government efforts to transform the education sector.
She said, “instead of LEADS what we have at University of Ilorin is a case of having quite a number of our lecturers who had either gone abroad or are going abroad for scholarships especially through TETFUND. In recent times, there have been more of them going to such countries as South Africa, Malaysia, United States and United Kingdom. Through this, the University has tremendously benefited from the experiences.
“However, we believe that there is a need for better funding for such endeavour. We have many of them who came into the system with Masters Degrees who are at present looking forward to studying abroad for PhD. They will be exposed to new technologies and skills on research and teaching. Besides, some of them with grants, have brought in some equipment and exchange programmes between this University and other Ivory Towers abroad. As for the LEADS, we have never benefited from it but we intend to find out more on it for the benefit of our lecturers.”
Speaking with The Guardian, some of the lecturers who had in various ways through foreign grants attracted some levels of development to the University said, they had no link with the NUC, just as they expressed their ignorance about the commission’s impart through the LEADS programmes.
According to Dr Raymond Ogunade, who was their spokes person, “some experts in Nigeria who have links with those in diaspora gave us some links that had facilitated the coming into the country, some foreign experts with their skills in such areas as Mass Communications, School of Nursing, and designing of curricula in various fields and disciplines.
“These links are very competitive because you must write a proposal that would be adjudged by international scholars you have no prior relationship with. If one is qualified, he would be invited for an interview and consequently go to the country and carry out in practical terms his proposals.”
Speaking on his experience as a scholar in India, Dr Adeniyi Aremu of the department of Water Resources and Environmental Engineering, University of Ilorin disclosed how he used his skills to device a proper disposal habit of wastes in developing areas and at the end of his fellowship attracted among others, a Photo Metre worth several millions of Naira to University of Ilorin.
According to Aremu who was in India two times and spending a period of 9 months on each of the occasions on the invitation of the Indian government the second time, “before my invitation by the National Emergency Research Institute, India, there was no known case of proper waste disposal habit in the developing areas of the country. But I succeeded in creating there, waste bin locations in developing areas of the country.”
Another scholar of the University, Dr Mubarak Ameen, was in the United States for 9 months working on a fungi research in a laboratory of one Dr Baker.
With two different grants; one from American Council for Learned Society in 2014 and an exchange programme at University of Ghana Legon, Prof. Jeleel Ojuade of the Department of Performing Arts University of Ilorin, engendered a symbiotic relationship between the Nigerian National Troupe and their Ghananian National Theatre counterparts.
Ojuade said, “it was a veritable exchange programme between our department here and school of Performing Arts University of Ghana. We discovered that there are many Yorubas in Ghana and we worked on the concept of ‘Bata’ drum. At the end of the programme, we worked out an MOU and brought our National Troupe to Ghana just as theirs equally came to Nigeria.
“The second award was the one by a Nigerian born scholar in Ohio University, United State, Anthony Akalu. He introduced some advanced level of Academic Research Methodology and Mentoring when he spent some three months with us at University of Ilorin. He presence was highly inspiring and beneficial to us.”
For Dr Adenike Sulaiman of Department of Biology/Chemistry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ilorin, her sojourn in United States during her scholarship was primarily used to study what is known as ‘Trypanosomiasis’, a disease triggered by bites of tse-tse fly which often leads to erratic sleeping condition and if left untreated early could cause death.
Sulaiman said the studies which were centred on searching for drugs that could mop up Iron in human system were hugely successful at University of Connecticut United States.
Narrating his own experience, Dr Ogunade, of the department of Religions, University of Ilorin on Commonwealth Fellowship in 2010-2011, said for a period of six months he introduced concepts of “inter faith dialoguing spirituality and social care” into Swansea University Wales.
Ogunade noted, “we looked into the area of using spiritual essence to solve human problems. Before I came into the place the people there were running away from using spirituality to solve problems. In fact a pathetic case was that of a girl stigmatised as a witch. She was isolated and badly treated leading to multiple organs failure and her eventual death. But I am happy that we later introduced the aspect of spirituality and succeeded in changing the existing policy. Swansea University became the first University where the concept was first introduced in the United Kingdom.”
He added that the spirituality concept reduced the spate of racism in the region, the development he said led the University of Ilorin to form its own Social Works Department with unique curriculum borrowed from the foreign University but padded with indigenous ideas. For Ogunade, “very soon, there will be workable exchanged programmes for students of the two Universities.”
In monetary terms the Universities of the scholars on fellowships gained more as the scholars are only paid stipends monthly for essential needs while the health bill would be returned if the individual concerned did not exhibit any serious health challenges during the duration of the programme.