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‘Why Nigerian varsities should replace glossy certificates with ideas, skills

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Comrade Kenneth Okeke Chinedu is the Coordinator, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Zone B, South East/South-South. In this interview with UJUNWA ATUEYI, he stressed the need for institutions of higher learning across the country to de-emphasise certificates and place more prominence on students philosophies and capabilities. Funding the sector adequately, he said is also imperative.

As a student leader, what is your perception about Nigerian tertiary institutions and its products?
I am of the opinion that tertiary education in Nigeria has retrogressed alarmingly. Higher institutions in Nigeria are lagging behind their contemporaries in other African countries and continents. In bygone decades, Nigerian universities were Mecca for students from various African countries, but the reverse is the case today. Today, certificates issued by most Nigerian tertiary institutions are not honoured abroad. Half-baked graduates are churned out on yearly basis. There are graduates of Computer Science who cannot operate a computer set. Many graduates know next to nothing in their fields. The fact that no Nigerian university has been listed among the 800 best universities in the world underlines the problem.

How do you think we can begin to change the narratives?
There is need for the relevant authorities to go back to the basis as per giving tertiary education deserving attention. Fixing the problem does not require rocket science. We we all know that the sector is underfunded. Peruse the budget of the federal government and respective state governments, you will discover that the allocation for education is paltry compared to funds earmarked for other sectors.

This births problems such as decayed infrastructures, incessant strike actions, ill-trained staff, poor welfare, lack of facilities for implementation of practical-based curricula, and so on. Even most privately owned universities with modern facilities are grappling with the challenge of operating in line with global best standards.  The task is enormous but it can be surmounted if all and sundry are committed to changing the status quo.

Also, government at all levels must wake up, stop paying lip-service to our educational system, the United Nations recommendations of 26 per cent budget allocation in education should be obeyed. Federal government should sit up otherwise, in the nearest future, we would have succeeded in burying our core educational values. There must be proper funding of education so as to rebuild the system holistically. 

What is today’s summit all about?
NANS Zone-B is an umbrella body that unites teeming millions of Nigerian students within the eleven States of the South-East and South-South. Recall that we made promises during our campaign last year to start a record breaking project within six months after our election, and here we are with phase two of the project ever initiated in NANS in any Zone.It is the season two of the Students Mentorship Summit (SMS), hosted by NANS South East/South South. It is slated for today, June 1, 2018, at the Marble Arch Events Center, Off Oby Okoli Avenue, Unizik Tempsite, Awka, Anambra State.

We owe students under the South-South geopolitical zone a lot in terms of ensuring they avoid pitfalls along their route to becoming professionals in different sectors. Our aim centers on putting students on the right path through utilising proactive strategies such as foolproof counselling, mentorship and agenda setting. We believe our efforts can influence the action of policy makers in the country. That’s what the summit encapsulates. 

The theme of the summit ‘Making the Certificate Practical,’ what does it imply?
The theme of the summit drives our aim of restoring dignity to the Nigerian graduate. Making the certificate practical entails adding value to the certificate. Certificates should not be acquired at the expense of knowledge. Remember, there is this agelong tale about Professor Wole Soyinka and the late Gani Fawehinmi graduating with a pass, third class or whatever. What the duo have achieved in their fields defy the un-fancied certificates in their kitty. The psyche of students must be attuned to this. Everyone has a role to play in this, and NANS Zone B has set the ball rolling.

Who are the resource persons for the summit and what informed their choice of selection?
The resource persons are internationally renowned career mentors and educationists. We have Amb. Mrs. Amina Mohammed a Kenyan lawyer, diplomat and politician. She is presently serving as the Cabinet Secretary for Education in Kenya. She previously served as chairperson of the International Organization for Migration and the World Trade Organisation’s General Council, as well as Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme. She served as the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Kenya from May 2013 to February 2018.

Also penciled down to impart knowledge at the Amb. Yvonne Khamati, a Kenyan politician and diplomat, who serves as the deputy ambassador of Kenya at the Kenyan Embassy in Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia, will also grace the summit. Our long standing pillar and GrandPatron, Dr. Ubong Thompson King, will be there doing what he knows how to do best. He is Chairman of Protection Plus Services Limited (PPSL) and President of The Kings’ Men World, a mentoring platform, which is poised to address the absence of strong role models for Business, Leadership and Relationship.

They were chosen to grace the summit because they are amongst the frontline mentors and education advocates on the African continent. Another high-profile name is Chief Austin Oguejiofor, a Motivator, Philanthropist and Chairman/CEO First Rotech Group of Companies. Rotech is a Civil Engineering, Automobile Sale, Transportation and Construction Company which specializes in government and private sector concerns and also has Investments in real estate across the 36 states of the country  with headquarters in FCT Abuja. He will take students through his success story and as well sign up as a mentor to many. We also have in our lineup, Hon. Primus Odili, Chief of Staff to Governor of Anambra, Hon. Chima Obieze, one of the youngest House Member in Enugu State and a former Union Leader. Mr. Atunyota Alleluya Akporobomerere aka ALIBABA, the father of Comedy in Nigeria, who is very devoted at mentoring the youths, will also grace the summit. 

This is a country that places so much emphasis on certificate, what is your counsel to education managers/policy makers?
As I pointed out earlier, emphasis should not be placed only on certificates; ideas and skills rule the world. This is the jet-age. Ted Turner, Steve Jobs, Micheal Dell, Mark Zuckerberg, and a host of others did not become successful because of parading glossy certificate. In Nigeria, an enabling environment should be made available for people willing to practice what their certificate is signposting. Your capacity should complement the certificate, not otherwise.

What other issues do you hope to address through this workshop?
We shall address vices like cultism, drug abuse, academic fraud, prostitution, among other issues which negatively affects students’ wellbeing. All shall be dissected in all ramifications.

How many universities/students are you expecting?
We are expecting Student’s leaders from over 69 tertiary institutions from the South-East and South-South including some secondary school students. .

Are you collaborating with Anambra state government/Ministry of Education?
Exactly, just the same way we approached your media house, we have also approached the government of the day in Anambra state through the office of the Special Assistant to the governor on Student’s Affairs, so we are in partnership with them. 

What are the short and long-term goals of this summit?
Making the Certificate Practical is the long and short term aim of the summit. I believe in no distant time the impact of summit shall be felt. Presently, NANS Zone B’s aim of leveraging, training and linking students with mentors is reaping dividends.


In this article:
Kenneth Okeke Chinedu
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