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Nigerian varsities constrained in finding COVID-19 cure, says Adedun

By Ujunwa Atueyi
07 May 2020   |   4:28 am
Whether it is COVID-19 or post COVID-19 period, the universities are set up to understand the problem of the society and then intervene in them with a view to bringing solutions to the problems.

Emmanuel Adedun

Emmanuel Adedun is a professor of Applied English Linguistics and English Socio-linguistics, at Mountain Top University (MTU), Ogun State. In this interview with UJUNWA ATUEYI, Adedun lamented that Nigerian scholars are unable to find a cure for coronavirus because there is no enabling environment for academics to thrive.

Experts have said that universities have crucial role to play in socio-economic recovery of the country, how true is that assertion when Nigeria is yet to find a cure for COVID-19?
Whether it is COVID-19 or post COVID-19 period, the universities are set up to understand the problem of the society and then intervene in them with a view to bringing solutions to the problems. Over the years, universities have always been expected to lead the charge for solution to the problem. Now, I’m not even talking about post-COVID, I’m talking about the current problem that has destabilised the whole world.

COVID-19 presents us with a problem and it is a problem that is ravaging the world and the expectation of the society is that somehow, somewhere in a particular university, a solution to this problem will come. So, we shouldn’t be talking about post-COVID now, while the problem is still there.

Is it right then to say, universities have failed the nation?
That will be too mean to say; within the limit of their ability they have advanced the society. They are daily striving within the limit of resources, personnel, of everything to outstretch and impact the society. It may not be much, but they are trying.

You know, a lot of people do not understand, why members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) are always going on strike. The little gains that university have made from government is as a result of strike, leave strike out of it, universities will not achieve anything, the government will just look away that it does not concern them, but today it concerns everyone.

I’m sure you saw the CNN report about a Nigerian that is leading discovery of a drug that has been celebrated in the United States. He is a professor in a U.S university. Together with his team, he has been working very seriously to ensure that solutions come to this virus. So, we should not be worried about what happens after COVID-19, we should be more worried about now. The problem is still with us, are we going to just wish that COVID-19 goes away? Are we going to be more concerned about the role of universities in restoring the country’s economic prosperity? What if it doesn’t go away, what do we do?
So, COVID-19 must go away, even the celebrated solution that Madagascar has just identified, the brain behind it is also a scholar.

Does it also bother you that Nigerian academics appear not to be doing enough?
Academics in Nigeria are very intelligent, it is not as if we don’t have the brain, the enabling environment is not just there, the facilities are not there. That is why majority of them excels when they leave the shores of this country. As mentioned earlier, a Nigerian doctor is leading a major study on an antiviral drug named Remdesivir that appears to be effective in treating COVID-19.

CNN interviewed him recently to discuss the result of Remdesivir in treating coronavirus. Universities are set up as problem solving centres for the world, for their society. As a university in Nigeria, the first thing that is expected from that university is to understand the problem of Nigeria and approach it from their specialisation focus.

Now that there is COVID-19, the scientist will be looking for vaccines, and also be working to understand the virus by going to the laboratory everyday, carrying out research. The economist will be carrying out the impact of the lockdown on the economy of the nation; people in the language, will be studying the new terminologies that are coming out from this like COVID-19 and pandemic, and this will be an addition to the dictionary in due course.

People in various fields would be interrogating the problem from their different disciplines. The mass communicators, will look at it from the point of view of how effective is the information about COVID-19 prevention and cure to the masses. That is the role universities ought to be playing now. Sadly, the environment is inhibiting.

Whether we like it or not, a lot of people will still die before we get to that post-COVID-19. Did you watch what went on last Monday when the lockdown was relaxed? Did you see the banks and their customers? Did you notice any physical distancing? These are the issues that should be bothering us now as a nation.

What is your counsel to the government, in terms of creating enabling environment for universities to live up to their mandates?
This is the fight ASUU have been fighting, they have been fighting that government should increase its budget and subventions in the sector. What they are doing is not up to the recommended benchmark by the United Nations (UN). The investment of this government is less than 10 per cent of that recommendation. So what are you expecting?

The private sector is taking over the education completely, initially, they started with the nursery and primary; gradually it moved to secondary, now has it not gotten to the university level? Today, parents that want their child to graduate within the stipulated time will think of a private university. The private sector has taken over the university system, and this is not helping anybody. How many percentages of parents can afford to send their children to private university?

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