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FUOYE: Grappling with challenges of infrastructure, funding

By Ayodele Afolabi, Ado-Ekiti
15 March 2020   |   4:15 am
The Federal University, Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE), was one of the 11 universities established by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 to take care of increased enrolment into universities, and to ensure federal balance.

The Federal University, Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE), was one of the 11 universities established by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 to take care of increased enrolment into universities, and to ensure federal balance.

Like other relatively new institutions, FUOYE has been grappling with teething crises, occasioned by various unions operating on the University campus.

Aside the ubiquitous and factionalised Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), other unions, including the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) have had their fair share of union activisms, which have led to disruption of peace in the young citadel of learning. Not long ago, FUOYE was in the news over the death of students, after students’ protest over poor facilities, which turned awry.

But the midst of an apparently turbulent takeoff, management of the institution has tried to match its ugly trajectory with resounding performance. From inception, FUOYE has been blessed with seasoned administrators.

And though the founding Vice Chancellor, Professor Chinedu Nebo, spent just about two years before his appointment as a minister, he nevertheless made his mark. His successor, Professor Isaac Asuzu, also did his best, despite the instability that characterised his brief tenure.

In the years preceding Professor Kayode Soremekun’s tenure, the situation in FUOYE could best be described as tempestuous. Peace literally took flight from the university. The institution became the butt of derisive jokes, as smooth-running and stable academic calendar became elusive. It was one week, one trouble, as angry staff and student unions were always at loggerheads with the management for one reason or the other.  This was the state of affairs, when Asuzu stepped aside.

Expectedly, when Soremekun mounted the saddle in 2016, not many gave him a chance, given the instability that characterised previous era. It is not as if the university suddenly achieved peace, when Soremekun became the Vice Chancellor, since no tertiary institution in the country can boast of a rancour-free academic environment. However, there is a bold attempt to forge ahead, despite those challenges. 

The Vice Chancellor once lamented that the situation he met was so bad that FUOYE didn’t have its own portal, and could not operate its own website.

“Part of my administration’s laudable achievement is our migration from the Obafemi Awolowo University’s ICT services to our own independent FUOYE portal system, which has since been providing adequate ICT services for the University community and the outside world,” he said. What is more, the university that relied on generating sets for electricity has been connected to the national grid and now enjoys improved power supply.

“From just 29 programmes offered when he came on board, the university has achieved over 100 percent increase in the number of academic programmes being run, with over 60 departments.

During a pre-convocation press conference for the combined graduation ceremony of 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 sessions, Soremekun had remarked: “I am glad and proud to inform you that the management team, under my humble leadership, has been able to move the University forward in leaps and bounds with giant strides in infrastructure, staff welfare and development, as well as academic improvement and empowerment. 

“For the past three years, my team has run the affairs of the University with passion and commitment to excellence and utmost dedication to duty. This gesture has yielded unprecedented and admirable results, which we now proudly identify as our achievements.”

Last week, Soremekun announced that the university was to commence a Faculty of Law to deepen access to legal education at affordable cost to Nigerians. He said this when the leadership of the Council of Legal Education (CLE) visited the campus at Oye Ekiti.

He said: “ We want to serve the poor village boy and girl who cannot access costly education in private universities.”

Led by the Director General of the Council, Prof. Isa Hayatu (SAN), along with Mr. Ibrahim Sanni Mohammed (SAN) among others, the verification team inspected facilities for the takeoff of the Faculty.

The Council for Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) earlier paid a similar visit for the accreditation of some engineering courses in the institution.

The team leader, Baba Ankali expressed confidence that the commitment on ground was reassuring.

Soremekun also announced the readiness of the university to begin a distance-learning programme. He said: “this was made possible by my recent and fruitful interaction with the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) in Vancouver, Canada, with a view to strategise on transiting the institution into a Dual Mode University, which combines existing conventional academic programmes with Distance Learning Programmes.”

The university management has since signed a Memorandum of Understanding and appointed a Professor, who has made his mark in distance learning programme at the National Open University, Prof Jegede to pilot FUOYE’s distance learning programme.

FUOYE’s student population has grown from a mere 1,012 in 2016 to nearly 20, 000 in 2019.

Interestingly, FUOYE was the only university amongst those established in 2011 that runs twin campuses. Regarding this, Soremekun said: “To achieve the current conducive learning environment on the twin campuses, we have constructed functional lecture rooms. We provided effective Internet facilities for students and completed a well-furnished and occupied University Library.

“We also completed several well-furnished and occupied laboratories in the key faculties of Science, Agriculture and Engineering, as well as improved greatly on the university’s security architecture, which has helped to drastically reduce anti-social tendencies, such as cultism and drug abuse, among others.”

According to the VC, the university is also not lagging behind in the area of capacity building, as it has 19 of its academic staff who have benefitted from TETfund PhD interventions, with five of them undertaking foreign academic programmes, while 14 are studying academic programmes locally. It also has another 139 staff members benefitting from TETfund Conference attendance for career advancement. 110 of the beneficiaries of this scheme are academic staff while 29 are non-academic staff. 

In the area of bringing laurels, honours and awards to the university, FUOYE Engineering students came tops in a recent national academic competition involving all Faculties of Engineering of all Universities in 2018 in Abuja. It recorded similar feat in another national competition hosted by the University of Ibadan for students in Psychology departments last year. And just recently, one of the students in History and International Relations departments won an all-expenses paid International Fellowship tenable in Germany. 

Also, students of FUOYE’s Theatre and Media Arts won the third place in the recent African Drum Festival in their maiden participation in the international cultural contest.

Many of the university’s academic staff have competed for and won prestigious grants from reputable universities, institutions and donors globally. The university has an ongoing relationship with the African Peace Building Network of the Social Science Research Council of New York.  

FUOYE began the long cherished tradition of Inaugural lectures, which has since featured two of its literary giants. They included Professor (Mrs.) Cecilia Akintayo of the Department of Chemistry and Professor Rasaki Ojo Bakare of the Theatre and Media Arts Department. Prof. Bakare is Nigeria’s First Professor of Dance.

Currently, FUOYE is the only university among its class that runs a Post Graduate School, and presently runs Post-graduate programmes in 25 departments across five Faculties. 

The greatest challenge facing many tertiary institutions in the country is the issue of Infrastructural Development. So far, the management said it has completed over 47 noticeable projects now dotting both campuses. FUOYE equally boasts of a modern library to aid learning and research activities on its two campuses. 

One of the ways the university seeks to distinguish itself is to discourage frivolous awards of honorary degrees. FUOYE only awards honorary degrees to outstanding and exemplary leaders who could be role models to the students and the university community.

For instance, the university honour’s award was given to Imam Abubakar Abdullahi, the Islamic cleric, who saved 262 Christians that would have been killed by insurgents in the North in 2018. Similarly, notable individuals like the legendary Guy Garguilo and Mrs. Efunjoke Coker, the longest serving Principal of Queen’s College have also been honoured by the university.

And for achieving these feats, despite the high level of unrest and paucity of fund, the Federal government, the university Governing Council and members of the university community, have expressed commendation and satisfaction with the level of infrastructural development and academic growth.

Recently, the Director and Representative from the Ministry of Education, Mr. Abdullahi Saliu Jubril who was on the campus to inspect 47 infrastructural projects sited in Oye Ekiti and Ikole Ekiti campuses, said he was not surprised that the university clinched 14th position in the rating carried out by the Nigeria Universities Commission (NUC). “In fact, I don’t know how to describe my joy on the current development in the Federal University, Oye Ekiti,” he said.

Similarly, the Governing Council in its commendation, contained in a letter dated 4th February 2020, titled: “Letter of Commendation” and addressed to the VC, it lauded the development in the university.

However, there are still challenges. Students are still agitating for better living condition on campus and in lecture halls.
The last ugly episode that led to death of a student was over poor electricity supply and other housekeeping issues.

Professor Soremekun admits that challenges are still there, difficulties that he addressed as mainly funding issues and security threats occasioned by trespassing.

“This calls for an urgent need for perimeter fencing of the University premises. Our dual-campus system mode is also a challenge. The need to provide multi-faced infrastructure for this system, as well as a need to curb the recent unwholesome development manifesting in the spread of fake news, misinformation by enemies of progress is a challenge. The distractors are bent on dragging the University’s glorious name into the mud, as revealed by our investigation. But we shall overcome with the truth and your support.

“We also wish to note the challenge of militant unionism. While we recognise staff’s right to organise and agitate, including protests where inevitable, we advise that unionism must be done with legal permissible limits,” he said.