Proximity to FCT, high academic standard, assert admission pressure on NSUK, says Mamman
Nasarawa State University, Keffi, is located about 45 kilometers away from the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The school’s proximity to the FCT, according to its registrar, Professor Dalhatu O. Mamman, has made it a destination of choice to many parents who would prefer their children to school within range. Mamman told BRIDGET CHIEDU ONOCHIE, that in spite of the pressure posed by its nearness to FCT, NSUK has remained focused, not only in implementing its indigeneship policy, but also in its pursuit of academic excellence.
NAsarawa State University, Keffi, is a state university and we have our policies regarding admission, just as other states do. But this university is the most liberal in terms of admitting those that are not from the state. We started with admitting 30 per cent of non-indigenes before reviewing it to 20 per cent. You will not find such situation in any other state universitiy, even in some federal universities, the states that they are sited have taken control of them. It is not just our closeness to the FCT that is responsible for the admission pressure that we face. I feel most parents also prefer the school for its high academic standing. Last session, we were supposed to admit 4, 000 students, but we had over 12, 000 applying from other states and then, another 12,000 from our state, giving us a total of 24, 000 out of which we were to pick 4,000. Of course, we still went by the approved ratio. In that case, non-indigenes had 823 while Nasarawa State indigenes had 3, 265 because on the whole, we admitted 4,078 students.
Addressing problem of admission backlog in public institutions
On the surface, it looks as if we do not have enough facilities to admit the teeming number of students in the country. Well, that is true. Every year, the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) turns out more than one million candidates, who have earned prescribed cut-off marks for tertiary education. But all the universities put together can barely take up to 500,000. So, we are left with this backlog. However, the main problem here is that that most Nigerian parents do not want their children to go to polytechnics, monotechnics or colleges of education, or to technical institutions. They want them to attend universities and so, pressure is mounted on university authorities for admission. If parents resolve that their children do not necessarily have to go to universities to get quality education then, the pressure would dissolve.
Again, as a nation, we appear not to have planned well for our youths because if we have accurate statistics, we would be able to know the number of children that would be of school age each year, how many that would require university education or polytechnic education so that we can begin to build school facilities along that line.
There are many institutions today that have remained static in terms of facilities, but thank God for the Tertiary education Tax Fund (TETFUND). Today, most institutions look like they are owned by TETFund because the agency is the one providing facilities for them. The Federal Government is not keen on providing facilities in tertiary institutions. Although one may not blame the government totally given the many things that are competing for scarce resources, including other forms of social services.
If I were to suggest, I would say that government must invest more in education. A lot of governments around the world take seriously the 26 per cent budgetary allocation for education. But our reality shows that even 30 per cent is not enough because of the backlog of problems including infrastructural and personnel deficit.
A lot of schools do not have enough lecturers. Even at the primary and secondary levels, they are no enough teachers. In fact, there is no educational institution in this country that boasts sufficient personnel to run it. If we want to get out of the wood, we have to invest more in education.
Surviving the 2013 students unrest
I want to state here that the standard of a university is not determined by riot but by the academic content and quality of instructions. Our university is a destination for many students given the fact that our instructions are thorough. Rarely have we closed down this university because of internal matters. We have also been able to improve our infrastructure tremendously. Our staff population has increased as well as we have more professors and highly qualified academic staff now than ever before. If you have a child here and he or she is a serious-minded student, you will know that he or she is facing “fire.” I agree that we have gone through turbulent times, especially during that 2013 crisis, when our students protested non-availability of water off campus, not in the campus. I keep on saying this for purpose of clarification so that people do not take it that we did not provide basic facilities for our students.
More than any Nigerian university, we have done extraordinarily well by ensuring that where there is a break down in public water supply, which we have no control over, we use our water tankers to take water from Gudi, which is about 40 kilometers from Keffi, to where we have large clusters of our students. But that particular incident of 2013 got out of hand even when the school authorities was making efforts to take water to the affected place.
Naturally, when students block the road, they prevent vehicles from moving, and Keffi is an entry point to Abuja; as such, so many prominent people ply the route and once there is hiccup, they will call the powers that be. And if the military personnel are passing and are caught up in the traffic, which is usually huge, they will disperse the student. But this last one, they refused to leave. Even when the military came, they decided to engage the military, which gave the suggestion that there were prominent people behind the protest.
I was told that the protesters were exchanging fire with the military. That was what led to the crisis. But since then, a lot of efforts have been made to improve on the water supply system. Recall also that the Federal Government gave us N20m and we used it to sink motorised boreholes and buy water tankers because water tanker is necessary to move water very speedily to areas we have clusters of students. Ever since that crisis was addressed, things have been moving smoothly in the school in both academic and administrative matters.
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