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Research, central to national development, says Olayinka

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Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka

The vice chancellor, University of Ibadan (UI), Prof Idowu Olayinka last week led some principal officers of the institution to the corporate headquarters of The Guardian to present a Lifetime Achievement Award to the publisher, Mrs Maiden Ibru. The occasion provided an opportunity for Prof Olayinka to answer questions on the various issues confronting the sector. In this interview with IYABO LAWAL, the vice chancellor spoke on increased cases of suicide among students and measures being put in place by the premier university to address the trend, as well as the need for collaboration between the town and gown to enhance national development.

What informed your choice of The Guardian’s publisher, Mrs Maiden Ibru as an awardee?
The award was instituted as part of activities marking the 70th anniversary of the University of Ibadan. We looked at her profile, she came to UI in 1969, we looked at what she has achieved in the last 50 years both as a student during which she was very active and then when she left the university. She is someone we are very proud of.

We think she is a role model, an icon for the current and future generations of students, so we thought she’s someone we need to celebrate, that was why she was recommended for the lifetime achievement award by her alma mater.

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In the course of our discussion, you lamented that the University of Ibadan (UI) is eight months behind schedule apparently due to strikes and unrest in our institutions. How do you think we can address this problem?
The reality is that in our universities, particularly federal institutions, the calendar has not been stable. Over the years, staff unions have been going on strike and at times we have students’ unrest, leading to disruption of academic activities. For us as a federal institution funded by the Federal Government, we know that funding can never be enough and these agitations often times have to do with funding of our tertiary institutions.

We are not giving up, we know that better days are still ahead, even though we are running behind schedule, we are optimistic that in the next two years, the calendar will become stable so that we can resume in September and finish by June of the following year.

Lately there have been increased cases of suicide among youths and students. What do you think can be done to address this and does the University of Ibadan have any internal arrangement in place to address this menace?
We are aware of the problem and we think it is quite disturbing. Every now and then, we hear of students committing suicide. We make it compulsory for our students to do medical screening as soon as they resume and even the recent record from the university health service suggests that some of the students have issues with their mental health, but we are trying to see what we can do in conjunction with the University College Hospital (UCH), the teaching hospital arm of the whole establishment.

We know it is a major challenge maybe when students have problems with their academics, they could resort to suicide. Cultism, hard drugs are all interrelated and can affect their mental health.

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We also meet with the students’ body to tell them that if they suspect that any of them is sliding into depression, they should quickly alert the authorities such that we are aware in good time but luckily, we have not had any reported case. We know that prevention is better than cure so we are trying all our best to ensure that our students are in good condition of health-physical, mental and emotional.

There seems to be a widening gap between the town and gown. What would you say is responsible?
It has always been there, universities are ordinarily expected to be ivory tower but you know that in the 21st century, the role of the university is changing. Apart from teaching students, the faculty conducting research, we have to relate more with the immediate society. For us in UI, the university is in Ibadan so we have to relate with the Ibadan community, Oyo State, South west, the rest of the country and the international community. We have a centre for entrepreneurship and innovation and school of business among others, we try to relate with the larger society.

Recently, we also instituted leadership lecture series and invited the governor of Central Bank to come and share his idea with us, not only those of us from the academia, we bring people from the private sector as well to come and share their idea with us such that it is going to be win-win for both parties. At the end of the day, we need synergy between those of us in academia, government and the private sector as part of the triple.

You identified funding as one of the major problem confronting university education. What is the University of Ibadan doing to complement government’s efforts in this regard?
We try to improve on our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and recently, the governing council approved that we should establish a limited liability company whereby some of the activities in the university can be found out.

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Besides, we need to be relevant to the immediate community like I just said and we have UI ventures that has been there for almost 40 years, but the truth of the matter is that funding a university is really capital intensive, we need all possible income streams whether from fees paid by students, government as our proprietor, our alumni, we have over 200,000 spread over the world and they are contributing to human development in various parts of the world so we need to tap into their goodwill, I mean their time, resources and talents that they can plough back to support their alma mater.

Universities across the globe are known for research and innovations, what is the situation with the university of Ibadan?
Research is very central to everything we do, otherwise we won’t be any different from a glorified secondary school, so every November shortly before the convocation, we have a research and innovation day whereby we showcase research products coming out of our institution, our faculty and students are making efforts and it is an ongoing thing.

We even have a publication on societal impact, like I said earlier we have a centre for entrepreneurship and innovation. Many of our faculty members have patents that are registered with the national office of technology acquisition in Abuja, so if they have patents and inventions, those can also in the medium term bring more resources to the university and make us more relevant.

What are the future plans of the university
The university has been there for almost 70 years, we think we are making efforts and the next 70 years will be better for us, the future is very bright for the university of Ibadan to contribute to national and international development.


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