LASU at the frontiers of research
Academia is a world of knowledge production, reproduction, and dissemination; in other words, the academia is a place of research and community service. Faithful to their professional calling, the intellectuals are committed to these tasks. Wherever education is prioritised the academia buzzes with critical scholarship aimed at solving every societal problem. Seminars and field trips are the order of the day. Fairs and practicum boost the repertoire. We are pre-occupied with expanding the frontiers of research at the Lagos State University (LASU) despite the limitations of the Nigerian environment, and Lagos in particular. As they say in popular parlance, we are weathering the storm.
The mission of LASU is to be the number one university in West Africa in the field of research. Indeed, it is the agenda that the present management, led by Prof. Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello has set for itself. It is being pursued with a great measure of excitement in every respect.
Today, LASU hosts the fourth research fair, a two-day affair. The chain has been unbroken since we commenced this business four years ago. Not even the force majeure of a COVID-19 has deterred us. It promises to be a continuous affair, all things being equal. The theme of the fair is to reposition the Nigerian universities for global relevance and competiveness in learning, research and innovation, as well as technological transfer. Also, there are three sub-themes that focus on “bridging the gap between the university and industry in knowledge economy; revitalizing research and innovation for economic prosperity; role of intellectual property and technological transfer in national development.” The fair is ready with about 127 abstracts in the kitten. A great deluge of critical thinking on issues and corresponding solutions are bound to emerge and be tapped by a society conscious of development.
The objective of the fair, Professor Adejuwon Adeneye, the Director of the Directorate of Research Mangement and Innovation, notes is “to link impactful researches and innovations in the university with the industry.” This may have been informed by what Prof. Reuben Jiya Kolo, Vice Chancellor of Crawford University, identified as the absence of synergy between the government, industries and universities. Kolo point to the causality when he noted in a recent interview in this medium that: “It is so because everybody is on their own. The industrialists are on their own, the government that would facilitate policy that would bring industries together and link them to institutions is not doing it.
The third party, which are the research institutions such as universities, are all on their own…In other countries, what is obtained is that government policy will facilitate the industries, liaising and being attached to a particular institution whereby they will be bringing in their problems to universities for solution and they will work towards solving such problems…But in Nigeria, what we have is that the environment does not encourage linkage between industries and universities.” Cognisant of this reality, LASU is proactive in addressing this lacuna.
It should be noted that elsewhere, that education is taken seriously, and is prioritised as the gateway to development in the twenty-first century. For example, India’s budget for school education spending 2022-23 is GBP 6 bn (INR 63,449 crore) an increase by 22 per cent over its previous year’s allocation. The higher education budget has also increased by 13 per cent over its previous year’s allocation and is GBP 4 bn (INR 40,828 crore). In 2021, public spending on education in China reached 3.76 trillion yuan.
However, a soothing voice is that of Peter Materu, Chief Programme Officer for the MasterCard Foundation, who recently called for rebalancing of higher education systems to produce the skills and knowledge African countries need for their development with emphasis on the production of employable graduates and economically and socially relevant research.
While the education sector is being undermined in Nigeria by ill-informed policies that that have engendered the nearly half-a-year shut-down of the Nigerian public universities, we are upbeat that the academia can be salvaged to give our country a lease in the quest for development and social progress.
Akhaine, a visiting member of The Guardian Editorial Board, is Professor of Political Science at the Lagos State University.