Tertiary education in Nigeria: Another perspective – Part 2
The gloomy picture in the presentation depicts hopelessness for the country. As contended by the speaker, the quality of our graduates is largely nothing to write home about globally and regionally. Just days ago, the federal government made the same observations that the skills acquired in our institutions render the graduates ‘unemployed or unemployable’, thereby advocating complimentary vocational and skills training. In the light of these revelations, my expectation is that the speaker will forecast the future of the country arising from the deteriorating state of the university system. In my view, if the deplorable conditions continue, there is absolutely no future for the country as no knowledge essential to the growth of the country will be available. These are the basic areas of my observations on the paper. However, beyond all that the speaker has analyzed in his paper, I believe that there are two more key areas deserving of our attention.
The first area is the continuous proliferation of universities. Practically every day, the National Universities Commission (NUC) continues to dish out licenses for the establishment of universities to the governments, federal and states as well as private entities. This licensing is without regard to the needs of the nation. Little wonder that the number of unemployed ‘graduates’ continues to soar as there is no linkage between the areas of need and the ‘graduates’ that are produced. One would have expected that such licensing would have been tailored along the needs of the nation but alas!, that is not so. Beyond this mismatch is the challenge of funding.
Most of these universities lack the required fund to sustain the institutions. Take the federal universities, for example, we are all living witnesses to the incessant strike actions punctuating academic activities as a result of inadequate funding for both infrastructure and conditions of service. Same thing applies to the various state governments who could not even afford payment of basic workers’ salaries but end up establishing universities, just like their counterpart, the federal government, for political reasons. Most of these universities end up being glorified secondary schools, dishing out substandard degrees and endangering the society.
Till date, the extant universities continue to degenerate and fade away. Obsolete libraries, lack of quality personnel, non-conducive classrooms, no teaching facilities, inadequate research grants etc. characterize our universities. The private universities are not much better off except for some few ones. Notwithstanding, the National Universities Commission continues to license more and more. I am not oblivious of the demand for admission to universities but whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.
There are other ways to skin a cat, one of which is the forced merger of these institutions through regulations. We must encourage this by stalling further licensing which will force new promoters to invest in the existing ones and promote the expansion and upgrade the existing ones. The sad aspect again is the non-promotion of specialized universities.
Despite the fact that some of the universities from the onset are licensed as specialist institutions, they end up with distractions and veering into other areas of irrelevancies. A university of Agriculture or that of technology suddenly becomes a university with a Law Faculty and Faculty of Humanities. Ideally, such universities should have been restricted to such specialization but no, lack of focus continues to haunt the system. More than ever before, what the country requires are specialized universities in our areas of need and not just university for the sake of one.
To my mind, it is not even late to revert the specialized universities to what they were conceived to be. It will aid the system and boost the quality of our graduates. This is the way to develop the country and assure a future for the nation through the university system. The other aspect that I alluded to earlier is the dearth of qualified lecturers. As we continue to license more universities daily, we discount the aspect of competent personnel, particularly lecturers. I reiterate again that there are insufficient qualified personnel in the nation today to match the number of universities we are establishing. It is not enough to have a post-graduate degree but to possess the research and teaching capability.
A sizeable number of those claiming to be lecturers today are unable to deliver anything in terms of impacting knowledge. They are in the institutions for lack of what to do, survival most times. Another critical point is the challenge of brain drain as our competent ones have all practically left the country in search of greener pastures in foreign lands. They excel in those countries and become the shining stars of the foreign academia leaving our own in intellectual devastation. In the circumstance, it is garbage in, garbage out. We continue to suffer degradation in output. Consequently, we need to pay attention to this aspect in licensing more universities and even pruning down the existing ones. With the current state of the facilities, both hard and software in the universities today, nothing much credible can emerge from the institutions.
Dr. Banire is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).