How innovative touch of Taofeek Ibrahim turned around Al-Hikmah University
If innovation is about doing things in a differently positive way, Vice Chancellor, Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin, Kwara State Prof. Taofeek Ibrahim has manifested this trait given his robust contribution in the institution.
In the past four and a half years of his administration, Ibrahim’s style of running the University has put the institution in the frontier of excellence and finesse. The 9th convocation of the University held on December 14, 2019 became veritable avenue to celebrate his outstanding accomplishments.
The professor of Community Medicine and Public Health, College of Health Sciences, Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto assumed office as the fourth Vice Chancellor of Al-Hikmah University on July 13, 2015 and conducted the fifth convocation of the University in September 2015. With the last week’s graduation, the Epe, Lagos indigene has presided over five convocations and he is looking forward to a successful completion of his tenure by July 2020.
The feats that the school achieved during his tenure reflected in when the National Universities Commission (NUC) conducted an assessment survey of students support services in a sample of 78 public and private universities in Nigeria in July 2019, Al-Hikmah University emerged in the 6th position. Also, in the competition of American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the University emerged third among 24 other institutions that participated.
“If properly managed and sustained, this institution is promising to be outstandingly in the whole of Africa as a reference conventional university founded and guided by the Islamic faith,” Ibrahim said with satisfaction.He recalled his approach to address challenges confronting the institution on his assumption of duty in 2015.
“It has been a lot of challenges, but above average, I have been quite satisfied with the achievements that have been recorded in the last four and a half years as vice chancellor. “When I came on board, the belief was that good governance and leadership should be clearly marked with set objectives and targets. In my case, human capacity development among lecturers is one of the targets. The availability of lecturers with doctorate degree is a big problem confronting private university system. So, my answer to this critical challenge is to see how many PhD holders would I be able to have been developed by the time I leave in 2020?
“A policy of staff development for doctorate degree was put in place to enhance that. It has both local and international perspectives. With respect to the latter, it is to explore the possibility of our lecturers going abroad especially Asia countries and South Africa to acquire doctorate degree. And locally in Nigeria, many members of the academic staff have been supported. Many of them have graduated and a remarkable shift has been achieved as people who had slept before now had woken up.”
With the enunciation of policies, operational guidelines and governance structures, he said running the university becomes rather smooth.“I met only one council committee when I came in, but we have over 30 now. Substantial growth has also been recorded in building (hostels) and ICT infrastructure, vehicles, equipment and other indispensable facilities. I met 10 functional vehicles on my assumption of duty, today, we have over 24. There were eight university-owned hostels prior to my coming, three others have been added in the last four and a half years, while law students’ hostel in Atere, the permanent site of the university has also been completed. By and large, social amenities such as uninterrupted electricity and water supply have been enhanced greatly.”
Another area of development is academic centre. “We have more academic centres now against only one – Centre for Research and International Cooperation, available in 2015. Additional eight centres have been created and these have raised the level of revenue generation greatly as the income in the last four years has been put at 1.3 billion naira.”
Before his arrival in Al-Hikmah, there was the challenge of paying salary of staff after the students might have completed the session and gone on long vacation. So, paying salary in June, July, August and September had always been traditionally difficult. “This situation provoked my thought about strategies for enhanced income generation and the creation of more academic centres became the answer.”
Indeed, the following Senate and Administrative committees came into existence during his tenure: Academic Programmes Planning Committee, Admissions Committee, Business Committee Of Senate (BCOS), Committee Of Deans & Provost, Committee Of Ulama, Dress Code and Ethical Behaviour Monitoring Committee, Examinations Monitoring Committee, Health Services Management Committee, Library, Publications and Conferences Committee, Research Committee and Security Committee.
Senate Estimates Committee, Space Allocation And Time-Table Committee, Staff Training & Development (Std) Committee, Staff Welfare Committee, Standing Committee On Examinations, Students Welfare Committee and University Sports Committee among others.Also, the landscape of the university’s administration witnessed the emergence of strategic policy documents that impacted greatly on the successes the university recorded.
“Emphasis and realignment of workers’ attitude towards integrity, honesty, dedication to work, and good interpersonal relationship at all levels of academic and administrative transactions define all our processes.
“Initiation of movement registers in administrative offices aimed at due restriction of movements for greater productivity. Initiation of a procurement form for better accountability and transparency for every purchase made from every unit in the University with indication of the justification of purchase.
“Installation of Table GSM phones for ease of communication across offices on our campuses. Institution of incoming, out-going and dispatch hard-cover ledgers for easy/fast tracking of movement of documents,” he said confidently.To enhance the visibility of the institution, Al-Hikmah joined the league of other Universities on the Campus Navigator Map for easy orientation and familiarisation of new students and visitors to the University’s physical environment.
He explained, “This tool is also a veritable tool for projecting the visibility of our University and increase of students’ enrollment. The appearance of our members of staff in the public media, greatly took our name far and wide.”
According to him, the students also brought the institution’s name to prominence when they emerged with high ranking in various academic competitions within and outside Nigeria.”
Ibrahim’s impact is felt most in the area of academic programmes. In July 2015, he met on ground, a total of 33 academic programmes which comprised three postgraduate degree programmes and 30 undergraduate degree programmes. He disclosed that two (LLB, Common and LLB Common and Islamic Law) of the 30 undergraduate programmes were at resource verification level, and of the 28 remaining programmes that were due for accreditation, 15 were accredited while 13 were pending.
“My first engagement with the NUC was for the resource verification of five academic programmes on October 26, 2015. The 13 programmes pending accreditation at the time of my resumption constituted the first set of programmes that were accredited by the NUC in June 2016. Today, the total number of degree programmes in the university is 114.”The fruits of this strong attachment to academic excellence showed greatly at the 9th convocation on December 14, 2019 featuring a total of 896 graduands, comprising 824 for First degrees, 59 for postgraduate degree and 13 for diplomas.
Of the 824 first-degree graduands, 26 students constituting three per cent graduated with First Class, 237 (29 per cent) in the 2nd class upper division, 396 (48 per cent) in the 2nd class lower division and 165 (20 per cent) with pass degree.
Prof. Ibrahim also made a very remarkable progress in improving the provision of hostel accommodation for students. This is reflected in construction of additional boreholes for all the 11 hostels while partnership was brokered with firms around the vicinity of the main campus as connection with the national grid is effected to ensure regular access to public electric power.
On the sporting facilities of the school, the institution has moved from zero to a modern level. The institution now has table tennis tables across hostels, standard 5 aside football field, badminton and volleyball courts at the new male hostels and standard football field at Atere campus.
“Innovation is about doing things in a differently positive way. This is a claim which we proudly claim with our personal touch and care for the progress of our students. This is by personal phone call and invitation of the parents of students who exhibit signs of poor academic and moral inclination by absenteeism from lectures, absondment from school, requests for extra credit units, etc.” He added that the initiation of Hall Masters and Mistresses to understudy and supervise all the affairs and welfare of students across all hostels were in place.
Parts of the rules for discipline that the institution also set for students include: enforcement of rules and regulations; intensive efforts on sanity, decorum, and zero tolerance for academic corruption among students; sanctions of erring students; drug testing for substances of abuse; support services by the Guidance and Counseling Unit; Morality, lectures and spiritual support by the Centre for Islamic Heritage and Community Development.
As part of measures to encourage the staff of the institution, there is provision for regular sponsorship to conferences and workshops, emergence of policy and budget provision for staff sponsorship to foreign conferences and workshops. On discipline for staff, he said measures of repositioning and refocusing staff attitudes to integrity, honesty, hard work and dedication; Morality lectures and spiritual support by the Centre for Islamic Heritage and Community Development and intensive efforts on sanity, decorum, and zero tolerance for academic corruption among staff were in place.
“Our staff are sure of regular salary payment without delay, sustained Health Insurance for all, regular promotion, emerging policy on Subsidized/discounted School fees for their children.”With the giant strides in the last 15 years of its existence, Prof. Ibrahim envisions Al-Hikmah University becoming the most referred Islamic faith-based university in the African continent.
“I also envision this current and temporary site of the university transforming as the College of Medicine and Health Sciences and Al-Hikmah University Teaching Hospital, as the University gradually moves to its permanent site at Atere area in Ilorin, which currently houses the Faculties of Law and Management Sciences.”But one policy common to private university establishment which he abhors is the clock-in-and-clock-out system for both academic and non-academic staff.
“In private universities, members of staff – academic and non-academic – are expected to clock-in and clock-out. It is the position of the operators of private universities which we have been managing to cope with. Personally, I do not believe in that. Whereas you can apply that to non-teaching staff, that can’t hold for academic members of staff.
“This is because the core mandate, the tripartite function of university is in the area of research, teaching and community service. For lecturers, they can’t be confined to just coming to work 7.30a.m and closing at 4.00p.m. They have to give support to other public institutions and organized private sector in terms of their expertise and knowledge to improve service, product and research in those other climes. So, they can’t be restricted to such regimentality as it is going to be counter productive.”
Prof. Ibrahim obtained his first degree in Medicine and Surgery at Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto in 1988; he did his intern as physician/surgeon at Sokoto University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto in 1989. He was Medical Officer (NYSC), Nigeria Police Medical Services, Sokoto, 1990; Senior House Officer (Pathology), Usman Danfodio University Teaching Hospital (UDUTH), Sokoto, 1991; Senior House Officer (Community Health), UDUTH, Sokoto, 1991-1993; Resident Doctor (Community Health), Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idiaraba, Lagos, 1994 -1998; Field Epidemiologist/Disease Surveillance Officer & State Coordinator, World Health Organisation, Sokoto State, 2000 -2004; Visiting Consultant, Public Health Physician, Department of Public Health, Federal Medical Centre, Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State, 2004 – 2010. He attained full professorship in Community Medicine and Public Health, College of Health Sciences, Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto in 2009. He served as Head, Departments of Community Medicine, Usman Danfodio University & Teaching Hospital, Sokoto between 2009 and 2014.
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