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Inept leadership responsible for low quality in education — Adedipe


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Nigeria

Inept leadership responsible for low quality in education — Adedipe

By SEGUN OLUGBILE


The pro-chancellor, Fountain University, Osogbo, Osun State, Prof. Nurudeen Adedipe, granted some journalists an interview on the state of university education in the country and the progress so far recorded by the Islamic institution, arguing that inept leadership and corruption are robbing the nation of qualitative education. SEGUN OLUGBILE was there.

Recently, the management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company alerted the nation that most first class graduates who participated in the organisation’s aptitude test for employment failed woefully. Concerned Nigerians have blamed private universities for undue award of first class to undeserving graduates. As an expert who has been in the public university system and now in the private university sub-sector, how will you react to this?

The first thing is that there is decay in the entire education system, not just the university. One should be very careful in making pronouncement not based on studies. And on the private cum public university dichotomy, we should be careful to make pronouncement on how we feel or perceive things. But I think what the NNPC said is true because, when I was in the National Universities Commission, we did a study on employability and service delivery of Nigerian graduates and we published a book on our findings. This research was propelled by a World Bank report in 1999/2000 that expressed worries about English Language, Mathematics and numeracy skills among Nigerian graduates. We took all the 13 group of disciplines such as arts, sciences and social sciences and we discovered that without even in the areas of specialization, including medicine, quality had taken flight out of the nation’s university. It’s saddening.

But on the issue of private universities and first class graduates, I don’t believe that any private university will just award degrees to students just because of huge tuition. First, you should understand that no matter how bad an education system is, you will still find some intelligent students who will excel. And what is even the percentage of the total that makes first class? So, pointing fingers at private universities is not correct. At least, the Nigerian system allows external examiners to crosscheck students from these universities and over 70 per cent of these external examiners are from the public universities. However, one should not deny the fact that quality has nosedived, because when I was in the university, people that made third class and went to United Kingdom for further studies abroad always ended up as stars.

What they said about Nigerian graduates not being employable is correct to a large extent. But the problem of quality should not be blamed on the university system alone because the products that end up in the universities are from the nation’s school system; and if you look at the primary and secondary schools, you will discover that the quality of these products are terribly bad and there is little the universities could do.

What is the way out?

The way out is for our leaders at all levels to make education a super-cardinal project in their policy. The Western Region was better developed because of the visionary leadership provided by late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He educated the people, he spent the large chunk of the budget on education and he and his team were good managers of resources, not the corrupt leaders of today who are only interested in stealing the commonwealth for selfish means.

Another thing that can help us develop is that we should return to parliamentary democracy that was practised during the First Republic. Let each geo-political zone control its resources and the cost of government will be reduced.

Leadership is the most important thing in education and other sectors. Once you treat education as a cardinal project, other things will fall in place. It is not by accident that Western Region was first in everything. This, in a nutshell, tells you the role of education in national development, but our leaders are not doing what they should do now.

Our leaders, university administrators and other stakeholders should also change their attitude to academics/education, while the reward system in the university should place emphasis on productivity and service delivery rather than on paper qualification. We should implement the recommendation of the NUC that entry requirements for medicine and law should be first degree, while the Higher School Certificate should be returned to the sector.

This became necessary because a student who was admitted into the university at 17 and is studying medicine because he did well in science subjects or whose parents forced to study such courses and eventually graduates at 21 or 22, and does not know his right from his left, will not be a good example. This calls for serious concern.

Fountain University will be producing its first set of graduates in September. Would you say it has achieved its objectives?

Objectively, yes. If people underrate the projected achievements of private universities, then they have a problem. What the private universities set out to do is to achieve excellence. We wanted a private university in Nigeria because of the failure of the public university system. There were three universities that had enrolment of over 60,000, whereas the prescription for them which was the minimum academic standard was just between 12,000 to 13,000. But for NUC, we would have had a lot of problem. This is where deregulatory agencies come into play. We had universities which do not have enough lecturers on their main campuses, but on their external campuses, there are more students there.

What private university set out to do is to bring in quality and responsibility, whether you are community-based or faith-based. Look at what is happening in Covenant University, Ota, for instance. They have the wherewithal and they have started well to get better management, better focus and better products. I have not overrated our expectations, though we know our limitations.

So, also when the NASFAT organisation came together and floated the Fountain University, the vision was almost the same and, so far, the institution has done well.

Don’t forget the organisation was spiritually guided. They said they wanted to be part of the system to provide higher education, they started and, today, NASFAT started by 12 people and its university is the fastest growing Islamic organisation and university in the country. What has made it possible? One is education; another is professionalism. If you look at most of their leadership structure, they are in the corporate world and people are very practical when they are in the corporate world. So, they set their minds to have a university, not because they have the money, not because they have the structures that were necessary, but because of the commitment. They had a goal and they decided to start the university, which has been holding its own since it was established. So far, the university has lived up to its billing by providing quality education driven by ICT, inculcation of sound moral values in students and adherent to the NUC rules.

How have you been dealing with cultism and vices in Fountain University?

We have not had any case of cultism and any misdemeanour on the part of any student. We don’t waste time on disciplinary issues in the university. We have developed strategies that promote and ensure that the management is close to the students. You should also know that this is a faith-based university and we have successfully integrated the tenets of the Islamic faith in our operations. But we will not force non-Muslims who are our students to go to the mosque or participate in religious activities. However, the university has code of conduct on dressing and other related issues that a student must obey. We also have security on ground that ensures peace on the campus. So, there is no room for cultism and untoward behaviour.

How do you see the university in the next five years?

I’m happy we have started very well and our pioneer students will graduate in October. By the grace of Allah, in five years’ time, I expect the second phase of our academic to have started. In other words, I want the medical school and the engineering programmes to have started and the university should be one of the best in the country.

Do you believe that entrepreneurship studies are necessary in universities?

Entrepreneurship studies should be emphasised in tertiary institutions because, as students, you are acquiring a degree because you want to be a better person and what you now do with your basic degree will tell you the options you have, and which of the options are of your own choice. There has to be a linkage between what a student has acquired and what he needs to do in terms of service delivery.

 

 

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