In this article, Professor Tolu Odugbemi charts the process towards reforming education in Nigeria.
A way forward cannot be charted without considering the present situation and the limitations that currently exist.
What are the factors hindering good standards in education?
These are mainly bad planning of curricula of institutions, misconceptions of what the mission of various levels and types of educational institutions should be even by owners of such institutions. Attitude of workers/ staff which may in part be due to poor remuneration. Many of these workers need to fend for themselves using alternative sources of income which may be legal or illegal; ethical or unethical because various owners in particular government agencies do not pay monthly salaries and allowances of staff and their workers at when due. It is counterproductive not to pay staff their salaries and allowances as at when due. Such situations result in an unproductive work force. There is also the major issue of incessant strikes. Strikes due to many of the reasons already mentioned above.
In order to get better and effective results for products of our institutions, there must be reorientation to provide insight or a way forward for
✓ Unions and staff
✓ Other stakeholders: parents, employers of labours etc.
It is not the quantity of universities in any area/ state/ nation that matters but the quality. There must be political will on the part of the Government to be focussed on quality.
Universities for example are centres which thrive on the passion in knowledge gaining and transfer, and societal development. Our universities have to work hard with the right and eminently qualified staff with passion for Education, excellence and break-through to impact the society positively. Many universities are not fulfilling their mandates of teaching, research and community development. My experience is that local communities see universities sited in their domains as local community institutions for employing all their community members at any time without recourse to the needs of the universities or budgetary allocations and societal relevance.
In the past, our universities in Nigeria recruited top scholars and administrators from USA, U.K, India, Canada, Egypt, Ghana other Commonwealth countries, etc. Furthermore students from these other countries come to our tertiary institutions to study. Today, our students move to other countries where they pay heavily to attend institutions ‘abroad ‘ to cover accommodation and tuitions. I must point out that these institutions situated abroad are really well-equipped with assorted learning resources. Universities are supposed to be international, and contributions should not be of mean value. There is an urgent need for reorientation of various communities to note that universities located in their communities will certainly influence their communities one way one or other by outstanding research output making the outlook of university towns better.
Appropriate criteria for appointments and promotions of principal officers, staff and administrators are often bent by ill-qualified university “leaders. We must make our universities truly universal, and of highest standards to make the so-called universities solve societal problems. Universities need to be properly funded to make institutions have solid infrastructure, and attract and retain good and great staff and push out meaningful research findings.
Orientation programmes to re-educate communities to raise funds to offer scholarships to their needy indigenes, to donate in cash and in kind to achieve desired positive results. It is noted that funding remains a big challenge in Nigeria however even in developed countries like Canada, USA,UK etc. with great institutions, funding is critical but all other sources to yield funding to make institutions viable and optimal are explored. Apart from government subventions, other potential sources of funding which are not fully explored are:
i. Government grants and interventions (to address specific matters).
ii. School fees, levies etc.
iii. PTA support.
vii. Contributions from alumni and alumnae.
ix. Research findings: Patents, Consultancy.
Generally, we need to determine what suits us economically and socially, and be prepared to fund those ideas or actions relevant to our societal needs. Individual institutions should carefully consider their funding needs and the Governing Boards/Councils should apply what suits their own context so far the end-products will be relevant in making the society better. As with any organization the principles of TEAMWORK, TRANSPARENCY, COURAGE, SINCERITY AND WELFARISM are required to move our educational sector forward.
Professor Tolu Odugbemi, OON, NNOM, FAS is a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos.