The academia in the Nigerian University System (NUS), business organizations and other relevant stakeholders in the education sector on Monday met to chart a course for improvement of higher education in the country.
Speaking at the 2016 Nigeria Higher Education Summit organised by the Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, in partnership with Trust Africa, Dakar and the National Universities Commission (NUC), the academia noted that the landscape of higher education in the country, despite having some vista of hope, remained stunted and underachieving.
The theme of the summit was “Exploiting Diversity, Differentiation and Quality Assurance in Revitalizing the Nigerian Higher Education System.”
The experts emphasised the need to rekindle and consolidate the national economic transformational potential of the country’s higher education system including attenuation of quality deficits and promotion of value enhancement.
The former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Pro-Chancellor of Plateau State University, Prof. Attahiru Jega,said at the event that education was the driver of development in the contemporary world and countries that ignore that do so at their own peril.
Jega, who was the chairman of the summit, explained that some developing countries have awakened to the realization of how investment in higher education could increase competitiveness in the global political economy, in addition to remarkable transformation of their national economy.
“They have made the requisite investment and have quite appreciable results and many of the universities are competing favourably with half of the universities in the developed world,” he said.
The former INEC boss said, unfortunately and regrettably, this reawakening was yet to happen substantively in Africa and Nigeria in particular.
“Our higher education has been characterised by misplaced priority, instability and clear lack of focus by those who are supposed to direct national and public affairs and to help ensure that education contributes to the transformation of our national economy,” Jega lamented.
While accepting the notion that development organisations like the World Bank and IMF are pushing Africa not to pay attention to education, he said “the blame is ours, it is our leaders.”
“Since the Harare Declaration in 1980, we have been struggling, persuading, trying to get our leaders to give the priority that education in general required and higher education in particular.”
He said it was important they recognized that the major challenge had to do with crisis of leadership and obligation of responsibility and misplacement of priority.
Jega also acknowledged poor funding as one of the challenges facing higher education in the country and called for adequate funding of the sector to enable the universities contribute to national growth.
Higher Education Consultant for TrustAfrica, Dr Omano Edigheji, who identified the challenge of access, quality and inadequate staffing as common problems of Nigeria higher education, said there was need to borrow a leaf from countries where education is thriving.
He expressed concern over the poor funding of universities saying the solution did not lie in creating more varsities but in funding and prioritizing education to achieve the desired quality.
He said money spent in taking care of militants was more than what was spent in 20 universities in the country.
However, the chairman of the Association of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU), Prof Adebiyi Daramola, pointed out that the problem of education must be tackled in the right way so that it would bring the expected dividend to the nation.
Prof Daramola, represented by Prof. Debo Adeyewa his deputy, said the summit would bring about new ideas to build an effective platform for the Nigerian university system.
The summit also saw the launching of a book titled “The Future and Relevance of Nigerian Universities and other Tertiary Education Institutions.”
In his remarks, the Registrar, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof. Is-haq Oloyede, said it was not true that only about 500,000 students out of 1.5 million candidates who sit for JAMB annually get admitted into universities.
He said 80 per cent of the 1.5 million candidates who failed to get admissions were not qualified but merely wishful admission seekers.
Oloyede said: “Forty per cent of them do not have qualifications. They may pass JAMB, but they do not have the O’Level requirements to go into the universities. By the time you mop up the whole thing, what will remain is not this big figure that gives us the type of shameful statistics you parade all over Africa.”
President of the African Export (AFREXIM) Bank, Egypt, Dr Benedith Okey Oramah, represented by Stephen Kauma spoke on the need to adopt curriculum that will cover more about Africa and increase funding by government.
He said government could not run away from funding education as it is a fundamental human right.
He pointed out the need to encourage Public Private Partnership (PPP) and making students’ loan schemes a reality by creating an independent body that will run and manage the scheme.
Meanwhile, the Secretary General of CVC, Prof. Michael Faborode, said on the lighter side, the researches done by Nigerian universities needed to be celebrated.
He said: “Let us appreciate these things and let us bring them to the fore so that we will not just be mourning over the challenges alone; let us celebrate the successes.”
This article originally appeared on the Daily Trust website. The original article can be found here>