The Endless Debate on Nigerian Universities

jobberman
About half of the university graduates in Nigeria cannot find jobs.

There are different types of universities in Nigeria, there are the public universities, which comprise of the federal and state universities while private universities are either faith-based or owned by a proprietor. Nigeria has a total of 121 universities and these universities have various ways of being funded. However, there are perturbing issues that need to be addressed for Nigerians to experience quality education.

Federal and State Universities in Nigeria are full-fledged communities on their own. These communities have vice-chancellors who are like prime ministers while the pro-chancellors act as ceremonial heads. The vice chancellors are charged with the responsibility of running the institutions on a daily basis. As it has been known for ages, man is the most difficult animal to control, we all reason differently. This has led to the breakdown of law and order within the campus at the slightest provocation.

The different unions within the institution agitate for their rights most especially for fund related reasons. Many of these unions feel that the vice-chancellor is not sensitive to their plights, whereas he is waiting to access funds from either the Federal or State Government. These infringements on their human rights lead to incessant strike actions, peaceful protests, rallies and other industrial actions.

These industrial actions of the unions impact negatively on the students who are the proverbial grass that suffer the most when two elephants engage in a needless fight.

Students spend many more years in the university than necessary because of these endless tussles. Students do not know the number of years that it takes to study a 4-year course while veterinary and medical students spend up to a decade in school. Conversely, the University of Ilorin has been running her academic calendar for years without undue interruption from the forces of the union and the students.

Interestingly, about thirty years ago, university students were treated like kings and queens. They had good facilities, good hostels, accommodating lecturers and the freedom of expression which helped them even after graduation and the environment was less competitive. Unfortunately, the current generation of students study under severe conditions such as epileptic power supply; dearth of portable way; uninhabitable hostels; poorly lit classrooms; old and irrelevant books in the libraries; sadist lecturers and increase in fees without adequate notice to the students.

All of the aforementioned facts have resulted in protest in the University of Lagos and the University of Port Harcourt in less than a fortnight. These institutions of learning experience uprising by the student unions and these schools. As sang by the Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Nigerians are accustomed to “suffering and smiling”. Should these students continue to suffer in silence when the state of learning is not conducive?

Students can be very violent but should the uniform agents of government be used to stop them when they are not armed? There is no need to shed the blood of students during uprisings in our tertiary institutions like what happened recently at the University of Port Harcourt. Whatever is destroyed, many times, the students pay for it before resumption. In the same vein, the lecturers and the school authorities that they pay courtesy visits to on normal days, stay away from addressing them at this period of anguish and pain. If the Dean of Student Affairs or the Vice Chancellor can address these students; the situation might subside but they stay away till a memo is issued. Many times, this aggravates the uprising.

This ugly trend has led Nigerian graduates to be tagged “half-baked” and “unemployable”.

Everyone keeps yelling about the quality of education but people are not complaining about the state of education. The state of education precedes the quality of education. There is a need to take a holistic view at tertiary education in Nigeria.

There are majorly two means of gaining admission into these universities. Some years ago, after failing the almighty JAMB (Joint Admission Matriculation Board), the determinant of your eligibility status for admission into a federal or state university, I got mail from Madonna University that I can apply to their institution. Another way of getting admitted is by applying directly to the school.

As such, Dr. Idris Oyemitan of the Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Walter Sisulu University, Mthatha, Eastern Cape, South Africa wrote a piece titled Proliferation of First Class Degrees from students of private universities. According to him there are four angles to think of:

  • The Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) grades of these glorified first class graduates cannot match those in public universities
  • Almost, if not all of them, scored below average or minimum scores that would not have qualified them for admission into leading universities
  • Most of the private universities cannot compete with the public ones in the areas of quality lecturers as they must rely on unemployed, retired, visiting, part-time and sometimes grossly incompetent academic staff
  • Most of the private universities cannot boast of standard laboratories.

He concluded the piece by urging the National Universities Commission to look into this issue, intervene and restore sanity into these treacherous acts of our private universities.

These arguments are very strong but I would disagree with him a little, particularly, on the third point, I believe much more in retired academics because they are like old wine. They have mastered their craft over decades as such, they now understand the most effective way of teaching their students. In regards to standard laboratories, private institutions invest more and have recent tools that are not in the obsolete laboratories that both federal and state schools pride themselves to have in their possession.

In fact, private institutions generate electricity when the government institutions are complaining that they do not have it at all.

There have been reported cases of students passing the night in the laboratories of some public institutions so that they can carry out experiments if electricity is restored in the wee hours of the day.

There have been reported cases of students passing the night in the laboratories of some public institution so that they can carry out experiments if electricity is restored in the wee hours of the day.

Administrators must think deeply. There is a difference between a staunch academic who never worked in the private sector and an academic who worked in the private sector. The Federal and State Universities must learn how to generate internal revenue, which is well accounted for, void of government subvention; let every staff be on strict Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). While the private institutions need to imbibe leading standards obtainable in other parts of the world; it is an insult to be alleged as incompetent.

All tertiary institutions either public or private should be concerned with the production of quality graduates that can stand shoulder high with the graduates of other universities in the world.

These schools usually pride themselves with one exceptional student who independently becomes successful as their product, what the Nigerian society needs are institutions that can showcase all her products. Sadly, there are millions of graduates from both public and private institutions who are either unemployed or underemployed.