Don’t you find it preposterous that no Nigerian university can make a cell phone?
I was an undergraduate when I first heard the venerated Prof. Wole Soyinka was reported to have called for the closure of Nigerian Universities for a very long period in order to re-jig the ivory towers as they had lost all their relevance to the society. I was quick to dismiss that as a rant due to gerontocratic dementia. Now, I tender an unreserved apology to the professor after years of observation and thinking.
Truth is this: we do not have an education system in this country. What we have is an examination system. Nobody really cares if you learn anything, as long as you ‘pass’ your exams. And nobody cares what happens to you afterwards. Nowhere is this more obvious than at the supposed pinnacle of the educational pyramid: The Nigerian University.
The best advertisement against having a university education in this country is our President. Only die-hard sycophants who believe their own hogwash would say he has performed above others with lesser level of ‘education’. However he’s not the best reason, as he is but a symptom and not the causative agent of the joke called “Higher-education” in Nigeria.
There is a massive disconnect between the “gown” and the town. Thus the Nigerian Universities have not really affected or shaped our society as it should have. For decades, we have had departments of Urban and Regional Planning departments in various institutions, churning out graduates but looking at all new settlements that has risen in the last 20-30 years shows total lack of planning. Another major problem we have in Nigeria is how to build long-lasting roads on muddy soils with easy-to-access local materials, yet we’ve been paying Professors and Ph.d holders of Civil Engineering millions of Naira for decades on end. And we are still waiting for the formulation of a “Chukwuma’s law” in economics or propounding of a workable African political ideology.
Thus, one sees the Nigerian University system as what it is: a massive Ponzi scheme. Reminiscent of Bertrand Russell’s famous quote, the only use of a Nigerian PhD most times is to teach another person. The universities have become an end in themselves rather a means of achieving sustainable development. The only change that has occurred for years in the system has only been for worse.
So what can a true President do to arrest this anathema aside from Prof. Soyinka’s prescribed surgery? Here is my two kobo: TURN THE IVORY TOWERS TO PROFIT MAKING ORGANIZATIONS. I know that this has been advocated on different forums under different names (University Autonomy etc) but the model I am proposing differs in its details.
One, the profits are not to be shared, or remitted to the government but used to build the capacity and capability of the school. Two, the lecturers decide by voting, the choice of their Vice-Chancellor. Three, the lecturers pay “affiliation fee” to the school via the department.
The third point may seem crazy but I think this will bring the much needed verve and energy into researches being done. Lecturers will be expected to earn their pay through the researches they make. Unless their research has an application in the society (i.e. has/is translating to a service/product being used by the public), they don’t eat. The university will only pay them for classes taught while they will pay the university money for usage of the school’s facilities for research and office space and pay their own staffs too(secretaries, personal assistants too). This will essentially turn every lecturer into an entrepreneur and/or a consultant and thus they can give experiential knowledge to the students being taught and extinguish “useless” researches from their work schedule.
This may or may not be the solution we need. However, I believe that until we as a nation take our education sector more seriously, we will continue to have cognitive dissonance as a very present national culture. Selah.
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