IF I WAS PRESIDENT – EDUCATION SECTOR: Retweaking the Ivory Tower.

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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4 thoughts on “IF I WAS PRESIDENT – EDUCATION SECTOR: Retweaking the Ivory Tower.

Add yours

  1. Hmmmm!
    Millions of research have already been done in all kinds of fields at OND, HND, BSc., MSc., PhD., levels.

    There’s a lot of beautiful literature eaten by termites in project libraries students are not allowed to visit for fear of plaggiarism…So I suggest we stop researching altogether for now and any student or groups of students willing to earn a degree pick an old research work and implement it even at pilot level. Let this calling upon government begin to cease!

    Dr Meshida of the Department of Geophysics, University of Lagos many years ago won an international award for research and invention for a stabilizer (amongst other things) he produced, which stops the shrinkage of clay. His research was spurred by anger…by disobedience of government officials who refused to honour a soil test report they had commissioned, which recommended that the current Lagos-Ibadan/Benin-Ore road be re-routed due to the treacherous nature of underlying soils along the chosen routes… Suffering Continues even Long after Meshida provides a solution. *smh*!

    A certain Nwoke O.A and Ugwuishiwu B.O of the department of Agriculture and Bioresources engineering, University of Nigeria, recently researched into the use of Bamboo and earth construction for the provision of decent, affordable housing and jobs for Nigerians, yet…

    The only Miracle we need is the miracle of common sense!
    Sorry Yemi for creating another article.

  2. ndutim, i agree with you. However, Yemi’s take on this issue is quite relevant, most especially the last suggestion. Until our educational system, especially the tertiary, takes its position in the society as does the ones in countries that cannot do without it, or that have made use of it to develop (e.g. South Korea), we are only joking. Have u ever imagined why ASUU will go on strike for months with little recognition……?

  3. Nigeria needs to develop a mor formal technical and vocational education that will produce graduates with the technical and vocational skills needed to operate in the employment intensive industries. Anyone who has ever set up a factory or construction company in Nigeria knows that they have to import Indian,chinese, or japan technicians(not degree holders) to run d project…. We are producing too many science and theoretical engineering graduates in our universities whose employment potential is very limited. Technical and vocatial skills must be given it’s own prestige.

  4. Very nice! Well written, I think having the lecturers pay for facilities that they use in the University.. Their researchs should be funded by private labs but unfortunately every rich man is running after some oil well in Niger Delta instead of spending their money in improving our economy.. Its also unfortunate that we don’t have philanthropist in this country & if we do, who are they, where are they, what do they do, what have they done should be the question asked of them.

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