Nigerians were shocked to learn of the recent decision by the National Universities Commission (NUC), which oversees university administration in this country, to withdraw the authority of twenty-three of the country's universities to offer a number of courses at undergraduate level. The decision followed the release of the undergraduate programmes accreditation review conducted by NUC in 2004, 2005 and 2006 in full accord with due process. NUC disclosed that the errant universities made no appreciable effort to improve these programmes, some of which have carried the interim status since 1990. The commission therefore believes that the universities were only interested in extending the interim status of the programmes to remain afloat.
Regrettably, cutting corners to remain afloat is a predictable consequence of privatising tertiary institutions in an education-hungry country such as Nigeria. That is why stringent care was required in the first instance to ensure that the urge to increase income did not outstrip the universities' capacity to provide a vital social service. NUC can therefore not escape blame for validating the interim status of some of these programmes for up to seventeen years. As usual however the parents that sacrifice so much to give their children the best possible education must bear the costs of its consequences.
It is ridiculous to license so many universities when Nigeria not only lacks the qualified lecturers and funding to make them viable, but even the sound primary and secondary school foundation to guarantee them the best quality of student intake. Having licensed them however it should surprise no one that some will tend to promise more than they can deliver in order to survive. There are several instances of lecturers been simultaneously engaged by more than one university, to the satisfaction of no one. The inadequate funding is not only reflected in the poor standards of available facilities, it has certainly been responsible for the mass exodus of lecturers to other universities at home but especially to foreign countries in search of greener pastures.
Interestingly, the published list of de-accredited programmes is liberally sprinkled with scientific/technological and management disciplines that could translate Nigeria's industrial potential into stable economic prosperity. We stress the word "could," for in the absence of appropriate foundation at the primary and secondary school levels, or well equipped laboratories and qualified lecturers, university students can receive little more than theoretical grounding on the "dictates of science" in their various disciplines. Alas, Nigeria's failure to build the necessary infrastructures and capabilities for successful development and the rapid application of high technologies can only be ascribed to poor connection between knowledge generation, inventive activity, technological skills and industrialisation. The country has consequently remained dependent on foreign innovation and our national development plans have become little more than catalogues of the intention to participate in a futile race to "catch up," rather than designs for the creative solution of our national problems.
Not only have we failed to assimilate modern technology however, we have also failed to assimilate the whole complex of modern motives and values. It must never be forgotten that education implies the simultaneous conception of a goal, which is arguably defined by culture. The importance of culture in determining development objectives is ignored to our chagrin, for there is no doubt that the peoples and nations of the world have different customs, belief systems and expect different post-mortem fates simply on account of their respective metaphysical presumptions. Accordingly, the overriding necessity of articulating development objectives in a cultural context means that the crisis in Nigerian education can only be adequately addressed from the holistic perspective of societal reform. The recent de-accreditation of Nigerian university courses, shows just how deep-seated are the crises that Nigeria must confront in its quest for development, especially when the educational foundation is very wobbly.