The poor international ranking of Nigerian universities has nothing to do with the intellectual capacity of lecturers and students, but their inability to manage resources effectively, as well as the non-application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) knowledge in learning and research. The Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufa'i, has said.
Rufa'i made this known while inaugurating the first online universities programme accreditation portal at the University of Calabar (UNICAL), Cross River State, which cost the Federal Government more than N500 million to build.
According to her, Nigerian universities have the infrastructure, which some universities in the western world lack, but since modern learning is e-based, Nigerian universities are still lagging behind. She said the government is addressing the problem by providing portals in universities to facilitate learning and internet research.
The facility, which can accommodate 36,000 students, was provided by the National Universities Commission (NUC), under its pilot programme. It would be replicated in other federal universities in the country.
Rufa'i said the portal would "kick start an ICT revolution in the administration of our universities. Nigerians should stop lamenting that universities in the country are poorly rated in Africa in particular and the world in general. We know that the poor rating is not due to lack of the required intellectual capacity, but basically due to poor management of the resources in our institution and our inability to use the internet.
"This project is therefore a bold step towards building world-class universities in Nigeria. The management of our university system will definitely not be the same again. The initiative is in line with the agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan."
The minister reiterated the Federal Government's resolve to develop ICT that would facilitate effective management of the system, adding that the programme was a product of NUC's data base project established by the Federal Government in 2008 to help enforce the laws establishing and sensitising the university system.
In his remarks, Executive Secretary of NUC, Prof, Julius Okojie, explained that since the world is advancing fast in internet usage and application of ICT knowledge, the commission had to impress it on the university system to become internet compliant. He said the portal is a new initiative aimed at fully automating the accreditation of universities' academic programmes.
"But we are aware of the problem we have and that is why the NUC has continued to mount pressure on universities; we must move forward to get our work properly done and faster by deploying proper ICT setting. But we have a shortcoming- the issue of capacity building; here we are, new challenges, new opportunities; we must surmount them."
Okojie further said that the commission would interact with development partners and evolve public private partnership to encourage the university system to grow.
Speaking at a one-day workshop on online universities programme accreditation portal usage, Vice-Chancellor of UNICAL, Prof. James Epoke, said the university community was happy to host the workshop at the time "the universities system in Nigeria was at the lower rung of the ranking scale."
He thanked the minister for her support, which he said "has brought us a lot of leverage such as our inclusion in the special intervention from TETFUND."
The minister was also at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, where she launched the Nigerian universities electronic teaching and learning platform, which seeks to support the universities to produce more and better graduates and research output."
"It is an ICT-enabled interactive teaching and learning concept, whose main focus is to develop 'smart' classrooms that use technology to overcome the challenge of large classes, aid modern methods of teaching and learning and content development using interactive tools."She said the project, which was provided by NUC, would serve as "a pool of interactive whiteboards with networking capabilities; high resolution audio-visual teaching aids; capacity development on modern methods of teaching and learning and electronic content development; and a pool of electronic clipart resources."
A total of 12 universities, one federal and one state-owned from each of the six geo-political zones of the country would benefit from the first phase of the programme.