20 January 2013

Nigeria: State of the Nation's Universities


So far, there has been no Nigerian university listed among the first 500 universities in the world. In the African continent, the record is not any better. Also, a recent report released by the committee on Needs Assessment of Nigerian Universities said that the nation's premier universities suffer from ancient and dilapidated structures that need refurbishing.

The committee headed by Professor Mahmood Yakubu listed the premier universities to include the University of Nigeria, Ahmadu Bello University, University of Benin, University of Ibadan and University of Lagos. Simply put; this development signposts a sad commentary on the nation's citadels of learning.

Funding and proper monitoring of funds' disbursement have been a major problem in our universities. The Nigerian authorities have abysmally failed to meet the UN recommendation of 26 per cent allocation of the total budget to education. Even the fraction that is allocated is channeled to recurrent expenditures. It is time the various boards of the universities monitored closely how these funds are utilized by the various institutions.

The Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) whose responsibilities include ensuring the maintaining of standards in these institutions should admit that it has failed. Instead of ensuring that the existing institutions meet global standard, the NUC is recommending the establishment of more federal institutions.

There is the need to closely monitor the activities of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), the agency under the Ministry of Education saddled with financing projects in the tertiary institutions. There is the need for the supervising ministry to ensure that the NUC and TETFund get their priorities right.

The various university authorities should re-examine their internally generated revenue outlets for enhanced output. We are by no means advocating increase in tuition fees. Every parent or guardian that has his or her child or ward in any of the tertiary institutions is already weighed down by the financial implication.

The operators of these institutions are yet to fully explore the potential of the economic environment under which they operate. With the name these first-generation institutions have made for themselves both locally and internationally, attracting companies and institutions to assist in their developmental projects may not pose much problem.

Ordinarily, the education sub-sector should receive special boost in this administration. For one, President Goodluck Jonathan is an academic who should understand squarely the problems in the nation's tertiary institutions. We challenge the president to ensure that, before the end of his tenure, the former glory of the nation's institutions is restored.

This will, among other things, stem the current migration of the nation's students to neighbouring countries such as Togo, Ghana and Sierra Leone for tertiary education.

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