It has become stereotypical for Nigerian commentators to deride the nation's public universities, especially the infrastructural levels of these citadels of learning. Most of the time, these commentaries are not based on the facts on ground at the respective universities.
In other words, the ingrained criticisms are based on the perceptions of the individual analysts, who often premise their conclusions on hear-say information. To say that the Nigeria university system does not have infrastructural deficits will be to play the ostrich. But for anyone to deliberately ignore the massive improvements in the nation's universities, especially in the area of physical infrastructure, will be to say the least, uncharitable.
As has been stated in previous conversations, whatever analysis that is made regarding the nation's education sector must be placed in the right context. Which is the scenario before President Goodluck Jonathan assumed office and what we have on ground today. Also to be placed on the table for analysis should be the commitment of the Federal Ministry of Education and that of the key agencies of government, such as the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETfund) to the realisation of the key developmental goals of the administration. Whoever is discussing these issues, once he is objective, would admit that the game has changed fundamentally, with the federal government's commitment to the development of infrastructure in our nation's universities at an all-time high. Those who have an objective mindset agree quite willingly that the pace of infrastructural development in Nigerian universities indicates that the nation will in the nearest future witness a complete turnaround.
The massive infrastructural development in Nigerian universities in the last two years by the key agencies of the federal government has touched both federal and state Institutions. It has been a planned and regulated deployment of resources to ensure that public universities in the country meet international standards.
Key areas that have benefitted from an action plan clearly spelt out in the Federal Ministry of Education Action Plan, tagged "The Four Year Strategic Plan, 2011-2015", include, the construction and improvement of classrooms/lecture theatres, the construction of new and improvement of existing laboratories, the construction and improvement of libraries and construction and improvement of administrative blocks to accommodate more administrators and academic staff. The implementation of these programmes has been quite progressive because top education technocrats from the universities, the NUC, TETfund and the Federal Ministry of Education had been involved in the making of the four-year-strategic plan, which has access and quality as its main focus. The plan details the implementation strategies that should be adopted to achieve these goals. The federal government has religiously followed the plan.
The development of infrastructure in the nation's public universities in the course of the last two years by agencies of the federal government has been across board. The state universities have been carried along all the way. That is why there is no single public university in the country today where you don't have a major infrastructure by the federal government completed or nearing completion.
Successes have been recorded in the areas of the development of physical infrastructure in the nation's public universities because of the commitment of inspectors and monitors of projects sourced from the NUC, TETfund and Federal Ministry of Education. It is a circle of monitoring and evaluation process, aimed at ensuring that no contractor does a shoddy job and the nation gets value for money.
Aside the regular infrastructural development programme embarked upon by the federal government in the last two years to improve the infrastructural standard of the nation's universities, the administration implemented the High Impact Programme aimed at making selected public universities in all the six geopolitical zones, celebrated centres of excellence. N72 billion has been invested in this laudable project. Fourteen state and federal universities have benefitted from this programme. In 2013, N25 billion has been committed to the High Impact Projects in the selected universities.
Since 2010, the following universities, state and federal, have benefited: University of Jos N3 billion; North-east: ATBU, Bauchi, N3illion; North-west: Bayero University, Kano, N3 billion; South-east: Federal University of Technology, Owerri, N3 billion; South-south: UNIPORT, N3 billion; South-west: OAU, Ille Ife, N 3billion.
In 2011, the following benefited: North-west: Usman Danfiodiyo University, Sokoto, N3 billion; South-south: Niger Delta University, Amassoma, N3 billion. The 2012 figures were as follows: North-central: Benue State University, Makurdi, N3 billion; North-east: Modibbo Adama University, Yola, N3 billion; North-west: Kebbi State University of Science & Tech, Aliero, N3 billion; South-east: Anambra State University, Uli, N3 billion; University of Calabar, N3 billion; South West: University of Lagos; N3 billion.
From the figures above, it is clear that the Jonathan administration has never discriminated against the state universities. The reason being that the students of these institutions are Nigerians and they deserve no less.
Another major infrastructural milestone recorded by the Jonathan administration since 2011 has been the Nigerian Universities Electronic Teaching and Learning Platform. The first phase of this programme has been successfully implemented in 12 Federal and State Universities. The focus of this infrastructural masterpiece is to enhance the use of ICT in the education process and enable remote learning and exchange of information among institutions.
Under this programme, each of the 12 public universities has access to local digitised content through the virtual library and also they have access to books donated to the university libraries by the federal government, her agencies and public spirited individuals.
There has also been the collaboration between the federal government and the World Bank, via the STEP B project, to develop centres of excellence in science and technology in selected universities spread across the zones. These universities include: University of Nigeria, Nsukka, that has received $4.5 million for technical and vocational studies; University of Maiduguri, $5.6million for environmental studies; Federal University of Technology, Minna, $5.5million for Vaccine and Drug Development; Federal University of Technology, Akure, $4.5million for Food Security; and University of Calabar, $4.million for Infectious Diseases.
Others are Usman Dan Fodio University, $4million for renewable energy; University of Lagos $5million for multimedia and cinematography; and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, $5million for Software engineering. These core scientific and technological infrastructure have been developed to make Nigeria competitive in the international community in a few years.
It is no longer news that the Jonathan administration has established 12 new Federal Universities. Nine are already in full swing with academic activities, while the last three will start academic activities next year. These new Federal Universities all had take-off grants for mass infrastructural development, unlike some other universities established during previous administrations that were not offered take-off grants and, therefore, had to start academic work on very shaky infrastructure.
Supervising Minister of Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike, in an inaugural meeting with heads of parastatals and directors of the Federal Ministry of Education, stressed that the tempo of infrastructural development will be enhanced in the coming weeks and months to ensure that Nigerians get a university system of their dreams.
The N100 billion Needs Implementation Funds to improve infrastructure in the state and federal universities is a case in point. Every single university in the country has been fully captured in the framework to drive the most massive infrastructural improvement of public universities ever witnessed in the nation's history. The advantage of this new initiative is that this process will be sustained over the next few years.
To begin with, the multiplier effect of the new programme in communities where these schools are located cannot be quantified. The commitment of the federal government to the nation's public universities is total and the source of this unwavering dedication to the growth of our universities is easy to decipher. The president himself was a university teacher and, therefore, understands the needs of these schools.
What must be understood by stakeholders not conversant with developments in our public universities is the fact that the rot in these institutions was unimaginable before the administration took over. This is the same scenario all through the education sector. The successes recorded by the administration in embarking on the first major wholesale revival of infrastructure of public universities will be better appreciated if viewed from these lenses.
What has been done in this piece is to point out with hard facts measures taken by the Jonathan administration to re-position the infrastructure base of our public universities. On ground, every Nigerian associated with these schools appreciates the efforts. It is ongoing and the commitment for sustenance is visible. It is not a case of vain promises, but projects executed and others being executed. Those who make unfounded declarations do so because they are unwilling to leave the comfort of their arm-chairs or prefer to find solace in the old-fashioned cliché: 'gorment no dey do anything'.
The Infrastructure base of our public universities has witnessed the most profound positive touch under President Jonathan. The facts speak for themselves. -
- Nwakaudu is the Special Assistant (Media) to the Supervising Minister of Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike