It will be an unnecessary gamble. The universities should be adequately funded
At a recent retreat organised by the National Universities Commission (NUC) for the governing councils of federal universities, the Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwukah expressed concern over reports that many graduates being turned out by Nigerian universities were not employable. And to address that challenge, he proposed the addition of an extra year for skill acquisition for graduates before their National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). But this is a proposal that makes little sense and should be discarded.
In the reasoning of Anwukah, a former university vice-chancellor, the additional year would be similar to the one-year law training programme embarked upon by law students as well as the housemanship that medical students undergo. But this idea was ill-conceived because keeping the students on campus for longer periods is not a guarantee for improved knowledge, given the operating environment. So, the challenge of the moment is not about the number of years spent in school but the quality of the education being acquired.
Indeed, there are several pertinent questions arising from this proposal but two will suffice. First, under what atmosphere would the students be trained for the extra year? Second, will the trainers be brought from abroad or would they be the same lecturers who had taught them for four or five years in the first instance? Whichever way one looks at it, the minister's proposal amounts to attempting to cure ringworm while overlooking leprosy. Proposing an extra year for students without any plan to overhaul the entire educational system will amount to nothing but another organised waste of time.
Instead of embarking on such misadventure, the federal government should trace the root of Nigeria's fallen standard of education and make decisive steps to revamp it. As long as the government fails to find a solution to the funding problem, create a conducive environment for learning, enhance the quality of students being admitted while engaging lecturers of high academic standards, the quality of education in Nigeria will continue to be hampered. Besides, as long as strict academic environment with sound moral values is not entrenched in the tertiary institutions, they will continue to churn out unemployable graduates.
In the days lecturers lived up to their names and calling, it was unimaginable for students to dare accost them to ask for an upward review of their marks after failing a course. But the reverse is the case nowadays as poor marks (genuine or contrived) have become effective tools in the hands of unscrupulous lecturers to negotiate for sex and money. Today, such scandals are prevalent in virtually every institution of higher learning in the country. The resultant effect is the production of a vast battalion of unemployable graduates that Onwuka now wants to remain on campus.
However, we must also note that the standards of education in the private universities are relatively better and so is the quality of their graduates. Many of these universities not only retain diligent lecturers, they help their students acquire the requisite skills that would be useful in the job market after graduation. The standards of discipline both for students and the lecturers are also far higher than what obtain in the public universities.
Meanwhile, the trouble with tertiary education begins with the admission of unqualified students who have connections in the institutions at the expense of qualified ones who know no one in the school hierarchy to push his/her admission through. This is a departure from the norm when admissions into schools were strictly based on merit. So, if indeed the federal government is concerned about the fallen standard of education in Nigeria and is committed to restoring its lost glory, it must sit down and explore various factors leading to its fall and decisively address them.