Philanthropy and sustainable development (4)

Pathways to sustainable education in Nigeria (7)

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Reasons for the high prevalence of indiscipline

MANY  reasons have been adduced for the high prevalence of indiscipline in Nigerian Schools. What I have discovered is that many Parents have abandoned the moral development of their children to the schools. Many parents are too busy attending to economic matters to attend to issues bothering on the welfare and development of their children. They believe that their responsibility starts and ends with the payment of tuition and the provision of such amenities like uniforms and books. Many children therefore grow up without receiving any form of moral education from their parents who as decreed by God are their first contacts with humanity. These children grow up and consider their parents to be virtual strangers. Such circumstances make them susceptible to peer pressure. This way, they pick up anti-social habits. By the time the parents realise their error, it is often too late.

 

Vice chancellor in public and private universities

There is a world of difference in the process of establishment, running and administrative set up of public and private universities. For one, the Visitor for a public university is the Governor in the case of a State University and the President of the Federal Republic in the case of a federal university. However, the Visitor of a private university is its Founder who may be a private individual or the head of an organization that established the University. From my personal experience, I know that this difference plays a very crucial role in the manner in which university staff, students and management approach different aspects of university existence.

A public university in Nigeria is normally regarded more or less like any other government establishment. There is therefore a tendency for staff of public universities including its Vice Chancellors to view themselves as mere public servants who have little or no stake in the success of the university. The situation is not helped by the fact that the Visitor of the public university is a public functionary that is a Governor or the President as the case may be. Such a person due to the demand of office finds it difficult to perform his duties as Visitor to all universities of which he is Visitor. In several instances, he ends up appointing delegates to perform his visitation duties.

However, a private university usually has an active and known owner who has a purpose, mission and goal.  He takes personal and passionate charge.  He is passionately interested in the success of his enterprise. In private universities, such virtues like discipline, punctuality, regular attendance and high standards of productivity form the yardstick for promotions, increments as against the trend in the public sector where rank, cadre, number of years in service and mere paper qualifications count the most. As a result, Vice Chancellor will also be expected to show a corresponding measure of zeal for the success of the university. After all, the stakes are usually very high for the private institutions because their level of patronage is a direct function of the performance they put up. This is why in the United States of America today, most of the leading universities are those privately owned and run, and they feature prominently in the first 200 best universities in the world.

The private universities are generally not vulnerable to the many common ills of public universities. There is no place for strike actions in private institutions. Students and staff are strictly bound by the undertakings they would have made at the inception of their engagements. The proprietors, not bound by any stereotype grading of remuneration are also afforded wide latitudes to appoint or employ their lecturers and pay salaries commensurate with their ascertained capacities and productivity. In the absence of strikes, there would hardly be any interruption of academic calendars. So, if the duration of programmes as well as their standards or quality are predictable, why then would any student who has a modicum of regard for time and standard look elsewhere other than private university.

 

Other factors necessary for the sustainability of education in Nigeria

Having addressed matters or areas which should be of interest to any Vice Chancellor in ensuring the growth of his university and therefore the sustainability of education in Nigeria, it is imperative to also highlight some other factors which deserve some measure of focus.

 

National University Commission (NUC)

The National University Commission (NUC) is statutorily empowered to regulate tertiary education in Nigeria. To a very large extent, the Commission has over the years discharged its duties creditably. However, there is a need for an amendment of the NUC Act which came into existence as far back as 1974 in order to further empower the Commission particularly with regards to the establishment of new universities by State and Federal Governments.

 

Power of the NUC in relation to public, state, and private universities

Education falls into the concurrent legislative list contained in Part II of the 2ndSchedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.Paragraphs 27, 28, 29 and 30 of the said Schedule provides as follows: “27.  The National Assembly shall have power to make laws for the Federation or any pant thereof with respect to university education, technological education or such professional education as may from time to time be designated by the National Assembly. 28. The power conferred on the National Assembly under section 27 of this item shall include power to establish an institution for the purposes of university, post-primary, technological or professional education. 29.          Subject as herein provided, a House of Assembly shall have power to make laws for the State with respect to the establishment of an institution for purposes of university, technological or professional education. 30. Nothing in the foregoing paragraphs of this item shall be construed so as to limit the powers of a House of Assembly to make laws for the State with respect to technical, vocational, post primary, primary or other forms of education, including the establishment of institutions for the pursuit of such education.”

Pursuant to the above, both the Federal and State Government have legislative competence over the issue of universities and can both establish Federal and State Universities respectively. At the Federal level, the National Universities Commission’s Act, Cap N81 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 is one of the statutes made pursuant to the legislative powers of the Federal Government under paragraph 27 above. What is however clear from a combined reading of the above stated provisions is that NUC which is itself a creation of the Federal Government has no power to stop a State Government from establishing a university. Indeed, by virtue of Section 4 of the NUC Act, the role of the Commission is merely to advise the President and the Governors on creation of new Universities. The power of the States to create Universities as they deem fit remains unaffected and extant. The full effect of the powers of the NUC in relation to the establishment and location of a University are only felt in the case of private Universities

As a result therefore, most State Governments establish Universities with little or no regard for the provision of adequate infrastructure and facilities. Universities are established by the States and sited, based on political rather than educational and logistical considerations in often obscure and undeveloped locations with little or no facility to accommodate the take-off of the Universities. In order to make themselves popular in their constituencies, some establish Universities and multiple campuses in their hamlets or villages which lack infrastructure like electricity, water and accommodation. Some use abandoned modern school buildings as Universities.

The Nation newspaper edition of Thursday April 29, 2010 in its column on education reported the difficulties encountered by students of one of the universities established by one of the South-West states. It was reported that some students of the institution in order to beat the accommodation problem had taken up residence in houses originally earmarked by the indigenes of the town to keep their livestock including goats. A picture of one of the ramshackle mud buildings aptly named “Rugged Villa” by the students is contained at page 25 of the Newspaper. The laboratories and other teaching facilities in some of the Universities are below the standard expected in secondary schools. There was the case of a graduate in engineering who never saw an Engineering laboratory throughout his university days.

Recently, the authorities of a state University disengaged over 700 academic and non-academic staff who were found amongst other reasons, to have gained employment into university with questionable credentials. Yet, these same persons prior to the discovery of the anomaly had probably spent years in the University teaching students, some of whom are today probably also teachers in one institution of learning or another. As far as some States are concerned, there is no room for the recommendation of UNESCO that states should allocate 26 percent of the revenue on education. Some states allocate less than one percent of their budget to education. In a particular case, a state government allocated only N50million to its university for capital project over the period of several years. Clearly, the time has come to revisit the law setting up NUC.

To further assist the Commission, Vice Chancellors must be innovative and resourceful in maintaining the NUC minimum standards. Vice Chancellors must as a matter of fact aim to surpass the minimum standard. I also suggest that universities be ranked annually so that the management of each university will be able to gauge how effectively it has been able to comply with NUC regulations on standards. (To be continued….)

AARE AFE BABALOLA, OFR, CON, SAN, LL.D (Lond.)

 


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