IT is sheer irresponsibility and gross recklessness to seek to play politics with the lives of our youth and children, for they are the hope and the future of our community. They constitute the pivot for any society willing and aspiring to develop.
It was revealed recently that the Federal Government has consistently been sending beneficiaries of federal scholarships to study in Cuba, China, Japan, Morocco, Turkey, Ukraine, Serbia, Romania, Russia and Algeria, among other places.
It is then a surprise when the Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission, Professor Julius Amioba Okojie, attacked the Osun State Government for sending some stranded medical students of the state university, UNIOSUN, to Ukraine to complete their studies. Okojie went as far as referring to the host university in Ukraine as substandard.
The Government of the State of Osun recently concluded arrangements for 98 medical students of UNIOSUN, Osogbo, who were long overdue for their clinical course to complete their study abroad on the bill of the state government. This was due to the non-availability of a teaching hospital for the university, contrary to the insinuation by apologists of the Peoples Democratic Party that Osun State University Teaching Hospital was cancelled. In fact, UNIOSUN had no teaching hospital.
The state government had proposed to upgrade the State Hospital at Asubiaro, Osogbo, to a teaching hospital. If well over N1.5 billion was spent to ensure the accreditation of LAUTECH Teaching Hospital in 2000/2001, the Osun State Government would have had to spend no less than N5 billion now to upgrade the State Hospital to a functional and standard teaching hospital for clinical purposes to get the required accreditation. Personnel will no doubt pose a great challenge as well. It took the pioneer medical students of LAUTECH 10 years to graduate owning to accreditation challenges.
It is therefore laughable for the PDP apologists to think that N850 million will put up a teaching hospital and secure accreditation. It is so sad that the medical students of UNIOSUN were stagnated for about two years as a result of non-availability of a teaching hospital for the university. All efforts made to get them admitted to tertiary institutions like Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, Ile-Ife; University of Ibadan, UI; University of Lagos, UNILAG; Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, LAUTECH, for their clinical courses failed.
However, to save the situation of the medical students, the Rauf Aregbesola administration in Osun State settled for the overseas option. This was the most reasonable option available. The noble-minded progressive government decided to place all those due for clinical courses, that is, all 300 to 500 level medical students, on scholarship to complete their medical study in the prestigious V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, Ukraine. This decision was reported many times in both the electronic and print media. Everyone was told that the scholarship will cost the state government N146 million and not N600 million as being falsely and viciously propagated by PDP.
The state government was very transparent about this matter. A total of $7,000 is to be expended on each of the concerned students. This would cover tuition fees, return air tickets and other logistics. The parents of the students would only take care of their wards’ upkeep while undergoing the courses. Karazin Kharkiv National University School of Medicine at the moment has about 200 students on English Language training.
The NUC Executive Secretary, Professor Okojie, misfired by referring to V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University as a substandard university. For a man who is in charge of granting licenses regularly to many substandard universities, this is a very interesting charge. If only it were true. It is worth noting that the university in question is one of the oldest and most famous universities in the entire Central and Eastern Europe. It was founded in November 1804 and today remains one of the largest research centres in Ukraine. It covers virtually all spheres of modern fundamental research and incorporates the Research Institutes of Chemistry, Biology, and Astronomy, the Institute of Physics and Engineering, and the Institute of High Technologies.
It is the only university in Ukraine that has trained and employed three Nobel laureates. How many of the universities that Okojie superintends have produced Nobel laureates? The university has produced Nobel laureates in medical biology, economics and physics. No single African country has produced a Nobel laureate in biology, economics or physics. Nigeria, with 160 million population, has only produced one Nobel laureate in Literature.
Okojie’s “substandard” university has graduated over 130, 000 students and has several times been named the best university among the over 800 degree-awarding institutions in Ukraine. The latest webometic university ranking placed Karazin Kharkiv National University among the best 1, 500 universities in the world. Not one of the universities under Okojie’s supervision is on the list of the best 2, 000 universities in the world. The University of Benin that led other Nigerian universities was ranked 2,485th in the world. Yet, Okojie says that Nigerian universities are better than the universities in Ukraine.
It is unfortunate that Okojie, a professor of forestry, who has been at the helm of affairs at the Nigerian universities apex body, the NUC, for seven years has not achieved the feat of moving any Nigerian university into the list of the best 2000 in the world. Yet, he was comfortable to make such derogatory remarks about the effort of the Government of Osun to secure the future of these innocent young ones, a gesture that has attracted the commendations and excitement of the residents of the State of Osun, particularly the parents of the affected students.
The President of the UNIOSUN Medical Students, Samuel Oluwatimileyin Owoeye, granted an interview in the Tribune recently expressing profound gratitude to the state government for the kind gesture. Samuel in his word said: “We also thank Governor Rauf Aregbesola for making sure that our future is still secured and our dream of becoming trained medical doctors is realistic. None of us, (the 98 medical students) will ever forget Governor Aregbesola”.
Professor Okojie should not put politics above the interest of the nation and the future of our children. We should commend Aregbesola for not allowing sentiments to come to play in this great gesture by the state. A unique factor of the scholarship for these medical students was that it was not restricted to indigenes of Osun alone.
The beneficiaries included students from other states of the federation, including Anambra, Oyo, Kogi, Edo, Lagos, Ogun, Ekiti and Ondo states.
Mr .OLUREMi OMOWAIYE, an IT consultant, wrote from Osogbo, Osun State.