BY DAYO ADESULU
Professor Chiedu Felix Mafiana is the Executive Director, Quality Assurance, National Universities Commission NUC. This arm was created in 2005 following the observed need to restructure and strengthen the capacity of the Commission to monitor and ensure the quality of academic programmes in the Nigerian University System (NUS). The Professor of Parasitology, who is also the President and Chair of the Executive Board, African Quality Assurance Network (AfriQan), in this interview spoke on sundry issues bordering on the university system and the way forward. Excerpts:
How would you rank private and public universities in the country?
I won’t base my comment on who is doing well and otherwise, but generally from what we have observed from Quality Assurance, a few of the university would be struggling because of their age. We believe that the future of this nation lies with the private universities. When we say some of them are fledgling, it is because they will suffer from the pain of just beginning a programme, which forms the fulcrum of the issue.
In other words, a new university definitely cannot have the entire infrastructure and other resources that are required. The environment cannot mimic what you have in the older varsities, just in the same manner as we complained when no Nigerian university was in the global ranking.
There is no basis for ranking Harvard of 1463 with aNigerian university of year 2010. Private university system is a young system in Nigeria and we expect that they would do well if they follow our quality assurance. However, a good number of them are doing well to the extent that they have institutionalized the training needed of their staff, have adequate infrastructures and also have enough funds to carry it on.
Where a private university is grappling with the problem of funds, then we must be careful with the rate at which it’s expanding. When you hear people say Ghana’s education is better than Nigeria’s, it is not true as the only thing is that their system is stable. If you go in today, you already know when you would be leaving, which is not the same here.
Is there no hope for the public universities?
Well, it depends. Everywhere in the world, workers are entitled to withdraw services after giving adequate notice. I was a Secretary of ASUU, yet I believe that there are certain things that could be taken away from it.
They have reasons for the actions that they take but some of actions are also unreasonable. For instance, if Rivers State University has a problem with the VC, then the entire Nigerian universities goes on strike, that is indiscipline and irresponsibility.
Governors should take responsibility for what happens in their universities because they have a Council. This means that if there is an agreement by the National Union of ASUU, the states are under an obligation to also domicile that law within their territories or renegotiate it as the case may be.
When ASUU had an increase in salary, Delta State University was among the first that paid highest. When they were earning more, nobody went on strike, it depends on what value you present for your profession.
Is the poor quality of education being experienced a direct result of private varsities not focussing on PG programme and not feeding the younger varsities with lecturers?
On the issue of poor quality education, are you aware that a Biochemistry girl in Novena University, Delta State, went to South Africa and outshone some of them. That means there is something good about our education. Moreover, you will be amazed at how well some youth corps members who were offered scholarship by President Jonathan to study in the UK are doing academically.
On poor quality, many varsities are not following the rules. Say for instance, if government is not giving DELSU enough money, they must generate funds. Varsities think that they can only generate funds through part time programme, which is wrong. What is the university doing? There are three universities in this country, one in Lagos which has up to 18,000 students in part term, if you give them 20,000 in full time, by law, they are not suppose to have more than 6 to 7 thousand students per time.
You have three universities being run in another university. Who are the teachers, when they graduate, whose certificate do they bear? They bear that university’s certificate. They do not say it is part term, they give them the same certificate. We do not have the way of knowing who passed through the normal education. When they are so many in a class, some don’t come to class and some lecturers will be happy because some don’t come to class so that they too can find their ways.
So at that level, there is corruption and at the institution level, there is also corruption and the end result is the poor quality of education. But I can tell you that I will vouch for a student who went through the full time programme and had a 3rd Class than a student who went for part time and had a 2nd Class.
We are aware of what happened in one of the Eastern varsities that were mobilized for service where some of the students could not write their names. So what went wrong?
I do not say that Nigerian education structure is so terrible. But let me tell why we are noticing it now. We were not having many more people wanting to go to school, we are now having many more people coming out of school. It was not as if people were not having 1st Class in those days or pass degree. When they say our graduates are not employable, it is also not correct, because there is nobody who is where he is that was taught what he expected to do outside work, not even the journalists, you came out and learn the work.