By Emmanuel Edukugho
Bad governance over several years has done so much damage to education that the country is no longer reckoned with worldwide in knowledge acquisition, as was in the past.
This is the contention of Professor Olugbemiro Jegede, Secretary General/CEO Association of African Universities (AAU), Accra, Ghana, who was the immediate past vice-Chancellor, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). He pointed to the country’s pride several decades ago when even our NCE graduates got admitted to pursue postgraduate programmes abroad.
“Our educational system is driving in reverse full throttle without the use of the back or side mirrors. In the same vein, our secondary school graduates can be best described as half-baked illiterates who constitute a danger to the society and to themselves.”
He said that graduates of our universities hardly come out with any employable skills, they find communicating in English an uphill task and those with master degrees cannot define what research is or means to a nation, let alone to themselves.
Delivering a keynote address last weekend at the 6th Convocation Ceremony of Covenant University, Canaanland, Ota, titled “Go Forth and Soar,” Jegede stated that Nigeria has regressed into a nation where mediocrity is the rule and being allowed to lead where there are intelligent people.
“I am told that faced with lack of gainful employment and other avenues to get education, our youth have taken to the three most popular careers they have created for themselves.
Ask any child what they wish to become in the future, he says footballer, comedian or a local government chairman – the easiest way out with illiteracy and make easy money in Nigeria.”
He affirmed that education is the best legacy a nation can bequeath its younger generations.
“Yet, we seem to playing politics with establishing universities and no concerted effort is made to completely redraft from scratch our national policy on education, as the one we are currently panel-beating has outlived its usefulness.
It is like using 19th century tools to solve 21st century issues and concerns in nation building.”
Jegede went on: “To add insults to injury, the nation has driven our youth into the hands of militancy and Boko Haramism – two perfect examples of a rudderless nation ridden with bad governance, lack of incisive accountability and breeding illiteracy and lawlessness faster than the rate maggots reproduce.”
According to this illustrious scholar, the emerging global landscape being drawn by recent developments, has shown very clearly that knowledge capability and capacity, rather than natural resources, is the greatest determinant of a country’s entry into, and effective participation in global competitiveness.
“It goes without saying, therefore, that higher education contributes significantly to the political, scientific, technological, economic, social and human development of any country.”
Asserting this is even more so for the developing countries of Africa, a continent of over 900 million people characterised by the poorest countries in the world, with the world’s highest illiteracy rates, lowest participating rates in higher education, huge capacity development needs, with 10 million seeking employment annually with the youth constituting 60% of the unemployed, he added further, a massive demand for tertiary education.
“All these have contributed to altering the balance of power between the state and the university system in many ways,.s In the face of continuing dwindling government provisions of fund to universities and higher education system as a whole, a number of changes are taking place.”
He noted that Africa has over 600 universities in which the percentage of private universities is on the sharp increase especially in the past couple of years; the indication is that in five years Africa could have more private universities than those established by governments.
“Faced with the huge unmet demand in higher education, governments’ inability to property fund higher education amidst the opening up of the terrain of higher education, Africa is faced with students seeking admissions in institutions with varying and many with questionable quality profile.”
The AAU scribe said stakeholders including businesses swill increasingly demand for better and relevant curricula, state-of-the-art infrastructure and graduates better prepared for the job markets.
“As African universities struggle to become notable players in the global arena, they grapple with a number of salient issues which include the need to rethink what higher education means to Africa in the 21st century, address issues of balance between enrolment and quality of education, consider the shift from and tension between existing model of fixed campus environment and emerging concept of Open Distance Learning (ODC), vigorously embark upon curriculum change and review key skills to be acquired in undergraduate studies properly situate postgraduate and research studies and reassess the place of private universities and comparability.”
He called upon all government of Africa to give serious thought to the place of private universities as it is becoming increasingly evident that they will be a force to reckon with in tackling the issue of access to higher education on the continent.
Jegede charged the new graduates to have a daily walk with God to skilfully meander through the obstacles and challenges of life. “As a matter of fact, this is your most guaranteed insurance against failure or disenchantment with the world.”
The graduates among them 89 in first class, were told to belong to God and not the world. “And you will sprout fresh feathers and soar almost effortlessly like an eagle. go forth therefore, into this sinful and fallen world and soar beyond your imagination. The Lord is your strength.”