ABOUT a year ago, Abayomi Adelaja Arigbabu, a professor of Mathematics who had also been Dean of Student Affairs, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, and Acting Vice-Chancellor at Tai Solarin University of Education, TASUED, in Ijebu-Ode, was appointed Vice-Chancellor of the institution. Last Tuesday March 19 marked Arigbabu’s one year in office. Vanguard had a conversation with him on what his experience had been, running a university that is the first of its kind in the country. Speaking with Adekunle Adekoya, Deputy Editor, he disclosed that his ambition is to take TASUED to the zenith and make it a world-class university. Excerpts:
What has your experience been like?
It’s been very stimulating, though challenging but we thank God for the little we’ve been able to do within the spate of one year. The university is young; just 14 years old now and it is a specialized university and because of that it is not like any other University in Nigeria. It is the first of its type, as a result of which there are a lot
We try as much as possible not to lose our focus; we don’t struggle to do what conventional universities do. When it comes to pedagogy and andragogy we are the centre of excellence, and so, being the vice-chancellor of such a university brings along its own challenges. NUC has a lot of confidence in us; this is a university where students graduate in record time, a feat that has become scarce in the country today. Since inception of this university no student has spent more than four years and that is to be glory of God and also as a result of resilience of our staff, both teaching and non-teaching.
What has been the take off areas that signpost the difference before, and since you’ve taken over as V-C?
Well, when I was DVC, obviously as the deputy, yours is to complement, advise but that does not mean that the ideas you bring on board would not see the light of the day. Fortunately for me though, the former V-C was a team player who always consulted and took opinion from the management team. That made it easy for me when I became the acting VC because it was like just continuing what we had started and because I’ve always been around, I’ve been able to study the institution right from inception and I know areas where we needed to intervene.
I have seen a lot and I realized what I would call outstanding and the need for us to actually brace up quickly to achieve some of these set goals, or what I called outstanding, so it was easy for me when I became acting VC to continue. So, that road map was there.
What is your agenda, or road-map?
When we came on board, we looked at the system, and saw that there is need for us to actually position ourselves as one of the best universities, not just in Nigeria but as one of the best universities in the world. If our aim is to become one of the best in the world then we have to actually do what most world class universities are doing, in all ramifications. There are things that people take for granted. Power, for instance, is taken for granted in other climes. I remember my days at the University of Lagos. When I was resuming, I took matches and candles along to the hostel. In fact, I did not bring it out from my bag because I didn’t use it at all for one year. This was because any time light went off, the generators roared into life and gave us power before I got to where I kept my matches and candles! It had always been on my mind that when I have the opportunity to come into the saddle I would try and solve the problem of power and once you solve power problem your know the problem of water is solved; the campus would be clean and students would be more comfortable, staff would be more comfortable. What we have done about power is to overhaul our 800KVA generator which had broken down, and along with another 500KVA generator, we have increased the number of hours that various sections of the university community would have power. We also use solar power for the ICT unit and the library, so that any time power went off, the inverters took over. We also commissioned street lights to make life more comfortable on campus, especially in the evening and at night. We actually did what I call Light Up TASUED. We did it up to even the student hostels so that all parts of the campus are covered.
I thought TASUED is a non-residential university?
Yes. Sometime in the life of the university, one of the banks, the now rested Intercontinental Bank built one hostel. The hostel could house just 300 students; that was how that came in.
When a child matriculates, parents begin looking forward to graduation. You said your students normally don’t spend more than the required no of years. How have you been able to do that?
From beginning of the session, we ensure that we plan our calendar very well and ensure that academic staff focus on the curriculum and see to it that they attend classes regularly. As much as possible, as an administrator, we try to anticipate issues that would naturally bring about crises within the system. There are a number of things that would naturally have led to crises but we usually look at these things in the overall interest of the system, such that when there are crises, what is always uppermost on the mind of management is also uppermost on the mind of staff.
So as we struggle over issues and so on, both sides still at the end of the day try to ensure that it doesn’t affect smooth running of the university. It is only when we have national strikes, which we don’t have control over that things may snowball, and in most cases our local issues are always resolved in a family way most of the time. It even when we return from national strike that kudos must be given to the teaching staff. You see academic staff organizing extra hours to make sure they cover the syllabus, you see administrative staff also giving extra hours to support whatever we do; the calendar is always uppermost on our minds. We do things here in a way that we don’t lower standards because there are no of weeks specified for each semester and we don’t want to go below that.
Let’s talk about funding and your projects, or agenda.
We were able to get N120m from TETFUND for what I call smart classroom. Those smart classroom would probably be the first that would be in any Nigerian university that I know of right now. We at the stage of release of fund by TETFUND; it has been advertised, contractors have bidded and we are awaiting what you call approval-in-principle. These are technology-driven classrooms, so we have smart classroom/micro teaching laboratories. It is part of my agenda that I would want to have smart classrooms and I would convert some classes that are existing to smart classrooms.
The smart classrooms would cut across all the faculties you have?
That is exactly what I said when I talk about conversion. There is one that is only going to be built as smart classroom from foundation and central and for all colleges in the university but I would ensure that in all the colleges we can convert at least one classroom to a smart classroom.
What would be the features to expect in a smart classroom?
A smart classroom is a fully technology-driven classroom, and there are three types of it. There is the one that is fully technology driven; you have what we call smart boards. Apart from these smart boards, it also comes with overhead projectors, multimedia projectors and then you also have some other gadgets that would aid teaching in that classroom. Of course the students have tables and chairs, and can actually receive materials both on their own systems and also they can see it on the screen. There are also document cameras that can actually aid teaching and learning. Then there are some of them in another category that would be the type where you have smart carts. Carts is like what you push around; similar to what people call “omolanke” in these parts. You have all the technology gadgets in the carts so when you get to that classroom you start picking what you need. And there are some medium ones….. they are in between the smart cart and the fully technology driven classroom.
We have also done N300m teaching equipment supply with a number of our departments. When I came in and I went round, I told each department to come up with their list of needs and then approached TETFUND. We were very lucky and we got that intervention worth N300m and the equipment have been supplied.
These smart classrooms will need internet connection. Do you have your own ISP (internet service provider) or you’re doing pay-as-you-go?
For now, we are on the network of one of the major providers. It is to take care of what we do presently. With that one, I have it extended to the Vice Chancellor’s lodge which is not within Ijagun, it is actually in Ijebu Ode. From there I can actually use it and the principal officers too.