AMIDST the paradoxical contradictions of Nigeria having several universities, about 264, without concomitant impact on the nation’s development, there is no letting off the imperative to, once again, interrogate the reasons why Nigeria has not been able to translate her investment in tertiary education, particularly university education, to national development. This is more so as other nations are leveraging on science and technology in this postmodern dispensation to solve problems and make human existence better. Just as robotic alternatives are created to lessen human hazardous exposure and attain improved efficiency in service delivery, Artificial Intelligence is complementarily expanding existing procedures, and emplacing new possibilities, in all spheres of human creative endeavours.
AS if living solitarily in a queer world of her own, the Nigeria educational sector continues to run curriculum that have turned out to be redundant, going by fixated theoretical commitment that has not produced a practical engagement with, and solution to, national challenges. For the umpteenth time, we must note that no nation grows beyond its research output. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, universities are merely existing in names, without any meaningful contribution to solving the nation’s problems. There are universities of technology that could not boast of any technological breakthrough; there are a few universities of agriculture that are not evidently supporting improvement in the agric sector.
PRODUCTS from China and other developing countries easily find their ways into Nigeria, including basic household utensils and common objects like razor blade. This is as grains of different types like rice, wheat, and maize are still imported for human domestic consumption and livestock production. Nigeria does not only have an alarming statistics about poverty, but international organisations have listed her as one of the countries that are prone to hunger and starvation, even though the nation is blessed with expansive arable land for agrarian purposes. It is, indeed, a nation given to consumption than to production.
NIGERIA has not been able to fix electricity for more than a hundred years; roads are still in parlous state, with technical-inclined expatriates running companies hired to construct roads. The railway system was almost comatose. A huge chunk of foreign exchange earned by the country is spent importing used automobiles that have suffered degraded value. Insecurity is ravaging the country, without any catalytic interventions from appropriate departments in the universities, dealing with human beings and the society. The list of the realistic chaotic irony of education without development in Nigeria is almost endless.
WE strongly believe that the inability of Nigerian universities to live up to expectations, and deliver on their mandates, is caused by a number of things. Central to this is underfunding of efficient research, teaching and patenting. This is as the little funds channeled to these institutions are either misappropriated or misapplied. Cases abound of institutional heads that have had their days with anti-corruption agencies. The strangulating hold of bureaucracy has also hampered the institutionalisation of academic culture, as the appointment of heads for public universities was done, in some cases, to respond to federal character, compensatory consideration, political patronage or mere nepotism, at the expense of competence.
APART from the foregoing, The Hope opines that these universities are lacking in creativity and dynamism, as inhered in contemporary human existential challenges. The expected town/gown interface that should occasion the developmental synergy between the Ivory Tower and society has been bastardised and reduced to unnecessary political interference and nepotistic invasions for solidarity during appointments. More worrisome is the negative impact that the weak political leadership has on the universities. Visitors have over the years demonstrated lack of clear-cut vision and setting timebound goals geared towards solving specific societal problems for the universities. Rather than for the universities to make the society better, the latter has made the former worse, by contaminating it with its characteristic decadence.
WE acknowledge the simmering hope coming from some private universities that are determined to justify their callings. As a result, The Hope calls on public universities to take a cue from private universities that are doing well, within the same stultifying Nigeria environment that has purportedly limited public universities. Similarly, everything legally possible must be done to mitigate corruption in public universities. This is as we call on government to invest in funding research.
AS part of the commitments to decimate the albatross of poor funding, universities should think out of the box to look for investors and explore every other available funding parameter that universities overseas have used to break even. Philanthropic Nigerians should also help in funding teaching and research in the universities, with concerted efforts made to tinker with the curriculum, to respond to Nigeria development needs. In all, universities should be more creative and ambitious to attain their mandates, as anything short of this poses existential threats to them.