COMMUNITY IMPACT OF AFE BABALOLA: UNIVERSITY AS AGENT OF CHANGE
A HOW SOCIAL AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT PROBLEMS BEGAN IN NIGERIA
Nigeria is facing developmental crises. The country is full of contradictions of immense wealth and extreme poverty; this country is rich but the vast majority is indeed poor.
Since the country attained political independence, its history has been one of hope and frustration. Hope, because it is expected to use its abundant oil resources to achieve rapid socio-economic development and frustration because this expectation is not fulfilled.
The social and other human developmental problems in the country arose mainly because of indiscipline, mismanagement of resources, corruption and ineptitude. The politicians and business men make their money in dubious ways and lodge them overseas without a give-back to the community. The universities established by the colonial government which had performed very well collapsed in the 80s due to under-funding. Every year over 500,000 students who qualify for admission have no space in universities. The buildings and infrastructure are generally obsolete.
Many University teachers left the system for other countries for greener pastures or for a more lucrative employment. The quality of education in the public universities had declined so much so that multi-national corporations prefer to employ graduates trained overseas. Regrettably, Nigeria which once ranked among the top 20 developing countries in the world is now in 156th position in the latest United Nations Human Development Index Report, 2011.
The Founder of Afe Babalola University, Aare Afe Babalola noted the precarious situation and decided to do something as part of his social responsibility to the community. He had observed at first hand the problems troubling university education system when he was the Pro-Chancellor of University of Lagos, one of the earliest Universities founded by the Federal Government in 1962 where he won the award as the best Pro-Chancellor twice in 2005 and 2008.
It is an irony that the Founder himself is a self-made man. Though he could not afford enrolment into a college after primary school education, he engaged in rigorous private studies and correspondence and obtained two Bachelor Degrees in Economics and Law with honours from the University of London as well as other degrees which have propelled him to professional excellence and scholarship.
His initial approach to social and human developmental reform in Nigeria was the several donations of 22 state of the art buildings to the various universities, communities and hospitals. For example he donated the Nuclear Medicine Building in the University College Hospital, Ibadan which effort has saved the lives of millions of people across the country. There is no single individual who has made such spirited effort in any part of the country.
B AFE BABALOLA UNIVERSITY’S APPROACH TO SOCIETAL PROBLEMS
As part of his social responsibility, the establishment of Afe Babalola University is a deliberate effort to change the system. The University was established as a non-profit organization, the first in the country. It is an attempt to provide qualitative and functional education and produce graduates that will change the world.
This approach is conceived by the founder as instant solution to the societal problems of Nigeria through the philosophy of the University, the major plank of which is to produce highly skilled and socially relevant graduates capable of applying scientific knowledge for the resolution of immediate community and social problems affecting the country.
It is the only University so far in Nigeria, which prior to the issuance of provisional license by the Federal Government of Nigeria moved to its permanent site whereas most of the public universities are housed in hired private buildings and abandoned secondary schools.
C. COMMENDATIONS ON ACHIEVEMENTS
The achievements of the founder has been recognized and commended by the National University Commission (NUC), the body responsible for overseeing university and other stakeholders in the following words:
“I can only say that it is a miracle. This is one of the best thing to have happened to university education in this part of the world.
They have set a benchmark for other universities on the e-learning facility, which link the university’s classrooms with other universities across the globe for transfer of knowledge.
The only challenge is that they have raised the bar for others seeking to establish private universities.”
The former President of Nigeria, Chief OlusegunObasanjo said:
“Happy to be here to be able to see at first hand a unique sample of private university, with finesse, purpose, commitment and self-sacrifice by the proprietor. More like this will change the panorama of tertiary institution and education in Nigeria. It is a model to emulate”
Former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, Ph.D said:
“The setting of the university is superlative and impressive with nothing of its kind he has seen so far in the country or anywhere”
D. UNIQUE CURRICULUM
The curriculum of the University has been tailored towards producing graduates that will be self-sufficient, self-employed and employers of labor, thus reducing unemployment and crime in the society and uplifting the status of living.
Courses in entrepreneurship, food security, foreign language acquisition among which are French, Spanish and Chinese languages is deliberately introduced to all students to prepare them for the new world of employment.
The Center for Creative and Life Long Education also provides vocational training for the youths.
E TANGIBLE BENEFITS
One of the immediate benefits of the project is the provision of employment for the youths. Over 5000 youths were gainfully employed during the construction work of the first phase of the University. Many more will be employed during the second phase. The staff strength of the University is currently put at 1200 excluding thousands of casual workers. The University has since inception embarked on extensive agricultural and re-fforestationprogrammes which will provide direct employment for well over 2000 people. The multiplier effects of employments generation on the project is enormous.
The giant steps taken by the University in transforming Nigeria was appreciated by the Federal Government of Nigeria when the Federal Minister of Agriculture visited the university and remarked:
“I am impressed by the level of commitment and dedication in this institution. The authorities have all reason to be proud about the uniqueness of the University. This must be kept higher.
The Federal Government would not hesitate to partner with any private institution that is making efforts to improve food security. The Hon. Minister added that the Federal Government would sign a memo of understanding with ABUAD on the need to promote crop and annual production in the country which ABUAD has favourably embarked upon.
We know that improving agriculture means improving the lives of the majority of Nigerians living in the urban and rural areas, and even the consumers of Nigerian agricultural products. Hence, greater priority will be given to agricultural development and we shall give supportive policies in other sectors having bearing with the sector,” he said.
The ICPC executives, the body responsible for investigating corruption in the country visited the institution. Its then Chairman, Hon. Justice YinkaAyoola, retired Justice of the Supreme Court had this to say:
“The infrastructure, teaching materials provided and philosophy of education practiced in ABUAD show the way to qualitative and transformatory education that Nigeria needs. There is no doubt that the shaping of the direction of education in Nigeria has started. ABUAD is and will remain the leader in this direction.”
ABUAD is established to reform education in Nigeria. I congratulate the students as the agent of that reformation. I urge you to see yourself as an agent of the change.”
F. AWARD FOR SUSTAINABLE FOREST MANAGEMENT THROUGH PRIVATE AFFORESTATION BY FOREST ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA
The founder’s afforestation private initiation has been nationally acclaimed. Presently, the founder has 500,000 (half million) trees which are 4 to 10 years old and thousands of palm trees and oranges. The university has planted 12,500 mango trees and 7,500 plantain. 250,000 malina and 250,000 teak seedlings are being raised to be planted next rain season while preparation is being made for 500,000 mango trees to be planted next rain season.
On the 6th of December, 2011 at 10:00am, the Forestry Association of Nigeria would decorate the founder with an award for his contribution to sustainable forest management through private afforestation. Part of the letter reads:
“We write on behalf of the Forestry Association of Nigeria (FAN) to convey its decision to honour you for your contribution to Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) through private afforestation.
Over the years, the Association has watched with keen interest your sustained commitment to tree planting. In a unique way, you have contributed to increasing the carbon sink, and indeed mitigating the adverse effects of Climate Change.
The Forestry Association of Nigeria has since its establishment in 1970 been at the vanguard of sustaining our fragile environment through SFM and is thus always delighted to have partners like you in the global quest for a better environment”.
Copy of the letter is attached and marked Annexure SS.
G INTANGIBLE BENEFITS
The project has expectedly contributed to the development of human capital through training. The University is presently the highest private employer of labour in Ekiti State. Employment has provided means of survival and improved standard of living for the beneficiaries. A good number of the workers have been able to build houses for their families and send their children who otherwise would have remained at home to school.
The agricultural, food security and entrepreneurship programmes such as the bakery and bottled water production have attracted a large number of market women who often come to the University to buy in bulk and resell to the public. The modern printing press is overcrowded with customers. The food security programmes have positively affected the community who come to the university for agricultural produce ranging from maize to yam, plantain and vegetables on daily basis. All these have contributed immensely to the improvement in quality of life of people in the immediate environment.
H. URGENT NEED FOR HUMANITARIAN FUNDING
In order to make this development-oriented university philosophy a sustainable enterprise, there is need for financial and technical support beyond the personal resources of the university founder.
Appreciating the giant steps taken so far by the university, the Central Bank of Nigeria has in a letter dated September 14, 2010 permitted and authorized humanitarian funding for Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti. Copy of the letter is attached marked Annexure OO.
AARE AFE BABALOLA, OFR, CON, SAN, LL.D, B.Sc, FNIALS, FCI.Arb, FFPA
AFE BABALOLA UNIVERSITY, ADO-EKITI (ABUAD)