PREMATURE DISSOLUTION OF GOVERNING COUNCILS
“Whilst some Nigerians continue to complain that the standard of education in the country has fallen, I prefer to say that what we have is a problem of low quality… The guidelines laid down by the NUC acting pursuant to this provision and which are applicable to all Nigerian Universities are highly commendable and measure adequately with standards set by similar bodies in other countries”.
On the 16th of July 2015, the Federal Government announced the decision of the President Muhammadu Buhari to dissolve the Governing Boards of federal parastatals, agencies and institutions. By this announcement which was itself reminiscent of a similar announcement made by the administration of late President Yar’Adua, the Governing Councils of all Universities were dissolved. This action, as I will discuss is but one of several taken by successive governments over the years which have contributed to the decline in the educational fortunes of the country. What we have witnessed over the years is a failure of government to link stable university administration to stability in the educational sector. I intend in the coming weeks to discuss this development and others, such as poor funding which continue to plague education in Nigeria.
IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION
It is generally accepted that education serves as a means through which the knowledge, learning and skills of a society or group of people is passed from generation to generation. Without a doubt, our existence and survival on the face of the planet as a specie has been helped in no small measure by the discoveries, knowledge and learning that have been acquired in the sciences, the arts and other aspects of human learning. Innumerable scientific discoveries have enabled man to survive plagues and diseases, develop from travel on horseback to supersonic jets and even conquer space. Our learning has enabled man live in areas of the planet which would otherwise have been inhabitable.
ADVENT OF FORMAL EDUCATION IN NIGERIA
Modern or Western education was first introduced into Nigeria in the middle of the 19th century mainly by the missionaries who established elementary schools and later secondary schools. They were of very high standard comparable to what was obtainable anywhere in the world. Many of these schools were established in major towns such as Abeokuta, Ibadan, Lagos etc. By a dint of hard-work, a few of those who went to the missionary schools and who had sufficient money or were able to secure scholarships, went overseas to complete their education by attending tertiary schools especially in the United Kingdom and Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone. At this point in time, the colonial authorities left the issue of schools to the missionaries.
In 1948, the University College, Ibadan, then a college of the University of London, was established in Nigeria as the first university in Nigeria.
The University evolved out of the desire of the British colonial government to establish universities/ university colleges in the commonwealth, especially in West Africa during the period immediately following the Second World War. The colonial administration had set up in 1943 the Asquith and Elliot Commissions which submitted their reports in 1943. The Elliot Commission unanimously recommended the establishment of the University College in Ibadan while the Asquith Commission suggested in its report the fundamental principles that would guide the development of institutions of higher learning similar to the University College eventually established at Ibadan. The report also recommended a residential university and emphasized high standard in academic work, admission, staffing and employment.
Being an affiliate of the University of London, the University College, Ibadan was patterned after the parent university. Even when it became an independent university, the structure was retained. It was this same structure that was adopted by other universities in Nigeria established subsequently.
QUALITY AND STANDARD OF EDUCATION
Whilst some Nigerians continue to complain that the standard of education in the country has fallen, I prefer to say that what we have is a problem of low quality. In Nigeria the National Universities Commission is empowered by Section 10 of the Education (National Minimum Standards and Establishment of Institutions) Act to lay down the minimum requirements necessary for the establishment of Universities including academic programs to be run by them. The guidelines laid down by the NUC acting pursuant to this provision and which are applicable to all Nigerian Universities are highly commendable and measure adequately with standards set by similar bodies in other countries. Yet it cannot be denied that some Nigerian Universities rank above their contemporaries despite the fact, as stated earlier that the same standard requirements as set by the NUC are applicable to them. So the problem is not one of poor standards. It is one of quality.
Quality is easier to discern no matter the background from which it is examined. Qualitative education is easy to measure. Even where a laboratory is equipped with the standard equipment, the quality of tutelage may still be poor.
In times past our educational system was the envy of many, here in Nigeria and elsewhere. In an article headed – EDUCATION IN NIGERIA: SAME PUTREFYING STORY OF ROT’ written by Sulaimon Olanrewaju and Kunle Awosiyan and published in The Tribune of 3rd October 2008, I was quoted as follows:-
‘The products of our first universities, especially the six at Ibadan, Ife, Lagos, Benin, Nsukka and Zaria compared very favourably with those of any university in the world. They were sought after by universities at Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford and London for post-graduate degrees. When they were eventually admitted, they recorded record-breaking performances. They were offered the best jobs on graduation by the multi-national companies and other big corporate bodies. Those who chose to remain and teach in the universities either here or abroad ranked favourably with their foreign colleagues.’
The quality of teaching and learning has declined; the quality of degrees awarded is compromised. A large number of graduates from our universities are a shame to show-case anywhere. Most of them cannot justify the award of their degrees. The educational reputation of the country is a source of national shame.
Professor Mac Ade Araromi of Institute of Education University of Ibadan said:-
‘many university graduates cannot speak good English. Even at the post-graduate level, we find out that the communication ability of the students is declining. Imagine reading through a thesis and you still have to correct tenses. This is somebody who is going to be a Ph.D. holder.’ But the journey to the sorry pass was not an overnight flight.’
To be continued
AARE AFE BABALOLA SAN, CON, LL.D, D.Litt