Why Nigerian universities are failing and how Buhari, others are responsible

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Editor’s note: Educational development seems to be the last aspect in Nigeria that the government is focusing on achieving success and this has led to a failure in several institutions.

In this opinion by Bada Yusuf, he argues that if Nigeria fails to develop the academic sector, the whole country is heading towards a disturbing crash.

Education and development

Education is no doubt, a key to the sustenance of every nation’s development. Developed countries of the world such as China, United Kingdom, United State of America, Russia among others obviously invested in their education system to aid their developments to the level at which they are today. The case is however the reverse in Nigeria. While our government always reiterates its commitments to the development of our education, little improvement has been recorded.

President Buhari with his children L-R: Miss Zahra Buhari, Yusuf Buhari and Halimat Buhari Sherriff as he celebrates them on their graduation and Call to Bar in Statehouse on 14th July 2016

President Buhari with his children L-R: Miss Zahra Buhari, Yusuf Buhari and Halimat Buhari Sherriff as he celebrates them on their graduation and Call to Bar in Statehouse on 14th July 2016

The latest 1000 World University Annual Rankings by Center for World University Rankings (CWUR), a Saudi Arabia based education consulting organization shows that only ten universities in Africa could meet up with the international standard of its ranking. CWUR bases its ranking on a range of indicators such as quality of education, quality of faculties and the employments of its alumni that makes up 75% of its criteria. Other factors of CWUR include patent filings, publications and citations. The Ten Africa Universities are spread across South Africa with five; Egypt has four and one from Uganda while none of Nigeria universities made the list.

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The decadence in our growing education system started during the military regime. The wrong history was made during this period but when we returned to democracy, our government failed to correct the errors and allowed the termites to grow wild teeth.  One out of many reasons for this decadence is politically motivated. Nigeria budget allocation to education sector since 2011 has always been around 11 percent as against the 26 percent recommended by the United Nation Education, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for developing countries. As reported, countries like Senegal, Ivory Coast have met and gone beyond this recommendation while Nigeria, Africa most popular country is yet to move beyond 11 percent.

There had been several agitations demanding for better funding of our universities and unpaid allowances of universities staffs and non staffs which they deserved. In 2013, An Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)’s strike lasted for about six month and even after the agitations came to end; our universities still lack international standard laboratories, standard lecture theatres, immediate medical response and shortage of doctors for students’ sickness and hygienic halls of residence. These poor conditions have however resulted in fee increments in almost all tertiary institutions, and in ensuring students’ resistance of these increments, led to shut down of some schools. Ironically, the increments did not equate to adequate welfare conditions in our institutions.

A hostel in Obafemi Awolowo University

The lackadaisical attitude of Nigerian politicians toward our education system is another factor that draws back our institutions from meeting with the international standard. Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari’s daughter graduated from a United Kingdom (UK) University, Buhari himself also travelled to UK to treat ear infection while we have several university teaching hospitals here in Nigeria that can solve that. The likes of Olusegun Obasanjo, Atiku Abubakar have expensive private universities in Nigeria and these are people who influence government policies and decision. If Nigerian politicians have their children in Nigeria government’s institutions, I am sure they would not want their children to stay at home for a month not to talk about three to six months strikes.

The JAMB factor

The huge gap between admission processes in Nigeria is another thing to talk about. Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) exam recently granted credibility by the federal government by putting a stop to post JAMB exams in Nigeria tertiary institutions. Unfortunately, JAMB itself is not ready for this task. It is likely that average candidates who score above the stated minimum requirements of JAMB itself would not get admission this year. The reason is that JAMB has been sending different results to candidates which have created confusion for the candidates. Another includes JAMB idea of posting qualified candidates to institutions. This has not been adequately controlled as larger percentages of them are yet to be posted while these institutions would never stop their school calendar for this reason. This gap also extended incessant strikes our institutions go through. However, the more these gaps are there, the more the students lag behind intellectually. The more the students lag behind intellectually, the more our students are becoming irrelevant in the labour market.

Another is the sustenance of tradition by our academics which in turn create an extended distance between the academic and the society. The academic had failed to prove that they are making research; it is only a few universities in Nigeria that you can access few of their lecturers’ papers on the school website, even when there are funds that are used to finance research in our universities. It is rare to find inaugural papers on our universities’ websites and they all have inaugural lectures in each of their faculties every year.

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Although our universities have journals, lecturers have text books but the questions are to what extent the students have access these journals and textbooks? How many students that struggle to pay school fee could pay for all these materials? Who is even marketing these papers to their targeted markets? The problem here is that many lecturers go for self publishing and because of the fear of piracy; many of their works have been restricted within their colleagues, locally and internationally. Some of their textbooks are available at the school bookshops but not all students visit the bookshop and not all students that visit the bookshops buy books, many are hungry but want to read as well. Many university libraries are full of old books and academic papers.

The gap between the past and future

Another area of concern is the courses offer in our universities; some course outlines are outdated in international universities, while some courses are irrelevant in our today society. JAMB itself still recommends pre-colonial texts, although history has to be revisits often but we have to strike the balance between the past, present and the future. There are no strong entrepreneurship courses recommended for the generality of the students in many of our tertiary. When I was in the polytechnic before moving to university, entrepreneurship is a core course for all the students as each group is to choose their own choice of entrepreneur based on their discipline although many students rarely look beyond the marks required to pass the course. Supervisors are few and most of them are after the profit because there is certain percentage of each group profit going to the school’s account.

All these contribute to the students not being employable in the labour market after graduation. In facing all these problem, digital skills and digital creativity need to be introduce in the school curriculum, this will help the school to produce graduates that can meet the challenges of post industrial society. Entrepreneurship should be introduced to all students, irrespective of their discipline, faculties like Agricultural Science, Faculty of Arts are full of entrepreneurship that students can take from and be successful in life. Our lecturers should also try to bridge the gap between the society and the academic by regularly conducting research on each activities of our society because the world is dynamic.

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Finally, government needs to fully subsidize education, fully involve private bodies from the angles of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), sponsor academic research works; fight piracy with full force, provide adequate security and members of university community must also be security conscious. Politicians and all public office holders, from the office of the President to the last office should send their children to Nigeria universities as this will definitely send strong signal to international communities that we have the international standard universities in Nigeria. We all need to know that reviving Nigeria education system is not only the government’s responsibility. Parents, students, non-academic staffs, academic staffs, government and private agencies, religious bodies must come to the round table, desist from corrupt practices, give room for freedom of expression and opinion.

Remember that if we get it wrong in the education sector, we will always get it wrong as a people and as a country.

This opinion was written by Bada Yusuf

This article expresses the authors’ opinion only. The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Naij.com or its editors.

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