FeaturesFEATURES: Declining Fortunes In Nigerian Universities

FEATURES: Declining Fortunes In Nigerian Universities

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January 14, (THEWILL) – It is easy to forget now that at some time in Nigeria, big corporations routinely turned down job applications by degree holders from universities in India. At the time, not one of the opulent companies will consider shortlisting for interview graduates from institutions of higher learning in the subcontinent. The reason was blindingly obvious.

With a laudable educational system operating in many of the tertiary institutions in Nigeria, graduates from Indian universities were seen as academic inferiors to their compatriots back in Nigeria. So, in the estimation of some of the company execs in Nigeria at the time, graduates with a university qualification from India were just not comparable to degree holders from indigenous universities.

Business Editor of THEWILL Sam Diala recalls that sometime in the eighties in Kaduna Polytechnic where he taught in the College of Business and Administrative Studies as a youth corp member, a fellow corp member was unable to hold down a job post-youth service. He was never offered one because he was never invited for any interview.

Glo

“I don’t know what later became of him but I remember that for many years after youth service, he never worked,” Diala says. “At the same time, some of us from Nigerian universities were changing jobs and were even selective about which to take up.”

The major turn off for most of the companies Diala’s co-youth member applied to was his degree from a university in India. They just as soon shut their door as soon as the chap turned his back on the few companies he went to for the rare interview.

Only a few years down the line, the situation has reversed completely. Now, the same big time corporations are turning down applicants with certificates from Nigerian universities in favour of ones from Indian schools or any other country for that matter. An educational system prone to year-round strikes isn’t a plus for teachers and students however much you consider it. In other words, a system that does not guarantee students graduating in the allotted period of four, five or six years for a particular course can’t be of any advantage.

It is perhaps for that reason that there are a lot more Nigerian students in Indian institutions of higher learning studying in various disciplines today than it was in the eighties or early nineties. If that is so, say concerned stakeholders in the sector, it means there is something basically wrong with the Nigerian educational system, a situation that was clearly not so three or so decades ago.

Some point to an analogous situation in the medical sector where Nigerians – old and young, men and women, those in leadership positions and ordinary citizens – have since been looking up to Indian doctors for relief from different maladies. A worse situation, they contend, may just be happening in the education sector, offering the following scenario as proof.

If, for instance, two applicants (one with a degree from a Nigerian university and another a graduate of a university in India) were to sit before a panel of interviewers in a blue chip company in Abuja, say, or Lagos, it is clear who will get the job.

Where Nigerian universities once boasted of world class graduates company bosses eagerly awaited to snatch up for managerial positions, it is the exact opposite now. Head hunting CEOs of multinationals are more likely to shop for degree holders from IT hubs like Hyderabad or its equivalent in Nairobi.

So, what suddenly went wrong such that in just a generation graduates of Nigerian universities who were once the darlings of company bosses have lost that privileged position to graduates from other countries?

A possible answer? The educational system, Stupid!

How stupid it was became clear last year when the Nigeria Universities Commission accredited 37 more universities alongside the existing ones bringing the total number to 147. The Federal Executive Council (FEC) sitting on May 15 with less than two weeks for President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to go, approved operational licenses to the private universities. Executive Secretary of NUC Professor Abubakar Rasheed was more than elated about the addition to the private schools.

“The Nigerian statistics of high demand of tertiary education is grossly inadequate,” Rasheed said at the time. “Statistics put the number of enrollment in tertiary institutions at 2.23 million which is about 12 per cent of the total population of 220 million,” pointedly telling the proprietors of the schools in question that “in establishing universities, you don’t expect to get financial rewards. If your main motive is to make money, then you are in a wrong place. You are here to pay back to humanity. The establishment of private universities is in dire need of passion from people, so that passion should drive you.”

But stakeholders have questioned the motive behind approving licenses for the new schools. Their contention is that many of the schools lack the financial resources to start off such capital-intensive project. Institutions without the adequate provisions for staff and students can hardly be world standard, schools without laboratory equipment, schools where staff are owed salaries for months and where teaching facilities are at best inadequate or non-existent.

Is there any surprise lecturers and other university staff have found shortcuts to making money under such circumstances?

Around November last year, two state-owned universities were involved in a certificate for sale scandal. It was the first such reported case in the history of higher learning in Nigeria. In an extensive report by SaharaReporters headlined “Degree For Sale: Sting Operation Exposes Lagos State University Certificate Racketeering, Shielding Of Workers Charging Up To N3Million Per Buyer,” with a rider “Degree available for N2 million – N3 million,” the online publication disclosed how academic and non-academic staff began a profitable racket of selling certificates to willing buyers.

“Once they have their client, the only things they will ask from the client are money and their O-level certificate,” SR wrote. “They check the number of credits you have. That will determine the course they will recommend. As professionals, they know the course you should do or the degree you should go for once you have this or that. Once that is settled, they have members of the syndicate in the ICT department of the school who will input the person’s date into the server. They collect the money and input all your scores and, after, it will be posted on the server of the university. Once you go to the school’s server with the matric number generated for you, you get the name and details of the student there as an authentic student.”

In the same week, newspapers were awash with another certificate scandal from another state-owned institution Ambrose Alli University Ekpoma in Edo state. Acting Head of Department of Accounting Dr. Omoregie Nosa was queried by the school authorities for his role in “large-scale certificate and transcript racketeering at the institution.” They also accused him of “establishing a cyber café which is dedicated to the illegal issuance of fake certificates and transcripts of the university.”

The cases of certificate forgery and sale are under investigation. Stakeholders are concerned that a frightening spectre might just be looming in the education sector if the accusations turn out to be true.

What Nigerians know to be true of certificates for sale was exposed through the vigilance of an investigative reporter Umar Audu of Daily Nigerian newspaper early in January. Nigerians were still reeling from the abundance of Yuletide and New Year when Audu’s extraordinary piece of legwork and reporting jolted them out of their lethargy. “Fake certificate: My Cotonou degree was delivered like pizza” the headlines declared from newspapers.

It was Audu narrating his rather courageous feat in uncovering a racket in a Benin Republic university where Nigerians and many others obtained fake degrees in record time of six weeks.

“This certificate will be delivered to you just like you ordered for a pizza or something and you give them your location, and it is delivered to you,” Audu recalls the authorities of the school tantalizing him. It galvanized him into beginning his investigative report. Audu promptly commenced his undercover work, paid an agreed sum and was duly issued a certificate bearing the scan code of Ecole Superieure de Gestion et de Technologies, ESGT, Benin Republic. He was supposedly admitted in 2018 and then passed out four years later. The investigative reporter would then proceed to NYSC camp with the fake certificate where he posed in the olive-green regulation uniform in camp if only to make his point very clear.

If the certificate scandals in LASU and AAU were simply tremors that rippled through academic corridors in Nigeria, Audu’s report was an earthquake that shook the entire educational foundation of Nigeria. It was discussed in the legislative chambers of the National Assembly, trended on social media for weeks after publication, caused not a little apprehension in the Ministry of Education and related departments.

Faster than a rifle shot, the Federal Government, probably prompted by top officials of the NUC, fired its own canon by proscribing dozens of universities in the West African sub-region. Nigerians who go to those schools will be doing so at their own peril. It also closed down some suspicions institutions in Nigeria, revoking their licenses presto.

As it is, they might just be fire-brigade solutions to problems that have been plainly obvious in the academia in Nigeria. One major problem is lack of funding in institutions of higher learning in particular and education in general.

In one 2018 interview by Funmi Ogundare of THISDAY with Professor Yakubu Ochefu who was Secretary-General of Committee of Vice Chancellors in Nigeria, the don highlighted the problems in the sector and possible solutions. “We have not made the right investments in the training of the teachers. We have not made the right investment in the curriculum of our educational institutions with the economy and society. We have not made the right quantum of equipment in terms of infrastructure, especially teaching and learning infrastructure. We have not gotten it right in terms of the changing dynamics in the philosophy of education, which is very important in the sense that depending on your development agenda and where you are in the context of your development status, your philosophy of education must be aligned to that.”

As for solutions, Ochefu suggested that “for Nigeria to drive the necessary change, we need to make the right investment in education. ​ At this stage of our national development, our education budget should be at least 15 per cent of GDP ​ across all levels.​”

The inference is that with all that in place, teachers may not be inclined to trade sex for marks to underserving students who may also not need to acquire fake certificates worth no more than the paper it is printed on. And hopefully, just hopefully, company execs may begin to smile at applicants with degrees from Nigerian institutions of higher learning during interviews.

About the Author

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Michael Jimoh is a Nigerian journalist with many years experience in print media. He is currently a Special Correspondent with THEWILL.

Michael Jimoh, THEWILLhttps://thewillnews.com
Michael Jimoh is a Nigerian journalist with many years experience in print media. He is currently a Special Correspondent with THEWILL.

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