HIGHER EDUCATION NIGERIANA – A JOURNEY ACROSS TIME & SPACE
PROFESSOR ADEMOLA O. POPOOLA, FINALS
FACULTY OF LAW, OBAFEMI AWOLOWO UNIVERSITY, ILE-IFE, NIGERIA
TEXT OF THE 2021 CONVOCATION
LECTURE OF THE KWARA STATE UNIVERSITY, MALETE, ILORIN
9TH DECEMBER, 2021
HIGHER EDUCATION NIGERIANA-A JOURNEY ACROSS TIME & SPACE
LET ME STATE at once that I am deeply grateful and feel highly honoured by the invitation kindly extended to me to deliver the 2021 Convocation Lecture of this University. Kwara State University (KWASU), I am told, was established in 2009. The 2021 Convocation for the conferment of Degrees is, therefore holding in the 12th year of the University existence. How time flies. There can be little doubt that twelve years is a very short period in the life of any University. As a foremost Nigerian University Administrator, Professor Oluwasanmi (1973) noted with insight in a similar context, older institutions such as Paris, Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard count time in terms of centuries. It was against the background that these institutions have had time to grow and develop their potentialities in “leisurely paces” that Professor Alfred North Whitehead (cited by Oluwasanmi) stated in his lecture at the tercentenary celebrations of Harvard University in 1936, that;
In the tercentenary celebrations of this summer, Harvard makes the accomplishment of its process of growth.
About twenty five years for a man and about three hundred years for a University are the periods required for the attainment of mature structure (Emphasis mine)
It goes without saying that an institution like KWASU, and the ones before and even after it, that had been founded for the “specific purpose of assisting a developing society (like ours) in solving its manpower and other developmental problems” do not have all the time in the world to grow into the kind of maturity envisioned by Alfred North Whitehead. A University in a developing society must indeed “telescope the achievements of centuries into a few score years and roll”, in the words of Oluwasanmi, “infancy, adolescence and adulthood into a very short space of time”. In other words, in our peculiar circumstances, a University must attain maturity quickly; it must achieve excellence in its traditional functions of teaching and research. And this “is the only way it can satisfactorily meet the demands of its public as well as the stringent demands of a much wider international community,
Professor Ademola O Popoola, FNIALS, Former Dean Faculty of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, Nigeria
from which it cannot reasonably seek to separate itself if its graduates and the products of its research efforts are to enjoy world-wide respect and recognition”
(Oluwasanmi, ibid). The authorities, staff and students of KWASU are to be congratulated that within a short period of twelve years, and in the face of the competing demands on progressively learn and learner resources, the University has been striving to meet the hopes and expectations of the public. Thanks to the assiduity, unwavering commitment, steadfastness and extra-ordinary courage of the successive leaderships of the institution, a profile the present Vice-Chancellor, Professor M.M Akanbi, SAN, an eminent jurist, erudite scholar and consummate administrator, has been sustaining with unrelenting vigour and determination as the Man now providentially on the spot.
In this Lecture, we shall be focusing attention on critical issues in the trajectory of Higher Education in Nigeria with particular emphasis on University Education. The rationale for this, which to me has a compelling force in the present context, is that Universities are the apex institutions in the ladder, and whatever happens there is a mirror of the situation in the whole complex. Yet the subject of Higher Education can only be addressed meaningfully in the wider context of Education generally. After all, Higher Education is or should be closely linked with the other levels of education “So that they form a dynamic entity rooted in the social and economic realities” of the country. Our present engagement with the issues to be discussed below, I must state at the outset, is profoundly influenced by my earlier engagements at some strategic fora on related matters. If, therefore, in the course of this presentation I re-echo some of my views it is because I remain stubborn and unrepentant. Some stock-taking at this time may be helpful.
Our fundamental premise is that:
Education is a companion which no misfortune can depress, No crime can Destroy, No enemy can enslave. At home a friend. Abroad an introduction. In solitude a solace and in society an ornament. It chastens vice. It guides virtues. It gives at once, grace and government to genius. Without it, what is man? A splendid slave a reasoning savage.
Joseph Addison, (The Spectator, 1711).
There can be little doubt that our Higher Institutions despite their shortcomings and characterisation as “veritable hybridisers”, notorious for their role in” the process of transmogrification of Nigerians into a motley of trousered and frocked burlesques with a veneer of Western culture” (Ayandele 1974; 2) have done so much in contributing, in increasing number, to the growth, resilience and durability on the Nigerian scene of the primordially strategic class of the Educated Elite. In a developing country like ours knowledge, as the Italian proverb goes is truly silver among the poor, gold among the nobles and a jewel among princes.
Besides, the elite group which our institutions have been refining in increasing number, remains for good or ill the greatest sociological factor in our emergent nation. As Historian Ayandele (Ibid) had hinted with insight, they (and their predecessors) remain and have indeed presented themselves as the class around whom history has been revolving in modern Nigeria:
(as) clairvoyant modernists and mordenisers who were to create, build and integrate Nigeria in the developed zone of the world; as the oppressed nationalist crusaders, who used their brain, pen and tongue to expel the British Colonial exploiters; as the wizards of nation-building, who were to erect a virile phinx-like Nigerian nation upon the ashes of British Nigeria.
But for the unlettered masses, their reaction to this elite group, whose significance infinitely outweighs their number, has varied from one of pity for a people who have “decivilised and devalued” themselves; to consternation against a group who they perceived as ‘harbingers’ of British Colonial rule; to one of sullen resignation and ultimately inevitable acceptance of their leadership in the last six decades. The educated elite have indeed attracted an assortment of unflattering epithets: “Deluded Hybrids”, “Collaborators”, “Windsowers” (ibid) While Ayandele’s acerbity and overly critical evaluation of the Educated Elite seem to be more in relation to the early generations of the Educated Elite, we need to ensure that our present system of Higher Education will also not end up producing another generation of “deluded hybrids”, and “windsowers”
Brief History of Higher Educaton in Nigeria
As Fafunwa (1974 ; 138) has identified, the beginning of Higher Education for Nigerians dates back to the time of the abolition of slavery and the resettlement of the freed slaves in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in 1787. The first known ‘Nigerian’ to receive some form of higher education was Samuel Ajayi Crowther who was one of the last slaves sold in West Africa and who was repatriated to Freetown in 1822. Ajayi was the first registered student of the Fourah Bay College which was founded in 1827 by the Church Missionary Society to ‘train ministers, teachers and lay-workers for the church’. Fourah Bay was to play a very conspicuous role in the history of Higher Education in West Africa. The institution, more than any other in or out of West Africa opened the way to Higher Education for students from all the former British colonies in West Africa. Nigerian graduates of the college were to occupy positions of influence in Nigeria in the fields of religion politics, education, social services and the industry. Next in importance to Fourah Bay College in terms of their contribution to the development of higher educational opportunities between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth century was the role of private sponsorships, scholarships and bursaries through which promising children were sent abroad particularly to the Universities in Great Britain and Ireland. They returned as doctors, Lawyers, Churchmen, teacher, engineers, architects, Surveyors etc.
By 1908, the government had started to provide some form of higher training by establishing departmental training schemes. The policy was to train the lower echelon only. The departmental training courses were instituted between 1908 and 1935. Meanwhile, agitation for a higher educational institution where the Nigerian Youth could receive higher training without going abroad had begun towards the end of the 19th century. The upshot was the establishment of the Yaba Higher College in 1932, housed temporarily at King’s College, Lagos and officially opened in 1934. The Yaba College had many shortcomings and did not satisfy the yearnings of Nigerians for a university institution in Nigeria.
In 1948, the University College, Ibadan was established as a college of the University of London. Thus, the British pattern of higher education with all of its strengths and weaknesses (and with London and Cambridge Universities serving as models) was imported to West Africa. The University College, Ibadan became a full-fledged University in 1962 as the University of Ibadan. Meanwhile, regional Universities were established at Nsukka (UNN) (1960), Zaria (Ahmadu Bello University) (1962) and 1fe (1962), and a Federal University was established in Lagos (1962). Benin joined the league early in 1970s. An avalanche of Universities (Federal, State and Private) have since followed. The education landscape is also blessed with other higher institutions including Colleges of Technology, Polytechnics, Monotechnics, Colleges of Education, Colleges of Agriculture, Colleges of Nursing and Midwifery etc.
Now, the first fundamental function of a University is the advancement of knowledge. This function rolls unto one the twin mandate of knowledge generation and knowledge transmission. Teaching, as we are told, becomes sterile unless it is “shot through with the thread of discovery” It is through research that the University brings the weight of knowledge to bear on the social and economic problems that beset the society. A University also performs the teaching functions by giving its graduates the means to earn a living.
The Higher Education landscape in Nigeria today presents many paradoxes and contradictions. The number of Universities has grown exponentially. The same is also true for other higher education institutions. This is obviously in response to the need to meet the challenge of access to higher education. But the global ranking of Nigerian Universities has not been impressive. There has also been growing concerns over the quality of graduates from Nigerian Universities, apart from the question of relevance of the institutions to national development, in terms of paucity of research and development impact (Faborode & Edigheji 2016:1).
The sector is obviously in crisis, and many factors account for this: poor governance, inadequate funding, corruption, lack of commitment and support for research and its deliverables, including innovation, creative works and better producer goods, internal factors including recurring industrial disputes.
The reality is that the Nigerian University System, which had once worked and prospered, is experiencing decline and not seen to be fulfilling adequately the cardinal mission of knowledge generation, transmission and application implicit in the tripartite function of research, teaching and community service or civic engagement (ibid).
All this compels us to seek clarity on the UNIVERSITY IDEA. The following questions inevitably arise; what are the ideas that have led to the founding of Universities? What sorts of thoughts pass through the minds of their faculty members? Is the idea of the University truly accepted in Africa or only just tolerated, by the masses who pay the taxes, or by the political leaders who dispense the taxes? If the Universities succeed in achieving greater relevance will the mass of the people not move from toleration to understanding and acceptance?
The University Idea
It is difficult to define in detailed universal terms what constitutes a ‘University’. For instance, Cardinal Newman, founder of Dublin University, regarded a University as “the high protecting power of all knowledge and science, of fact and principle, of inquiry and discovery, of experiment and speculation” (Clark Kerr. The Uses of the University (1963:22). But the same Cardinal went on to designate “useful knowledge” as a “deal of trash”. It is not so clear why Newman should call “useful
knowledge” trash. We agree -with Thomas that Newman’s idea of “useful knowledge” clearly runs against the grain of the academic’s perception of himself as
someone that is not only “immersed” in useful knowledge but also one who basks in
the public respect which only “useful knowledge” endows, and who feels that it is by
“useful knowledge” that she is able to serve community.
While it may be difficult to define in detailed terms what constitutes a ‘University’. There are a number of important characteristics by which it may be fairly distinguished from similar but not entirely identical institutions. Among these characteristics is the ‘simultaneous presence of senior and junior scholars’. A University has, accordingly, been described as “a society of scholars all of whom are learning, but the more senior scholars, spend part of their time teaching the junior
scholars and they also increase their own knowledge by adding to the store of human knowledge. This they do by research”. A University thus evokes in the mind
the ideal of
A place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know, where
those who, perceive truth may strive to make others see: where seekers
and learners alike, banded together in the search for knowledge, will
honour thought in all its finer ways, will welcome thinkers in distress or
in exile, will uphold ever the dignity of thought and learning and will
exact standard in these things, (cited in Okafor 1971)
Remarkably, the African academic tradition has two distinct historical sources
(Berghe 1973). The first one, and by far the older, is the Islamic one represented by Al, Azhar University in Cairo founded in the 11th century (some 300 years before Oxford and 650 years before Harvard), by Kairouine University in Fez, and by the defunct Sankore University which flourished in 16th Century Timbuctoo, until the Moroccan invasion of 1590. It has been stated that Sankore, unlike the other two great Koranic Universities of North Africa, was not an Arab institution (ibid). Although Arabic was the language of learning (as was Latin in Medieval Europe), Sankore was a product of the black civilization of the Western Sudan which gave rise in succession to the great empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai. Its importance as a centre of learning may be judged by Leo Africanus’ statement (cited by Berghe) that the book trade in early 16th century Timbuctoo was one of the most profitable lines of business. This is no doubt something remarkable, given the fact that Timbuctoo was then the dominant commercial metropolis of the Western Sudan and one of the main Southern terminals of the trans-Saharan trade.
The second historical source of African Universities is the Euro-Christian tradition. The modem Universities like Cathedrals and parliaments, are indeed a product of the Middle Age. Curiously enough the Greeks and the Roman had no universities in the sense in which the word has been used since the Middle ages. It was only, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries that there emerged those features of organised education with the accompanying machinery, of instruction represented by Faculties and Colleges and courses of study, examinations, and convocation of congregations for the award of academic degrees. Even then, the earliest universities did not have many of the facilities associated with those institutions in modern times. Thus, as Charles Homer Haskins (cited by Odumosu
1973), put it:
Throughout the period of its origin the Medieval University had no libraries, laboratories, or museums, mo endowment or buildings of it is own. The Medieval university was, in the fine old , phrase pasquier “built of men” such a university had no board of trustees and published no catalogue, it had no student society- except so far as the university itself was fundamentally a society of students — no college Journalism, no dramatics, no athletics, none of those “outside activities” which are the chief excuse for inactivity in the American College.
It is remarkable that the earliest University, the Studium generale, as it was then called, was established in Medieval Europe under the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church (Eke, 1974). In its relationship with the government of the day and, indeed, the very society in which it existed, the University then was independent, almost an island by itself. Many such Universities later came to life by virtue- of Charters granted them by the Pope. They were organized and patterned after the University of Bologna or the University of Paris, their curricula invariably comprising the corpus” of knowledge then in existence and which had been approved by the Pope.
It has been observed that though essentially autonomous, self-supporting, and comprising scholars and pupils who were devoted to the study and perpetuation of the corpus of theoretical knowledge then available, the medieval Universities looked up to Rome in respect of their studies (Eke, ibid). In other words, academic freedom in the Universities in those days was strictly circumscribed as the universities were not expected to go beyond the boundaries of the approved corpus of knowledge. Indeed, research or the extension of the boundaries of knowledge was in the earliest Universities not a recognised part of academic freedom as we know it today, despite the autonomy of the Universities.
Academic freedom in those days meant only:
- learning power; and
- teaching power, no more.
During the period of the Reformation, the Pope’s authority in Europe diminished. With the rise of nationalism and consequent on the Renaissance, universities began to change more and more in character. They became diversified according to the country in which they existed. While still concerned with the conservation of existing knowledge, each University began to be interested in the new knowledge brought about by the ferment which took place outside the Universities (Eke, Ibid). They also began to adapt themselves, slowly but steadily, to their respective societies – that is to the new nations of Europe, each characterised by its peculiar nationalism. Each University thus began to reflect the traits and the qualities of its immediate society. Thus, the German Universities were essentially research Institutes whilst British Universities, principally Oxford and Cambridge, concentrated on the country’s need for the production of the leaders in the Church and in public life (Eke,ibid.).
As a consequence of the emergence of the new nations of Europe, European universities began to be less and less an ivory tower. By the 19th Century, they had in fact become subordinated to the State as distinct from the Catholic Church.
In other words, they lost their independence at that stage. They indeed began to be regarded in each of the new nations as an embodiment of the national spirit, mind or will. It is noteworthy that as a result of the scientific revolution, the Universities began to undertake the challenging task of seeking to increase the corpus of knowledge. The industrial revolution also had its own effect on the concept of a University. It made Universities turn increasingly to practical problems instead of the previous single-minded devotion to theoretical knowledge. We can see from the foregoing a shift in relations between the government and the University from total independence to inter-dependence. The trend in university relations with government since then and over the centuries has been that of interdependence between the government of a country and the Universities of that country.
Remarkably, both the older and younger universities in Britain and in countries which follow the British tradition, like Nigeria have developed certain common distinctive features over the years. First, they are all self-governing Corporations,
jealously guarding their autonomy. In this regard, each university is governed by a
Council. The council controls the finance and property of the university and makes
formal decisions over most of the University’s business affairs. Effective sovereignty over academic affairs is in the hands of Senate which consists of professors and a few non-professorial members of staff.
In the British tradition, it would, in the words of Peter Odumosu (1973), “be little short of scandalous for the Council to issue a directive to Senate or appoint a Professor without advice from Senate or interfere with admissions, examinations and curricula”. Below the Senate are the faculty boards and other committees. It is from these that business originates and flows upwards to Senate and Council. As Sir Eric Ashby (cited by Odumosu) puts it, “in all essentials … the English university
is Professor-run, but its policies are moderated by the presence of a predominantly lay Council, which represents the public interest”.
Second, all the universities aspire to grant degrees of similar standard based on curricula of similar contents. There is a marked preoccupation with uniform and high standards. Every British University wants to be on, what Sir Eric Ashby (Ibid) has called “the gold standard of learning”. “In Britain”, says Sir Eric Ashby, “there is an impregnable assumption that university degrees are subject to Gresham’s Law, hence the scrupulous care taken to safeguard standards. The consequences of this assumption permeate many practices in British universities; the insistence on high entry standards, the pre-occupation with honours degrees, the interchange of external examiners’.
Third, all British universities make similar assumptions about the social function of higher education in Britain. Until the Robins Report (1963), the assumption was not (as it is in the United States) that higher education should be available to all qualified candidates who want it Rather, the assumption was that Higher Education was for a carefully selected, elite and forcenturies, it was for an elite that could afford it. In Britain, higher education, or more precisely university education, is much more than professional training. It is this plus “moral education essential for producing men of character suitable to be leaders of the people and custodians of the cultural heritage’.
Fourthly, British universities are effectively insulated from the State because their financing is administered by an independent body – the University Grants
Committee (UGC). But in spite of the long history of universities in Britain, it was not until 1919 that the UGC was established and state financing of universities on an appreciable scale became a permanent feature of university financing. Before then, State financing had been of an ad hoc nature and at a very small scale. Since 1919, the proportionate share of government in financial grants to universities in Britain, both recurrent and capital expenditure has been rising.
University autonomy in the British tradition have revolved around the freedoms in:
- the selection of students:
- the appointment of academic staff;
- the determination of the content of university education and the control of degree standards;
- the determination of size and rate of growth;
- the establishment of the balance between teaching, research and advanced study, the selection of research projects, and freedom of publication; and
- the allocation of recurrent income among the various categories of expenditure.
In this regard, British Universities are by far more fortunate than European Universities “which have learnt to live without many of these freedoms” (Odumosu, ibid). For example, in France, the selection of students, the appointment of academic staff and the determination of curricula are taken out of the control of the universities. Thus a school-leaving baccalaureate gives a French student the right to register at a university without much ado; most academic appointments are within the control of the Minister of Education who also approves the curricula; and the budget of universities is subject to detailed supervision. In the old Western Germany, universities were publicly controlled; professors were civil servants and were appointed by the Minister of Education of the State where the university is situated. In the Netherlands, the appointment of professors and lecturers is the prerogative of the Crown which also appoints those who are responsible for the administration of each university. Across the Atlantic in the USA, the state universities are under the control of. the state legislature; in some of them budgets are approved in detail by the legislature, items of expenditure are subject to a preaudit check, all purchases are made through state agencies and state officials have a voice in the appointment of academic staff (Odumosu, ibid). All’ this shows the uniqueness of British universities. There can be no doubt that the liberal treatment of universities in Britain is symptomatic of the liberalism that pervades British political and social life. (ibid).
Nigerian Universities and World-Class Status:
Defined as “an institution with teaching, learning and research delivery systems meeting global standards” (Okebukola, 2010), the world-class university has an origin dating several centuries. In the early days of development of universities in Europe, especially between the 12th and 15th centuries, students and teachers were attracted to universities far from home, propelled by two major forces (Okebukola and Shabani, 2007). First, the environment where radical thoughts could be expressed without hindrance and where research could be conducted unfettered by the ruling authorities especially the church, was one of such forces. The other was the availability of resources for quality teaching, learning and research. By early 18th century, many universities in Europe and North America especially Bologna, Oxford and Harvard enrolled scholars as students and teachers from a wide array of countries and offered what could be described at that time as qualitative education. These universities whose processes and products were able to favourably complete in the world market were referred to as “world class”.
By the beginning of the 21st century, notably in 2001, global ranking of universities gained increasing prominence and the defining characteristic of the world-class university was fine-tuned (see Okebukola, 2008). The indicators for making gradually fused into the defining parameters for world-class status. Thus, institutions or programmes listed high on league tables were broadly adjudged as world-class.
There would appear to be a growing consensus about the following major characteristics of a world-class university (see Alden and Lan, 2004; Okebukola, 2008; Salmi, 2009):
- has an international reputation for its research;
- has an international reputation for its teaching;
- has number of research stars and world leaders in their fields;
- is recognised not only by other world-class universities but also outside the world of higher education;
- has a number of world-class departments (that is, not necessarily all);
- indentifies and builds on its research strengths and has a distinctive reputation and iron; mat is, its “lead” subjects);
- generates innovative ideas and produces basic and applied research in abundance;
- produces ground-breaking research output recognised by peers and prizes (for example, Nobel Prize winners);
- attracts the most able students and produces the best graduates;
- runs an efficient governance and management system; ‘
- can attract and retain the best staff;
- can recruit staff and students from an international market;
- attracts a high proportion of postgraduate students, both taught and research;
- attracts a high proportion of students from overseas;
- operates within a global market and is international in many activities (for example, research links, student and staff exchanges, and throughout of visitors of international standing);
- has a very sound financial base;
- receives large endowment capital and income;
- has diversified sources o f income (for example, government, private companies sector, research income, and overseas student fees);
- provides a high-quality and supportive research and educational environment for both its staff and its students (for example, high-quality buildings and facilities/high-quality campus);
- has a first-class management team with strategic vision and implementation plans;
- produces graduates who end up in positions o f influence and/or power (that is, movers and shakers such as prime ministers and presidents);
How well do Nigerian universities approximate the foregoing world-class attributes? What are the gaps between where we are and where we should be with regard to world-class status and how can these gaps be closed? The first question has been addressed in some Studies and Reports that are still relevant as we speak. These include the 2009 Reports of the NUC University System Annual Review Meeting (USARM): the 2009 and 2010 Global Ranking of Universities Webometrics, Academic Ranking of World Universities, and Times Higher Education) and the 2009 National Survey of Opinions on the Future of University Education in Nigeria (Okebukola, 2010) Five clusters of variable were reported on: facilities, quality of teaching, quality of research, community service, efficiency of governance and management, and funding.
In the analysis, the median-ranked university in Nigeria (2006 assessment) was measured against a median-rank and world-class university in Europe and the US.
On facilities, a huge gap of the magnitude of -70% exists between where the median-ranked Nigerian university is and where it should be to attain world-class status. Cluttered, poorly maintained buildings; shoddy landscaping; poor toilet facilities; huge water and electricity challenges; and gross inadequacies in classroom, office, laboratory, games and hostel facilities, combine to make die Nigerian university far from being in the league of world-class universities. On quality of teaching, the gap to attain world class status is narrower with a magnitude of -28% when measured against the UK world-class university. This gap is accounted for largely by inadequacies in the use of technology for teaching and learning; deficiencies in using modern methods of teaching; inadequacies in the up-to dateness’ of content taught; and reduced commitment to meeting teaching and evaluation responsibilities to students.
A differential of about -50% was recorded for the research variable. In large part, inadequacies in human and institutional research capacities could explain this gap. Staff with skills in modern methods of conducting research are few. Infrastructure for ground-breaking research is weak. There is also the limitation of funds for research.
These have combined to limit the contributions of Nigerian universities to solving national and global problems through research. The reduced visibility of Nigerian scholars in international research ranking through contribution to the literature is also explained by these deficiencies.
Community service recorded the narrowest gap of 10%. Staff of the Nigerian university system generously offers service to local, national and global communities through- lectures, capacity-building workshops, membership of boards, headship of national and international organisations and in government. On the flip side, these engagements draw staff resources away from teaching and research. Gaps exist in inadequacies of extension service to industries and agriculture and in providing viable solutions to local problems demanding government patronage of services outside the university.
Efficiency of management has a gap of about -53% to fill to attain world-class status. Infrastructural inadequacies and human capacity deficits conspire to inhibit efficiency. Some of the manifestations of inefficiency include severe delays in the release of students’ results and transcripts; social vices; poor quality of graduates; low potential for internally-generated revenue; and instability of academic calendar. Funding recorded -54% gap when measured against a U.K. world-class university
The World Bank’s 1998/99 ‘World Development Report: Knowledge for Development’ (World Bank, 1999) was clear in’ its identification of four main areas which could guide countries in transforming into knowledge-based economies: a) an appropriate economic and institutional regime, b) a strong human capital base, c) a dynamic’ information infrastructure, and d) an efficient national innovative system.
It is generally agreed that higher/tertiary education has a crucial role to play towards the achievement of any such transformation, particularly, in the development of the required human resource and in contributing to an efficient innovative system. National governments are therefore looking up to universities to provide the much needed highly skilled human resource to meet national needs. They also expect leadership in the area of policy analysis and knowledge creation and dissemination, which is why (countries are much concerned about the type and status of their universities.
The ability to generate and effectively use knowledge contributes greatly to the creation of wealth for nations. African countries however h we serious challenges in generating, accessing and disseminating knowledge, as well as a near absence of effective innovation systems.
An effective innovation system is one that is able to keep up with new knowledge and technologies, tap into the growing stock of global knowledge and assimilate and adapt it to local needs. Innovation therefore hinges on original ideas and insights which have value and which touch many lives making a positive difference in them.
A nation’s innovation system includes firms, research centres, universities, consultants and other knowledge-based resources persons, the innovation system is measured by parameters such as the number of researchers engaged in research and development (R&D) per million inhabitants, the number of patent applications granted and the number of scientific and technical journal articles published.
Although Africa is home to over 12% of the world population, its share of researchers in 2009 was the lowest at 2.1% and 143.8 per million of population. Its portion of scientific publications has been declining over the years. Although the actual numbers of publications increased by about 38% since the mid- 1990s, the rate of increase is less than the world average (Tijssen, 2007). Sub-Saharan Africa has fallen behind from a 1% share in 1987 to 0.7% in 1996, with only slight improvement in recent times Africa has lost 11% of its share in global science since its peak in 1987; sub-Saharan science has lost almost a third (31%)
1 Neglected Potentialities of African Education System
Every Society, whether simple or complex, has its own system for training and educating its youth. Education for the good life has been identified as one of the most persistent concerns of men throughout history. What may differ from place to place, nation to nation and people to people is the goal of education and the method of approach. As Fafunwa (1974:13) identifies, the Greek idea of an educated man was one who was mentally and physically well-balanced; the Romans, for their part, placed emphasis on oratorical and military training. During the middle Ages in England the knight, the lord and the pries were considered classical examples of a well-educated elite. Whereas in France the Scholar was the hallmark of excellence, in Germany it was a patriot. In the old Arican society, the warrior, the hunter, the nobleman, the man of character or anyone who combined the this with a specific skill was considered to be a well-integrated citizen of his community (ibid).
It follows from this that functionalism was the main guiding principle of education in the old African Society-Education was a means to an end and not an end in itself. Emphasis was on social responsibility Job orientation political participation and spiritual and moral values. The characteristics of traditional education in Africa as Summarized by Abdou Moumouni (cited by Fafunwa ibid) include its collective and social nature; its intimate tie with social life, both in a material and a Spiritual sense; its multivalent character, both in terms of its goal and the means employed, and its gradual and progressive achievements in conformity with the successive stages of physical, emotional and natural development of the child. The end objective is to produce an individual who is honest, respectable, skilled, cooperative and conforms to the social order of the day. With this end in view, the educational objectives can be distinguished as follows (Fafunwa, ibid: 20):
- To develop the child’s latent physical skills.
- To develop character.
- To develop intellectual skills
- To acquire specific vocational training and to develop a healthy attitude towards honest labour.
- To develop a sense of belonging and to participate actively in family and community affairs.
- To understand, appreciate and promote the cultural heritage of the community at large.
- To inculcate respect for elders and those in position of authority.
To be sure, both traditional and modern systems of education have positive and negative aspects. What is essential is to utilize what is positive when formulating a new system that will be relevant to the conditions and needs of our society. We should more assiduously integrate into our education system the spirit and values of:
- African respect for humanity and human dignity.
- African sense of community
- African respect for legitimate and humane authority
- African respect for authentic and positive African moral and religious values and cultures
- African respect for the dignity of labour
- Motivation and stimulation of creativity.
The tragedy of the African Education system was that it was supplanted, almost totally by the imposed Western Education system. Under normal circumstances education grows out of the environment. Thus, among the Bemba of what was then Northern Rhodesia children by the age of six could name fifty to sixty species of tree plants without hesitation. The transplantation of a version of European education into Africa was accompanied by numerous absurdities. Dr. Kofi Busia of Ghana related how after his exposure to Western education he went back home on vacation, he understood far less about his community than the boys of his own age who had never been to school. As he concluded” over the years, as I went through college and University, I feel increasingly that the education I received taught me more and more about Europe and less and less about my own society “(Walter Rodney, 2009; 301).
What this also underscore is the need for an overhaul of our curricula. How many of our social science graduates appreciate the underlying condition of our social science scholarship as imperialism a la Claude Ake? if I may ask.
2. Internationalization of Higher Education
Internationalization of Higher Education involves collaboration at the levels of national systems, institutions and individuals. It is a process that is multi-dimensional or multi-faceted. It involves students, faculty, the institutions and the activities that take place in them. These include study abroad by students, faculty collaboration research and teaching, attraction of foreign faculty to campus signing of MOUs between foreign partners, establishment of satellite campuses or franchise private developers, curriculum containing international issues; re-evaluation of instructional delivery by an institution; (Tagoe, 2016; 175).
Nigerian Universities should recover the ‘Universe’ in them.
3. Higher Education-Industry/Civil Society Partnerships
This is not a recent phenomenon. In the United States, for example, there was the partnership between the land grant Colleges and the community, each Supported by the other to their mutual benefit. The Silicon Valley in the US is also a demonstration of what collaboration among government/state, higher education institutions and industry can achieve. Technical institutes pillars that propelled industrial development in France and Germany. Such collaboration is gaining momentum even in the United Kingdom.
The early higher education institutions in Africa did not have much contact with industry. The first preoccupation of the African governments and the higher institutions was to produce civil/public servants. The situation is changing for the better. Education of any kind must aim, among others, at developing appropriate skills for employment. This will be better achieved in the context of collaboration with the industry. Graduates of our higher institution need to be prepared to fit into society. Purely technical and vocational institution such as polytechnics, technical and agricultural colleges even require such partnership more. It will also fortify the drive to make our graduates self-employable.
4. The Challenge of Covid-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 Pandemic experience in 2020 brought into sharp focus world wide the need to review our pedagogy and general system of Higher Education Institutions of Higher learning had to close down and when they resumed academic activities adopted the hybrid mode of on-line and in-class learning. For us in Nigeria, there were challenges which the public Universities had difficulties in surmounting. The experience was, however, an ‘eye-opener’ as to the prospects of on-line learning even in apparently normal circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic is not showing signs of an early exit. Our institutions at all level with therefore have to continue to evolve means of coping with the pandemic. For now, the hybrid mode of on-line and in-class learning will have to be intensified.
The Open and Distance Education mode also need to be deepened if only to broaden access to Higher Education. Every able person whether on the job or not stands to benefit from functional education to fit better into society whether as full-time employees or self-employed individuals. We should continue to leverage on the gains of the Open and Distance Learning Mode (Olugbemiru Jegede, 2010).
My Dear Graduates, I felicitate with you and your parents/guardians on this landmark achievement in your life trajectory. There can be no doubt that in developed as well as in developing societies, there is always an imperative need to educate our youth to be responsible and cultured members of society. A University must indeed perform its teaching function not only by giving its graduates the ‘means’ to earn a living, but also the means to be able to “apply themselves intelligently to the more complex issues of life.” I believe this is precisely what your University has been doing in these past few years of your studentship here. It is a function that define her social role in the scheme of things. And this is without prejudice to the University’s compelling role as an instrument of development – an essentially utilitarian mission that is implicit in the teaching and research function of our Universities. The plain truth is that a developing country like ours, still in need of highly trained men and women to man the various sectors of the economy cannot afford to neglect the basic role of Universities as instrument of development. With your training for the specific tasks required for national development I believe you have been prepared to join the pool of talents in the vanguard of national development.
We appreciate the fact that we live in difficult times, a situation that is not peculiar to Nigeria even as we have our peculiar challenges. The 20th century has indeed been characterized as the “most brutal and destructive hundred year period in human history’’ (Stephen V. Ward, 2002; 2). More people were killed in its wars, large and small, than in any other century. An Stephen Ward (ibid) has observed with insight, “the will to destruction was so immensely overpowering the very future of human life seemed to be threatened “. Yet the 20TH Century was also the “most civilizing and creative of centuries” Many of the very technological advances that facilitated destruction also fed the global economic growth on “a scale never before seen” (ibid). it goes without saying that humanity entered the 21st century on the crest of a serious dilemma, And that is the century your generation is primed to function. You must function effectively, neither as “ deluded hybrids” nor as “ windsowers” of the earlier generation of the Educated Elite, but as ‘New Nigerians’, In all these ‘Mind is the Master’. You must assiduously cultivate it if you are to be the “King/Queen” of the Mind, the Body and Circumstances. This, in James Allen’s admonition of wisdom, is the only way you can subdue the” self” which is defined by the “sorrow-producing “ elements of Lust, Hatred, Avarice, Self indugence, Self seeking, Vanity, Pride, Doubt, Dark believe and Delusion. And you can only annihilate these elements of the “body of desire” by cultivating the qualities of Purity, Patience, Humility, Self-Sacrifice, Self- reliance, Fearlessness, Knowledge, Wisdom, Compassion and Love. The combination of these qualities will produce in you the abiding and real Human Personality, which is Key to the alignment of the noblest, most effective and enduring living. She/he whose actions proceed from some or all of the elements’ wastes his/her energies upon negations and negativity, but she/he whose actions proceed from some or all of the ten qualities, she/he truly and wisely acts” When we apprehend and practice them, Industry, Commerce, government and other activities will not only be purified, our action, purpose and intelligence will be intensified and enlarged, and also free from strife and pain. My dear ones, you should continue to seek the qualities (James Austine).
As you are ushered into the world lest you turn out to be no more than “a ghostly reflection” of your predecessors rightly or, may be wrongly characterized as “Deluded Hybrids”, “Collaborators” and Windsowers” of their generations.
Once more, I congratulate you on this great occasion and wish you well as you move on in life.
Ayandele EA (1974) The Educated Elite in The Nigerian Society
Fafunwa A.Babs (1974). History of education in Nigeria
Walter Rodney (2009). How Europe Underdeveloped Africa
Faborode Michael & Edigheji (2016) The Future and Relevance of Nigeria Universities And Other Tertiary Institutions
Vaughan, Olufemi Professor (2002) in Fagbola ‘Lere (Ed) Gladys Aduke Vaughan And Omolewa Nursery I and Primary School: A cherished Educational Legacy.
The complete James Austin Treasury MIND IS THE MASTER
Second World Black And African Festival of Arts and Culture (1977) Colioquium on Black Civilisation and Education I Colloquium Proceedings Volume 1
Okogie Julius et al (Eds), (2010) 50 years of University Education in Nigeria Evolution Achievement and Future
H.A Olwasanmi (1973) Ife and the Future 1972 Convocation in S.A Akintoye
Ten years of the University of Ife
Tagoe Clifford (2016) “The Future and Relevance of Nigerian Universities and other Tertiary Institutions towards Higher Education Transformation” Chapter Eight in Faborode Michael and Edigheji (Eds) ibid
Osarenren Ngozi (2016) “The Future and Relevance of Nigerian Universities and other Tertiary Institution towards Higher Education Transformation” Chapter Nine in Faborode Michael & Edigheji (Eds) ibid.
Peter Okebukola (2010) “World Class Status for Nigerian Universities” in Julius Okogie et al (Eds) infra.
Pai Obanya (2010), “System-wide and Institutional Level Pre-requisitse for Building World Class Universities Nigera” in Julius Okogie et al (Eds) infra.
Olugbemiro Jegede (2010) “The Future of Universities in Nigeria. Role and place of Open and Distance Learning” in Julius Okogie el al (Eds) 50 Years of University Education in Nigeria.
Stephen V Ward (2002) Planning the Twentieth-Century City the advanced capitalist world