ACRIMONIOUS RELOCATION OF UNIVERSITIES
6/21/2012 5:20:04 PM -
No doubt Nigeria is ranked among the developing Countries of the world pejoratively termed as third World Countries. An index of underdevelopment used as the international benchmark for arriving at the status whereby Nigeria is so ranked as belonging to the infamous club of third World Countries, is the literacy level of the populace which by all intents and purposes, is not salutary and promising.
Although, Nigerians living and working in the developed societies such as the United States of America, United Kingdom and Canada are known as some of the finest academics in their areas of specialization but locally, the literacy level among the adult populace is disappointing.
Recently, report has it that Nigeria has the highest number of black medical Doctors practicing their profession in the United States of America. But locally, the literacy level is not commendable. To add salt to injury, over 10 million Nigerian children of school ages are out of school because of widespread, pervasive and notorious poverty afflicting their parents and/or guardians.
With few years to 2015 deadline, Nigeria is unlikely to meet the eight goals in the millennium Development Goals including but not limited to eradication of poverty. Poverty is further reinforced among a good number of Nigerians by the high rate of illiteracy among the adult populace.
The World Bank, Nigerian office in a document published in April 2011, claimed that Nigeria's literacy rate marginally improved by 25 percent through construction and provision of equipment to primary and secondary school class rooms in over 1,000 communities.
In the report titled; 'Macroeconomic stability and delivering services to the poor', the World Bank wrote thus; 'Despite Nigeria's strong economic track record, poverty is significant, and reducing it will require strong non-oil growth and a focus on human development. Barriers include the investment climate, infrastructure, incentives and policies affecting agricultural productivity, and the quality and relevance of tertiary education'.
The World Bank gave further scorecard of Nigeria as follows; 'In spite of successful initiatives in human development, Nigeria may not be on track for meeting most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. Underpinning these challenges is the core issue of governance, in particular at the state level. Fiscal decentralization provides Nigeria's 36 states and 774 local governments considerable policy autonomy, control of 50 percent of government revenues, and responsibility for delivery of public services. Capacity is weak in most states, and improving governance will be a long term process'.
Statistics of education in Nigeria from 1999 to 2005 published by the Federal Ministry of education is loaded with frightening facts regarding the state of education and literacy in Nigeria. Vast as the country is, only a total of 299,386 qualified primary school teachers were recorded in 2005.
In that study, Oyo state, in South West Nigeria had the highest number of qualified teachers amongst the states with 24,679, representing 8.24 percent.
This was followed by Lagos state with 21,471 (7.17 percent), while Zamfara state in the North West Nigeria recorded the least with 1,249 qualified teachers only.
In an editorial published on Thursday, June 21st 2012, ThisDay newspaper revealed that about half the population of teachers in Sokoto state, North West Nigeria cannot read and write.
This is how precarious the state of literacy in most part of Nigeria has nosedived. Interestingly, the Sokoto State Governor Mr. Magatakarda Wamako recently built a state of the art University in his state to try to bridge the wide gap in the training and qualification of teachers who would go on to impart knowledge on the younger population because of the realization that education holds the key to development.
Because poverty is high among the greatest percentage of Nigerians, most people on their own have realized that one sure way to escape the poverty vicious circle is to embrace capacity training/ building and advanced human development which is believed in authoritative quarters as a panacea to the poverty trap.
Politicians have also cleverly cashed in on the mad rush by most people for education and especially tertiary education to gained some mileages and advantages against their rivals.
Aspirants to political offices such as the National Assembly all across the country have had to assemble media practitioners especially from the print and electronic media to cover ceremonies whereby some few educationally hungry teenagers are awarded some forms of scholarship including the purchase of pre-university matriculation examination forms.
At the state level, those among the politicians who win election to become governors have also played politics with the all- important issue of education. Some of these governors have gone to the ridiculous level of relocating already existing state owned universities and other educational facilities to their place of birth to score cheap and senseless political mileage.
The Nigerian state governors who have engaged in this drama of relocation of state tertiary institutions most times do not give priority to the all important need for such schools to receive the best of funding support to transform such institutions to become centers of academic excellence and research.
Findings from those who should know said that location of tertiary institutions should not dominate the agenda of political office holders since what distinguishes a good academic institution from the bad one is the level and intensity of funding and research.
Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia provides a good background to the aforementioned fact.
The writers of the reputable online free encyclopedia found out that; 'Strong research and funding have helped make United States colleges and universities among the world's most prestigious, making them particularly attractive to international students, professors and researchers in the pursuit of academic excellence.'
According to the Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Academic Ranking of World Universities, more than 30 of the highest-ranked 45 institutions are in the United States (as measured by awards and research output).
But in Nigeria of the twenty first century, what occupies the attention of local politicians who hold the juicy offices of state governors is to change the location of higher institutions to their geo-political domains.
In Bayelsa, Imo and Ekiti states, Governors of those states are embroiled in the needless controversy of moving already existing state funded universities to their own local council areas for purely political reasons.
With less than 100 days in office, Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa state reportedly ordered the relocation of the Bayelsa State college of Education (BYCOE), Okpoama in Brass local government area to his own community, in Toru Orua in Sagbama local government area.
Educational and political analysts in Bayelsa state said that the above move is meant to hurt the immediate past Governor of the state Chief Timipre Silva who established the school in 2009 and located it in his own community. Both Dickson and Sylva fought fierce political battle up to the Supreme Court of Nigeria before the former [Mr. Dickson] was declared the validly elected Governor of the oil-rich but heavily underdeveloped state.
In Imo state, Governor Rochas Okorocha has reportedly relocated the Imo state university from Owerri Senatorial zone to his Orlu Senatorial zone.
Emperor Iwuala, a public affairs commentator based in Owerri, Imo state criticized Governor Okorocha for moving the Imo state university from where it is now to his own community in Ideato South local government area.
He also traced the establishment of the Imo state university to a law of the state legislature passed in 1981 and submitted that the Governor is obliged to follow the law.
Iwuala wrote thus; 'Imo State University (IMSU) was originally modeled after the famous University of Nebraska in the United States of America. Accordingly, the Imo State Law No. 4 of 1981 provided for five temporary campuses for the university to be located at the existing five senatorial zones in the old Imo State.'
Originally, the Imo state university was to operate campuses in all parts of the old Imo state but successive administrations in Imo State also played their own politics with the structure, location and funding of the Imo State University since the then Imo State University was ceded to Abia on creation of Abia from the old Imo State.
For Nigeria to get it right, and for us to bridge the technology gap, state governors should not dabble into the needless politics of relocating already existing higher institutions to favour their immediate environment but must shift emphasis to improving better, transparent funding of these schools to create good learning environment for research and capacity development of Nigeria's younger generation.
· Emmanuel Onwubiko, head, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS' ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA; writes from www.huriwa.blogspot.com.