For Nigerian university education system to assume its rightful position, there is a need to tackle the fundamental problems that have been bedeviling it from actualizing its role in our society. SIMPLICIUS UBAH takes a look at the situation

 
It is noteworthy that university system all over the world is a centre of intellectual development. It is, therefore, so important that any nation that wants to make any appreciable progress at the international community must not take it for granted. This is so because universities are generators of idea and these ideas contribute so much to the development and progress of nations.
Nigerian universities are facing very serious challenges in their bid to see themselves as citadels of knowledge indeed. A lecturer in Economics Department University of Jos, Mr. Joshua T. Akaahan, expressed worry over the incessant strike actions embarked upon by university staff. In order words, one of the challenges the system faces is frequent interruption of the academic calendar through strikes. Such distractions over the years are partially responsible for the half-baked graduates being produced by the nations’ universities.
“Due to the interruption of school calendar by strikes, a student who has four years programme will end up spending more than five years. This indeed not only constitutes wasting of resources; it also brings unnecessary delay on the parts of the students.
“Apart from the extra money parents spend on their children, the stress of spending additional years in school always brings about depression and frustration in the life of students. Of course, because of the stress students are passing through in the school, some of them may start to engage in examination malpractice in order to proceed to the next class by all means. This is the only way they justify the popular saying that ‘let me get the certificate first and every other thing shall be added unto it later’,” said Akaahan.
Going by the 2014 Universities Web Rankings, it is worrisome and unfortunate that none of the Nigerian universities falls among the best first 19 universities in Africa. It is a situation some educationists described shoddier, yet, Nigeria prides herself as the giant of Africa.
The structures of some of the Nigerian universities are decrepit. Most universities in the country are fenceless and undefended. The issue of funding is one of the issues that Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, has been fighting for since 2009.
Another lecturer in Mass Communication Department University of Maiduguri, Mallam Musa Usman said Nigerian universities need adequate funding not only for payment of salaries and allowances of lecturers, but also for the provision of modern structures, adequate facilities and equipment.
Laboratories in most institutions suffer from inadequate basic equipment. Some of these citadels of learning also struggle with insufficient lecture halls and inadequate furniture to accommodate students. This had resulted in students receiving lectures in an over-crowded hall, uncompleted buildings and even under the tress shed. Students also grapple with the problem of insufficient hostel and hostel facilities. Even where they exist, they are not good enough for human inhabitation. It was learnt that many of these hostels are over-crowded as rooms made to accommodate four people are now occupied by seven to 10 students.
Mr. Usman also stressed that another worrisome issue that needs to be urgently addressed in Nigeria’s higher institutions is that of libraries. According to him, most of the universities’ libraries are stocked with pre-colonial, dead and outdated materials. “There are no recent books for both students and lecturers to consult. the end product of this is inadequate database to carry out research in various disciplines”, he said.
Report has it that in the early 1950s and 1960s, anybody that graduated or finished Standard Six can teach very well, but today, some university graduates prefer to be starved for days than to take up teaching job. In fact, some of these graduates cannot speak good and simple English. Indeed it is a sad and unfortunate condition which must be quickly addressed if any meaningful progress is to be made in the nation’s economy considering the fact that Nigeria now boasts of becoming one of the 20 richest countries in the year 2020.
There is no denying fact that knowledge which came from education is a veritable source of development. And this collaborated with the word of a British philosopher many years ago when he said that “knowledge is power”. The greatest thing any government can do for her youth is to give them qualitative and uninterrupted education that will equip them for the challenge of tomorrow’s leadership.
In view of aforementioned challenges in the education system, it therefore becomes paramount for all the stakeholders, especially the government to wake up and take appropriate action in other to revamp the system.
The present administration’s utmost priority is to transform education but much is being expected towards achieving this in terms of funding. Government should endeavour to fund and revive university education. Renaming universities to politicians or anybody will not in any way improve its standard. However, government alone cannot fund the universities. There is therefore the need for multinational companies, telecommunication companies and other private enterprises to participate in funding and equipping the universities as part of their corporate social responsibilities.
Stakeholders are of the view that beside funding matter, there is a need to permanently resolve the recurrent disagreement between the federal government and ASUU so as to correct the chronic problem of academic disruptions through incessant strike actions. All hands must be on desk to revive and resurrect university system in Nigeria in order to produce vibrant and qualitative graduates.


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