The Gambia has solicited more support from Nigeria in the development of higher education in the English-speaking West African country by providing more postgraduate scholarships for her citizens at Nigerian universities.
The Gambian Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science, and Technology, Prof. Pierre Gomez, made the appeal on Monday in Abuja when he paid a working visit to the Acting Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Chris Maiyaki.
Gomez, who commended Nigeria for laying the foundation of university education in Gambia, said most of the principal officers, including the Vice Chancellor, in the first university in the country were Nigerians.
He lauded the quality of Nigerian universities, disclosing that he had earlier undergone postgraduate programmes in Nigerian universities under the World Bank-sponsored African Centre of Excellence (ACE), and ACE is now playing strategic roles in the country.
He said Gambia is particularly interested in ensuring that functional higher education is delivered to its citizens as well as more postgraduate scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programmes.
“Because of the relationship we have between Banjul and Abuja, we are here to seek support for scholarships at postgraduate level in different areas, especially in STEM, and to know whether the TVET are under your purview, because this is something we want to see in getting support in that area and also in capacity building.
“As you know, education liberates the individual. We want to have functional education; one thing is to have your Masters and PhDs, but the other thing is for you to be able to solve societal problems,” Gomez posited.
The minister, who also called for support in the area of capacity building, said, “We still have developmental issues, and we strongly believe higher education can change the situation.”
Responding, the Acting Executive Secretary of NUC, Chris Maiyaki, who was joined by other directors in the Commission, assured the minister of his support, saying Nigeria would not relent in playing a big brother’s role despite having its own challenges.
“Even though we don’t have enough access, every year we have about 2 million Nigerian kids (students) applying to universities, and we barely meet up to 50 percent.
“If you take electricity supply, Nigeria is not self-sufficient, but we provide electricity to the Niger Republic; that is our deliberate friendly stance since Independence,” he said.
Maiyaki expressed delight that the visit came on the heels of the recent launch of the Core Curriculum Minimum Academic Standards (CCMAS) in the Nigerian University System.
“Our new curriculum has just been launched, and the visit is taking place at a time when Nigeria is re-engineering its curriculum. CCMAS is revolutionary and dynamic,” he said.
Speaking further, Maiyaki said Nigeria has also opened up its higher education space to attract major players across the globe through the transactional education guidelines put in place by NUC.
“We have decided to open up Nigerian higher education space so that we can invite genuine players. We are open to very well-meaning interventions; foreign universities are at liberty to come,” Maiyaki said.
On the request for postgraduate scholarships, Maiyaki urged the Gambian minister to send a formal proposal on the specific programmes and universities of choice in order for NUC to process the request.
While saying NUC was also ready to encourage joint research between scholars in Nigeria and those in Gambia to address shared problems, Maiyaki revealed that the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has come up with a plan that will attract about 500 students from Gambia to Nigerian universities and called for exploration of the opportunity.