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Public universities, politics & Nigeria’s development

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It is becoming habitual for Nigerian elected public officers to politick for the establishment of government universities in their constituencies or hometowns while incumbent to harness votes, fast track development of their districts, and publicize their hometowns without minding the consequences on the quality of graduates produced while most of their children school overseas.

An erstwhile Southwestern Governor in 2006 distributed the campuses of a State University he established while in office across six geopolitical zones of his state just for political gains.

In 2012, former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Professor Charles Soludo said, “more than 60 per cent of Nigerian graduates are not employable,” as the university education system is marred with politics and quantity rather than standard of graduates and their relevance to evolving labor demands consequent upon globalization.

Out of the 193 universities in Nigeria as of 2021 according to Nigeria University Commission (NUC) official record, only the University of Ibadan had made the top 1000 in Times Higher Education rankings in September 2016 compared to country like Singapore that has just 34 universities yet ranked among the top 800 consistently; in fact, the National University of Singapore was ranked 25th in the world in 2021.

The principal anathema impeding the sprouting of Nigerian public tertiary institutions is paucity of funds pitching Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and federal government at loggerheads intermittently, leading to on-and-off strikes and subsequent snail-paced academic calendar. ASUU strikes have given untold students extra year.

Government claimed to be insolvent regarding meeting ASUU’s financial demands aimed at revamping the nation’s universities yet announced the establishment of four new universities in June, 2021 and Senate passed bills for the establishment of three new ones in July, 2021 with more to come. Apparently government is more interested in playing politics with university education than bringing it in tandem with global best practices.

What’s the point of establishing new universities when the ones in existence are underfunded and underequipped? During my undergraduate days, we had to be grouped during practical classes to share learning equipment because it was insufficient in my department. Plethoric researchers in Nigeria are constrained by outdated and inadequate facilities.

Though the number of prospective undergraduates writing JAMB annually have skyrocketed over the years due to increase in population leading to unprecedented competition for admission and as a consequent, some students, especially those from humble backgrounds are avoidably delayed for few years before gaining admission into government universities. However, producing thousands of halfbaked graduates year-on-year is detrimental to our national development.

Asmara Shafqat said, “If you want to destroy a nation, just spoil its education system.” Any society that plays politics with its tertiary education is beating the drum of self-destruction. University serves as the reservoir of knowledge for human existence and development.

It is a citadel where Engineers, Doctors, Lawyers, Accountants, Managers, Geographers, and Policymakers, to say the least, that would sustain the growth of a nation are being trained as well as imparted with the requisite skillset for societal evolution from generation to generation.

Ubiquitously graduates assume most decision-making positions that affect organizations and the global community owing to rigorous academic training they were subjected to while in school.

Education breaks the shackles of ignorance and liberates the mind. It gives understanding of socioeconomic order and physical contexture of the world. It equally gives people platforms to triumph over walls and follow through with aspirations beneficial to them individually and the society at large.

It’s indispensable in finding the root causes of Nigeria’s underdevelopment and remediation using the cutting edge of research catenating critical thinking. Graduates brainstorm for new innovations and intellectual sustenance of national as well as organizational growth.

Multiple studies have revealed connections between developments in advanced nations and reformations in the education sector. According to World Bank, economic development is driven by the advancement and application of knowledge which are fundamental to the construction of a knowledge economy and society in all nations.

Countries endowed with significant graduates that have top-notch university education tend to have higher life expectancy and good medicare, more stable economy, inventive, and have lower crime. Nigerian political class should understand that there’re policies they can enact and finance to urbanize their constituencies aside establishment of government universities. Thus, should stop politicizing the education sector for their own interests.

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