EDITORIAL: As New Academic Session Begins

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The 2017/2018 academic session has just commenced in Nigerian schools. It is also time for parents and their wards to search for schools that will offer them quality for the resources they put down while at the same time ensuring that students graduate in stipulated time. These conditions often give rise to the unwholesome preference for foreign schools by Nigeria’s public officers which is one of the main reasons why the nation’s public schools are in a shambles. The other reason is the ‘been-to’ mentality that used to be the exception at some point in the nation’s education system is today the rule. The cost as well as the challenges in sourcing the foreign exchange component have not succeeded in deterring the quest for foreign degrees by wards of that class of the Nigerian elite.

The effect of this on the education system is glaring, as most public sector tertiary institutions in Nigeria are hardly on the list of schools in demand in Africa. That is why most graduates of Nigerian universities find it difficult to be accepted in foreign schools for graduate studies. This is a departure from what was the norm when graduates of the nation’s older universities were readily admitted for such academic programmes.

The foray of private enterprise and voluntary agencies into the education sector at that level is striving to bridge that gap as some of these public officers now see the need to enrol their children into those schools. Still, the yearning for foreign schools has not abated.

For the avoidance of doubt, Nigerians are to be found in tertiary institutions in every continent in the world, perhaps in every country for that matter. Beyond the quest for qualitative education in a stable and predictable academic calendar, this could even be for self-aggrandizement or bragging rights.

We are compelled, in the prevailing circumstance, to urge the governments at the federal and state levels, as well as private university entrepreneurs to show more dedication to the principles that underpin not just university education but also secondary and even primary schools. Most universities everywhere are international communities which means that they attract the best teachers from wherever they are found. Also the academic content of the instructions should be such that will reflect international best practices.

This, in our view, will entail a determined effort to prioritize the standardization of their personnel and instructional facilities. Many private universities, unfortunately, have been criticised for undue exploitative fees and for instituting rules and regulations which are totally at variance with the original concept of ‘universitas’ from which the word university was derived. For most of them, the attractions are two fold–prestige and commercial interest. We admit that these are important, but they are hardly sufficient enough conditions to satisfy the requirements for the establishment of a truly tertiary institution.

It is at this point that we implore the National Universities Commission, NUC, to spare no effort in ensuring that parents and their wards get their money’s worth from the institutions to which they commit so much in these austere times. In our opinion, regular visits, assessments, accreditations and re-accreditations of tertiary institutions should be prioritised, especially  in the   areas of personnel adequacy; appropriateness of teaching facilities as well as residential infrastructure.

We are persuaded to argue that a university with up to date faculties will definitely attract students from families that are always seeking the Golden Fleece off shore. It is also when these ‘important’ people send their wards to those schools that they will be compelled to insist on standards that measure up to the money they invest as school fees.

However, we also point out that incessant strikes by university workers make time-conscious parents look elsewhere in pursuit of their children’s education. In our opinion, the impact of these industrial disputes can be mitigated if not eliminated if both parties, that is, the governments and their employees adopt a more proactive and conciliatory approach to issues such as funding and welfare.

In the final analysis, the nation’s education system and the economy as a whole will be the main  beneficiary if all stakeholders exercise some restraints in their attitude towards education administration in the country. We believe that with the right attitude and political will a lot can be achieved and the nation’s education system will be the better for it.