Professor David Iornem is the founder of London Graduate School, a London-based tertiary institution that offers degree programmes in several fields. In this interview with MAKINDE OLUWAROTIMI, he speaks on the benefits of Education, Distance-Learning among other things
What can we do to improve the quality of education in tertiary institutions in Nigeria?
The tertiary institutions in Nigeria should open up and if there are enough vacancies, enough places for people to enter and learn, universities would be competing to get good students but now, there are not enough places, no conducive learning environment. In the University system, you would discover a lot of corruption and all that. You must have seen that most people have the highest scores in JAMB but at the moment, no admission for them but if we had enough learning environment, there would not be need for that because JAMB is not a qualification for entering University. JAMB is just like an elimination process, you set a roadblock and you make money from that roadblock like police do. You know, collecting money from poor people and then allowing only few people admission into the university.
For example often times, nearly two million people want to enter university and presumably, all of them qualify before struggling to enter university but at the end, less than 500,000 are given admission. So, we need to expand because this is not only for government, it is for the private sector too.
This is like the election forms that are being sold to contest election. You said that you permitted the private sector to participate in setting up university and then you begin to set bench marks that exclude so many people. You want somebody to have a big campus before he can start a university. If you go to Ghana, you can see it and even in advanced countries, it is happening there too and they are achieving a lot by allowing private individuals to set up small universities and colleges. There are close to 400,000 Nigerian students in Ghana alone studying in these universities and they pay just $3,000 per session though some pay more than that. And if students are paying that amount, calculate how much and include the expenses of living in Ghana, both feeding and other things. I’m not saying people should not travel to learn but I’m saying people should not go to Ghana to study because there is no place in Nigeria, people should go to Ghana to study because they have chosen to go and study there because of one thing or the other. See our neighbour, Benin Republic, they also started Ghana’s method and that is why I’m setting up a university college in Benin Republic, but if it were in Nigeria that I wanted to establish a university college, I would not have been able to do it and I’m not by any means a poor Nigerian. So, if I’m not poor but I cannot establish a university college, I cannot do what the Nigerian law wants us to do or create a platform for people to learn, then there must be something wrong.
Tell us about the London Graduate School
The London Graduate School is an institution established in the UK, we are permitted to run degree programmes of several universities at O’level, Bachelors, Masters, PHD and we have been doing this but we are not authorised to issue the degrees. We are the tuition centres of university colleges and teach degree programmes of other universities and those universities award the degrees. The universities we teach the degrees for can be in the UK, or anywhere and we are authorised to bring people into the UK for the purpose of training and studying, which is the first institution we have.
Another Institution is the Commonwealth University I established in Benin and Panama for mature adults working in industry or government, who need to expand their knowledge and grow in their capacity to do more in what they are doing.
In Ghana, we have the Institute Of Management And Strategic Studies. It runs human resource development courses. In Benin Republic, we have a license to set up a university and Benin Educational venture is our first formal university kind of education with people coming and sitting in classrooms, studying unlike programmes we do as distance learning through e-learning.
Does this mean that you are in affiliation with several universities?
The very day you enroll, you select the institution and course you want to study. You enroll with us for tuition purposes then you register with the appropriate university for their own record and they are aware that you are receiving instruction and when you have reached the level to graduate, your credits are assessed and you are given a degree.
In your distance learning programmes, do you have any Nigerian or is it possible to incorporate our tertiary institutions?
Well, my international centre is in London from where I teach my distance learning programmes, globally. I have a team in London. There are some Nigerians who are also studying in that programme but we reach out to the whole world and London has a very conducive atmosphere.
Also, they allow small university colleges like the one I have to operate and they encourage it as well, they also give you guidelines and wherever you are falling short they will show or help you to overcome because they know that if you are doing it successfully, you are contributing a quota to the development of their country and if you are doing it according to their rules then you are promoting quality and standards for even the youth, so they do not have exclusive rules rather, they have rules that encourage inclusion.
Is it possible to include Nigerian institutions?
Most Nigeria institutions are traditional institutions. The NUC that governs them does not allow them to appoint study centres. So, our philosophy or structure does not fit in what they are practicing in Nigeria but it fits globally, so we are practicing globally but if Nigerians want to key into the global trend programme, they are welcome and I want to say distance learning or e-Learning is for the future.
Some people here in Nigeria believe that it is not the same as learning directly from the institution itself, what is your view about that?
My answer to that is the quality of the education you get. It does not matter whether you study by distance learning or you start from the classroom, what matters is the knowledge you have acquired that is the main thing. For example, who can say Awolowo was not an intellectual or a genius; the greatest of them all is Professor Chigo Obi, who got his first degree in Mathematics in Onitsha. He was in Onitsha and studying at home, he never went to any University even when studying for his Masters, he did not go to any university but he is the greatest mathematician in Nigeria. Once there was a difficult mathematical program, which a human brain was not able to solve until the computer was invented, and the computer was able to solve the problem. But he felt that what a computer can do, a human brain can also do. He went down in the Guinness Book Of Records as one who was able to solve a mathematical problem that was impossible for any human brain to solve. He is the product of this country, so Chigo Obi is the first professor of Mathematics in Nigeria. He studied completely at home starting for his Bachelors degree as well as Masters degrees and you can Google him, he is a very well known person. So, it does not matter where you studied but the idea is to have the knowledge and anybody who says they do not want distance learning because they want to maintain quality is just wasting time.
How would you rate this present administration?
Let me say Buhari has disappointed so many Nigerians. If he gets the second term, maybe the vote is from ignorant people who do not know how a government should be governed, the people who do not know how government is supposed to provide social amenities for them, as well as protecting their lives and if it is from the illiterates ones, that will be his luck.
What advice do you have for the government of the nation?
The government should always consider what the people want, the needs of the people. I travel to Cotonou very often. I used to fly to Lagos and then charter a taxi from Lagos Airport to Badagry, from Badagry to Seme border route and it is the worst road in the world now. The road buses drive to Cotonou, from Cotonou to Togo and then to Ghana as well as Cote d’voire. You see, it is a major road but the moment you cross to Benin republic, you see a very nice road and you follow that nice road to where ever you want to go but it is only the Nigerian part of the road that is very bad. So, Buhari is sleeping on duty. He is there to take care of things but he is not aware of things he is supposed to take care of. He would have known that, that road has to be repaired.