Nestled around moss covered hills and rolling landscapes in Uturu, Abia State is a citadel of learning that dares to be different.
Gregory University, named after Pope Gregory 1, a renowned writer and educationist (590-604 AD), is an ivory tower whose emphasis is not only in providing a stellar education, but in the added benefits of life skills and entrepreneurial expertise.
Founded in 2012 by Professor Ikechukwu Ibe (OFR), Gregory University Uturu(GUU) had its 7th Matriculation Ceremony on February 2nd, 2019, at the institution’s well-appointed auditorium with pomp and fanfare.
The activities marking the event kicked into a higher gear a day earlier with ‘Pre-Matric Gala’, where students showcased their talents and thrilled the audience to an admixture of Drama, Poetry, Music and Dance. It was sure a thorough exhilarating event.
The matriculation ceremony the following day was witnessed by dignitaries, academicians, parents, wards and students with the Goodluck Jonathan Auditorium, filled to capacity. The matriculants filed out one by one by their departments to take the matriculation pledge in presence of all and sundry. They were thereafter formally admitted as students into the prestigious University by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Augustine A. Uwakwe.
However, the convention of how a matriculation ceremony is run is not the objective of this piece. Rather, what really struck this writer who witnessed all the events was the infusion of Entrepreneurship, for all intents and purposes, into the School Curriculum.
All students in Year 2 irrespective of their course of study are taught entrepreneurship with wide practical applications by no other than the Founder and Chancellor, Professor Gregory Ibe; himself, a devoted academic and an astute business leader.
This writer found this quite unusual and decided to dig into the Vision of the University. There lies the answer in plain sight: “The Vision of Gregory University is to be a world renowned University noted for the high quality of its academic and research programmes as well as its professional, practical and entrepreneurial capacity development”.
The Institution’s Core Values are anchored on Excellence, Integrity, Professionalism, Entrepreneurial Capacity, Global Leadership and Technological Advancement.
The importance of Entrepreneurship in the life of a nation was perhaps what guided the choice of the keynote address for the matriculation ceremony. Tagged ‘Entrepreneurship: Nurturing National Economic Development’, the paper, prepared and presented by Engineer (Dr) Sola Aliu, an Entrepreneurship Consultant, was lucid, illuminating and driven.
It is noteworthy to mention that Dr Aliu is one of the chief proponents of those pushing for Entrepreneurship to be taught in our tertiary institutions. In fact, he was one of those, in 2016, who brokered the partnership between the US based ‘Knowledge Institute for Small Business Development (KISBD)’ and the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) as instituted by the current able Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu.
The partnership midwifed the National Entrepreneurial Resource and Knowledge Centre(NERKC) which aims at promoting ‘small business development and entrepreneurship’ in Nigeria.
According to a former Nigerian Minister of Finance, Dr Okonjo Iweala, about 1.8 million graduates move into the labour market every year.
The number of graduate unemployment is colossal to say the least and this has seen a lot of restless youths engaging in vices such as advance fee fraud, prostitution and other criminal activities in order to make a living. It does not end there. Nigeria population is projected to top 300 Million in 10 years. By 2050, the nation’s population is set to hit 500 million; the third in the world after China and India.
It is therefore important for all stakeholders, the government, parents, academics, opinion moulders and indeed everyone to start thinking out of the box in securing a better future for the present and unborn population.
It is easy to see why Dr Sola Aliu was chosen to deliver the keynote address for the ceremony. He and Professor Ibe share an uncommon passion and vision in making our youths develop their entrepreneurship potentials which, if well harnessed, could see them metamorphosing into captains of varied industries someday.
Dr Aliu described an entrepreneur as ‘a person who can pursue his or her goals in spite of obstacles, opposition, setback and failure. He or she must persist in the face of adversity, confront unknown challenges and risks, learn from failures, have confidence in his or her capacity to deal with the world, and take practical rational steps in the pursuit of his or her goals’.
He went further ‘…entrepreneurs must be self motivated, persistent, creative, risk takers, independent, flexible, realistic and ethical’.
He also added that budding entrepreneurs (especially the youths) should pursue the following objectives with vigour:
Learn commercial mathematics, ethics and life skills which in no small measure, will assist them in operating small businesses.
Be abreast of the dictates of the market economy and how business ownership leads to wealth creation.
Have an entrepreneurial mindset in order to succeed in their pursuit of higher education or whether they join the labour force or become entrepreneurs.
Be financially literate so that they would be able to understand basic finance and economic principles in order to run thriving businesses, save and invest to meeting their life goals.
The drive towards ensuring that students hone their varied talents and also develop other skills apart from their course of study, is a key philosophy of GUU, geared towards having an enriched and secure future for their wards. The university encourages their students to start budding businesses even while undergoing their various courses of study.
In his speech delivered ex tempore, the Founder/Chancellor, Professor Iyke Ibe took everyone on an odyssey of his life experience filled with twists and turns.
As a young man raised in a loving but humble home, he had to make his way through life by engaging in odd jobs such as carpentry, electricity installation and myriad of others to making ends meet and reducing the burden of his education and upkeep on the shoulders of his parents.
He faced various challenges life threw his way with gusto and self determination and saw himself through school, earning a Bachelors, Msc and PhD degrees . His industry and services to mankind were also recognised and was duly honoured with an Officer of the Republic(OFR) award by The Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Ibe said given the right knowledge and tools to work with, GUU students (with representations from the 6 Zones of Nigeria and parts of Africa) will be able to engage in small businesses which they can utilise to augment their school fees and living expenses, thereby alleviating the financial pressures on their parents.
Such was the academic and convivial atmosphere of GUU. It was real, practical and focused. Parents, Guardians and Dignitaries were held spellbound whilst the Founder spoke.
That is the stuff GUU is made of and it is a model that has been the Unique Selling Point (USP) of the University to date apart from its statutory responsibility of delivering on world class academic curriculum for its undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Perhaps in underscoring the seriousness with which GUU takes its entrepreneurial classes, the Chancellor, after all the glitz and glamour of the matriculation ceremony rounded up his 2nd year students at about 4 pm for a 3 hour lecture. The subject of the day was ‘ Elements of Paint Manufacturing’!
Olakunri writes from Abuja
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