Jones Tangban is the proprietor of the recently licensed Havila University, Ikom LGA of Cross River State, in this interaction with RICHARD NDOMA, he speaks on the need to include private universities in Tertiary Education trust Fund (TETFund) interventions and other sundry issues.
The Federal Government recently approved more private universities, don’t you think this would negatively affect standard of education in Nigeria?
There is nothing like proliferation. It is not the right word to use. As far as I’m concerned it is the right thing that it did. The Federal government’s initiative was quite lofty and commendable and a step in the right direction. Our population is growing on a daily basis in a kind of geometrical progression. Of course, any nation that lacks education automatically becomes doom. Like I said, Nigeria’s population is growing geometrically, every year with over 2million students applying for JAMB, to enable those proceeds to university.
You and I know that our public universities lack the capacity to provide admission for the 2million students applying for admission. Both the government and privately owned universities combine do not have capacity to absorb the over 2million people who seek for tertiary education admission.
The question now is what do you want parents of these admission seekers to do? Is it their fault or fault of their children for not being able to secure admission? The answer is capital no! The problem here is that the institutions of higher learning are already saturated. To me the burden is bigger than what the federal government could carry. And as truly useful citizens who are conscious of the fact that the government needs people in the private sector to assist our society in solving these problems. We had no option than wade into that matter. Government alone cannot provide education for all at the same time.
In the United States of America, there are over five thousand universities, in South Africa there are over 1000 universities, in Russia, whose population density of over 200million people equivalent to that of Nigeria, there are over 7000 universities in that country whereas in Nigeria we have only 170 universities. Every day we deliver children and these children must go to school. And you talk of universities being proliferated? No! We are in the right direction.
Federal government’s decision was a good one. Having more universities in Nigeria is germane and sinequanone for the development of education in Nigeria. If people don’t have places to go to school in the first place, they won’t know the difference between bad and good. Knowledge is the ultimate. And this cannot be acquired in the streets except school.
Don’t you think that setting up more private universities would pave the way for low standards of education?
I don’t understand what you mean by quality. Every university is set up by rules. There is what is called minimum standards. There are basic rules you must observe to be able to establish a university. That’s why it is not possible for everyone who is rich to establish a private university, otherwise almost every billionaire would have established one. There are more than 14 steps in which one would undergo before being allowed to establish a private university. Talking about the standard of education, I must say it is not all about the number of institutions of higher learning to be established but basically a function of the institutions set up.
It is an understanding of what education is all about because if you don’t know, the importance of establishing a private university would be abused, and the abuse becomes obvious. Standard of education in Nigeria has basically been abused by the poverty of the mind and the lack of leadership. Because if leadership decides to change its mindset and begin to say look, what happens if you have a business which you are supposed to open for the day’s activity by 7 am and close by 6pm. And you refused to show seriousness.
Until we change our perception on how we manage public businesses, standards would continue to be affected. So it is not affected by the quantity. Quality is not affected by the quantity but by the attitude.
What’s your message to the federal government regarding approval of licenses for take-off of private universities?
I must laud the federal government for opening up the academic space to cater for the backlog of students who had been unable to find opportunity to go to school. As a father, the federal government must do everything within its reach and ensure that it strengthens the regulation of operations of universities in the country so that the universities can live up to their expectations and ensure that the right thing is done. This is the only way standard/ quality of education can be maintained in private universities. My appeal to the federal government is that he should allow private universities to have access to TETFund. Not allowing private universities access to TETFund I don’t see any reason why private universities are refused access to TETFund.