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Awarding First Class not panacea to education quagmire — Adamolekun

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ASUU strike also unhelpful

By Dayo Adesulu

NIGERIAN public administration scholar and professor of management, Ladipo Adamolekun, has frowned at the explosion in the number of first class and second class upper degrees being awarded by many universities, adding that universities should rather give its students qualitative education that will revamp the shambolic sector.

“The explosion in the number of first class and second class upper degrees in many universities since the mid-2000s is no more than a result of grade inflation in both the public and private universities, with the latter as the greater culprits. Any suggestion that there is an iota of doubt about decline in the quality of university education in Nigeria for close to three decades is disingenuous,” he said while while delivering a convocation lecture on ‘Salvaging Nigeria Universities’ at the Federal University of Oye-Ekiti.

Drawing his assertion from various indices, the 1968 First Class scholar in French said the fact that many employers of labour affirm that a significant majority of graduates produced by our universities since the 1990s are unemployable is strong evidence of the decline. Quoting Dr. Abubakar Momoh, a  lecturer at the Lagos State University (LASU) as  published in  Sunday Vanguard, February 26, 2006, he said, “Although I teach here, I don’t have confidence in the graduates I produce. I am being honest.”

The most ridiculous indication of the rot in our universities, according to him was the reported dismissal of three graduates of the Enugu State University of Science and Technology from the National Youth Service Corps scheme for falling below the standard expected of graduates published in The Punch Editorial, December 14, 2012. In buttressing his claim, Adamolekun pointed out a statement credited to former Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Peter Okebukola who in The Punch, June 7, 2006 said, ”Even the Ph.D degrees we award in our universities are doubtful degrees.”

Also, while making reference on the report of the Needs Assessment Report 2012, he said, “Nigeria’s university system is in crisis of manpower. Instead of having no less than 80 per cent of the academics with PhDs, only 43 per cent are PhD holders while the remaining 57 per cent are not. And instead of 75 per cent of the academics to be between senior lecturers and professors, only about 44 per cent are within the bracket while the remaining 56 per cent are not.

“The staff mix in some universities is alarming. Kano State University, Wudil, established in 2001 has only one professor and 25 Ph.Ds. Almost all the universities are over-staffed with non-teaching staff: in many universities, the number of non-teaching staff doubles, triples or quadruples that of teaching staff; and in some, the number of senior administrative staff alone is more than the total number of teaching staff.

“Without question, this shortage of qualified academic staff is a major explanation for the widely-acknowledged poor quality of graduates from the universities. The explosion in the number of first class and upper second degrees in many universities since the mid-2000s is no more than a result of grade inflation in both the public and private universities, with the latter as the greater culprits. There is the evidence of decline in respect of the character of staff and students: stories about varying forms of misconduct and unethical behaviour, rarely heard of in the era of quality university education, are reported from time to time in the print media. The list includes the following: cultism, sexual harassment, examination malpractices, and corruption.”

While tracing the causes of decline in quality of education in the past thirty years, Adamolekun pointed out poor quality secondary education, inadequate funding, poor infrastructure as causative agents. He noted that the vast majority of students barely know their grammar, never mind the poor quality of their knowledge adding, “The consistently low scores in the university entrance examination organised by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, speaks volumes.”

Inadequate funding: Adamolekun who urged the Federal Government to adequately fund education, lamenting that the average annual federal government budget for education from 1999 to 2016 was less than 10 percent.

Inadequate and poor infrastructure: On poor infrastructure, he quoted NEEDS as saying there is an average of four abandoned projects per university in Nigeria – with negative consequences for classrooms, laboratories, students’ hostels, and staff accommodation. Poor infrastructure adversely affects teaching, research, learning and students’ health and safety.

Meanwhile, when commending ASUU for their contribution to education, he charged them to shelf strike as an instrument for driving home their demands. His words: “Although the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has contributed hugely to the search for solutions to some of the problems that have caused the progressive decline in university education since the 1980s, it is also the case that ASUU has contributed to some of the problems that have caused the decline.”

 

‘’Paradoxically, the use of the strike weapon – estimated to account for about 20% of total time in 13 years (1999-2013), that is, 30 months out of 156 months – that has been crucial in some of ASUU’s positive contributions has also resulted in an unstable academic calendar that is widely regarded as a signpost of decline. Concretely, unstable academic calendar drives away foreign students and scholars, and Nigerians who can afford it go outside the country for university education, including in sub-standard institutions in Ghana.

‘’The second noteworthy contribution of ASUU to decline in the universities is inadvertent but real: the demonstration effect of ASUU’s “power” has resulted in the mushrooming of staff unions across the public universities. Today, the list includes the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), and Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU).   And they all, sometimes separately and sometimes in combination, use/abuse the strike weapon in respect of both their external and internal “struggles”: the former with Government and the latter with university management.   Indeed, the recent militancy of some of the non-academic staff unions is undermining the smooth functioning of some of the universities.

 

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