“RECENT DEVELOPMENT IN THE NIGERIAN UNIVERSITY
SYSTEM, IMPLICATION TO THE NORTHERN STATES”
By Professor Idris A. Abdulkadir (B.1297)
Paper Presented At the 2005 BOBA Annual Lecture,
Saturday, November 26, 2005
We are all very conversant with the eventful and generally successful
history of the Western type higher education from the medieval universities of Bologna, Paris or Oxford, or even earlier ones from Plato’s Academy or the Jerusalem temple. There is today an abundance of these universities and a rich variety of them in all countries of the world. They have been the centres of generating new knowledge and disseminating the same within and outside their countries of origin. Universities educate future leaders, equip individuals with advanced knowledge and skills required for national, social and economic development. The development of these universities has, through the centuries undergone considerable self imposed changes necessitated by the dynamic nature of the body of knowledge being generated within and outside the system, around the world. This in turn has been transforming, for better or for worse, the activities of mankind on the globe.
The globalization of knowledge today has been put on the fast lane by the
evolution of Information Communication Technology (ICT). At the start of the 21st century and the emergence of ICT, new societies are emerging where knowledge is the main driving force for economic development rather than capital and labour. Economic developments of countries are increasingly becoming knowledge driven and not industry driven. The process has become irreversible and nations are falling in line, at least for economic reasons, or else stand the chance of being left in the backyard of the global economy. The African continent as a whole has so far, in general terms, been relegated to consumer status in all these developments. Unfortunately even this consumer status is now
being threatened because the consumption has also become knowledge driven. There is a growing trend that the ability of people to adopt and adapt to the rapidly emerging technologies in no small measure determines their hopes for the economic, social and political ‘ developments relevant to the 21st century. Globally therefore universities are being re-positioned to remain the engine room for developing and imparting this knowledge.
This paper therefore deals with the issue of global re-positioning of the
universities, albeit briefly and discusses in greater detail how the African continent, Nigeria and the Northern States of Nigeria, in that increasing order of detail, are attempting, if at all, to handle this development.
B. GLOBAL OUTLOOK
The global outlook for the University System is breath-taking. Universities continue to grow in numbers and by expansion and the frontiers of know ledge continue to move forward. In both developed and developing countries the phenomenal growth is noticeable. Unfortunately, the relative rate of development of the universities between these two worlds, because of the economic divide, is one that clearly connotes the concept of the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. This is in terms of both quantity and quality ‘of these institutions. It is natural that the age differences, as to when individual nations ‘log-on’ to the establishment of universities, should come into play, but economic wherewithal dominates the rate of development both in quality and quantity. Developing nations have, during the past three decades or so, invested considerable resources in their higher education system and quantitatively the results surpassed expectations. The enrolment ratios increased dramatically. By some estimates, within the period, between mid-sixties to the early nineties, enrolment rose from one to nine percent in North Africa, eight to sixteen percent in the Middle-East, seven to twenty-one percent in Latin America and eight to seventeen percent in East Asia while sub- Saharan Africa recorded an average growth rate of six percent per year. The number of student enrolment in higher education generally continued to rise rapidly in these nations, reflecting the increasing pressure arising from increased enrolments at the secondary school level. However the growing adverse macro -economic conditions, and increased competition for scarce
resources and sometimes increased mismanagement of such resources, greatly curtailed many governments’ capacity to continue to support university education in particular. The decrease in resource allocation to university education became particularly acute in Africa. This led to a situation where academic expenditure per student became the lowest in the world and academic staff salaries fell so low, in some cases less thanN3.000.00 ($18.00 dollars) per month, such that the ‘’brain drain” phenomenon became palpable.
This acute resource curtailment took serious toll, on infrastructures, teaching equipment, books and journals availability and maintenance. The on-going struggle in most developing countries today to reverse this process is taking many forms. These include considerable move towards cost sharing in this enterprise, through increase in tuition fees to the extent that in some countries like South Korea, Jordan, Chile, the tuition fees contribute between 25% to 40% of the total recurrent expenditures in public universities.
In most African countries this is still less than 1 0%. The pressure in public spending for university education is also gradually and in some cases dramatically, being taken over by the establishment of private universities. The world over, private universities, have become important elements in the development of universities and even more so in developing countries. They can be very efficient and flexible and respond more readily to the changing demand of students and changing labour market. They also increase university education opportunities at little or no direct cost to the public funds. In a number of countries the vast majority of students are enrolled in private universities; this is as high as 86% in the Philippines, 75% in South Korea, and up to 60% in Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia and Indonesia.
The largest private university in the world is Iran’s Islamic Azad University (IAU) which was established in 1983. The student enrolment stands at more than 300,000 for 126
degree programmes spread over 116 campuses, which are located in 105 cities. In contrast, Harvard University which is the oldest private university in the world, and now over three hundred years old (1636), had only a total student enrolment of 19,638 in 2003/2004 academic year. This was broken down into 6,597 undergraduates and 13,093 professionals and graduate students. Within the African countries, the trend in the establishment of private universities is very encouraging; for instance by 2004, Tanzania had 13, Uganda 12, Kenya 11, South Africa 9, Mali 10, Benin 8 and Nigeria 8. As we shall see later the Nigerian figure has dramatically changed from eight in 2004 to 23 by June 2005. The total number of universities in a particular country, as against its total population, is also relevant in the global visualization of developments in this sub-sector of the educational industry. Comparison here, is rather abstract and heavily dependant on many variables, which render such an exercise dubious, to say the least. For instance the United States of America has about twice the population of Nigeria, yet it has over 3,500 universities as against the seventy-four in Nigeria today. However as we know, all other economic indices defy comparison in this regard. The Nigerian. Gross Domestic Product of about $41 billion is nowhere near the $8,930,000 billion ($8.9 trillion) in the USA. The table below gives an idea of number of universities in comparison to population in some countries. This makes a case for gradual increase in number of universities in this country relative to our population for the purpose of meeting the present and future relevant high level manpower needs.
Country Population in Millions Number of Universities
India 1,049.7 8,407
Bangladesh 138.4 1,268
USA 290.3 5,758
Indonesia 234.8 1,236
Argentina 38.7 1,705
Japan 127.8 1,223
Spain 40.2 1,415
France 60.1 1,062
Mexico 104.9 1,341
China 1,286.9 1,054
Nigeria 125.6 74
South Africa 43.6 26
(Source: NUC-MM- 2:4 of 10-11/2003)
The more relevant entity to look at though, is that of quality of the universities in various countries as adjudged on the basis of specific, recognizable, measurable indicators which reflect strength in teaching, research and international reputation. The first attempt to rank some of the world universities based on these indicators was conducted in 2004. Specifically the indices used were teacher/student ratio, research impact, proportion of staff who are Nobel Prize winners, and percent of international students and staff in the university, used as a measure of the university’s international orientation and reputation.
In this ranking no university in Africa and South America made it among the first top two hundred universities in the world. These were spread among 29 countries, with universities in USA, UK, Germany, Australia, Japan, China and India featuring prominently on this list. The 2005 ranking, based on the same criteria used in 2004, has just been released. Harvard University has remained the best as in 2004. There have been changes in university positions and some countries have now been added in the exclusive club. As it was in 2004, no university in Africa has made it to the top 200 list, but Nigeria is optimistic that before 2010, it will make a good show of it. The pressure on the universities,
their proprietors, staff and students is on. The lesson here is not so much that Africa is not there yet, but it provides for goals to aspire to, because the increased globalization of education demands that we do. Through the instrumentality of ICT and now being further enhanced by the on-going development of Internet II, the participation in this globalization is becoming a necessity rather than a luxury if the products of our universities and consequently the country, have any chance of also becoming active players rather than passive onlookers on the global, social and economic stage.
C. THE NIGERIAN OUTLOOK
1. History and Development
The Nigerian University System marked its 55th anniversary on November 17th 2003. The University of Ibadan celebrates every November 17th as its Foundation Day. As young as the system is, its contribution to the academia and socio-economic developments nationally and globally have been legendary. This includes the production of a Nobel Laureate in English Literature. If only things have remained stable and development in the country sustained, the Nigerian University System would not be simply dreaming of becoming part of the global elite, but would have actualized it by now. All the necessary ingredients for this to happen have been on the ground. The enthusiasm of Nigerians for education is second to none and the capacity for learning is legendary. Unfortunately the political instability in the country over the last three decades, the economic problems arising primarily from mismanagement and the numerous social vices which have crept into the nation have dealt the system almost irreparable damage. The system has been surviving, but it is just that.
However during the last decade or so, Nigerians have, despite all that and may be because of that, been rallying around the system to revive it and move on. Governments at all levels and the private sector, all have come to recognize the pivotal role of university education to an individual and to the Nation and have heavily weighed in to reverse the nose-dive which had hitherto gripped the system. Up to 1979, and arising from the 1975 decision, the Federal Government was the sole proprietor of the system which was then 13 universities strong. The placement of the universities’ establishment and maintenance on the concurrent list in the 1979 constitution, heralded the establishment of the first state university in 1979. The establishment of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port-Harcourt, surprised everyone because the nation’s psyche was not attuned to that development yet. That however, soon changed, because between 1979 and 1992, the system swelled by twenty-two more universities sponsored by both the States and the Federal Governments, It should also be recalled that the private sector attempted to make its contribution to this development during the Second Republic Under the 1979 constitutional provision, for between 1979 and December 1983, twenty-two private universities were established.
These, however did not have a chance of survival because the in-coming Military Government recognized the fact that they were established without any guidelines or standards and the ramifications to the nations’ University System to allow this to continue, would have been simply a disaster! Therefore by Decree No. 19 of 1984, the then Federal Government prohibited the establishment of new private universities and all the existing ones were abolished. This was not meant to be a permanent state of affairs for the system.
Only that for private universities to come on the scene again, criteria, stiff enough to ensure the proper establishment of these universities and maintaining them, needed to be put in place. This was what Decree 9 of 1993 did. It provided for a rigorous application and enforcement of such criteria and other regulations. From 1992 to date the Federal Government has established only one more university, which is the National Open University, Abuja which was established in 2002. The state governments and the private sector however seemed to have just began. For the state governments, the pandemonium led to the creation of fourteen more universities. The establishment of private universities had a very slow start from 1993. NUC received no leas than fifty applications but with the approval of the criteria for establishment of private universities, interest soon precipitously declined. This was primarily due to the stiff
requirements and the fact that some applicants had no idea about how to go about meeting some of the requirements. For instance most of the applicants had no notion of what academic brief was; in fact some had never heard of it. This resulted in the fact that by 1996, only three applicants remained in contention. These eventually made it, through series of NUC organized seminars and workshops. It is interesting to note that the financial implications for either the capital or the recurrent costs have never seemed to pose much problem to most applicants; that was including the N200 million bank guarantee as a fail-safe device. Eventually three private universities were licensed in 200 1, three in 2002, one in 2003 and fifteen in 2005. In other words, once they got the hang of the procedure, there was no stopping Nigerians. Here one must underscore the fact that all of them met the stiff requirements and in some cases even more! There are twenty-three approved private universities now and it is likely that before the end of 2005, seven more will be licensed!
The year 2005 will make history in this regard because there is an unwritten intention that after the 30th private university is licensed, the nation will pause, take a long deep breath and see how it is coping with the visitations and accreditations of programmes in all of these universities. The Committee on Monitoring of Private Universities in NUC conducts, on an annual basis, evaluation of the activities of these universities. The evaluation so far, has been thorough and comprehensive. By Law, NUC has the right to close down any or all academic programmes in a university that fails such evaluations despite repeated warnings. To close an academic programme in a university, NUC simply stops admission into the programme affected, publicise the case and ask JAMB, through the Honourable Minister of Education, to comply. AS of June this year therefore the nation has seventy-four universities of which 26 are run directly by the Federal Government, 25 by various state governments and23 by the private sector. What does all this portend for the system?
If handled well, and the NUC is allowed to pursue its evaluation and
accreditation mandates, which has been the case so far, the matter of quality assurance and the aspirations for attainment of highest standard
possible in the system, is within reach. There are many positive aspects of these developments despite the teething problems and the environmental cons1rains. The coming on board of state and private universities has immediately and significantly increased the admission chances to qualified students who would otherwise have no hope. For instance, of the 129,861 admission quota stipulated by NUC for 2005, about 42% (54, 189) has been assigned to state and private universities. Remember most of these universities are just starting and even if they each decide to limit their total enrolments, which the Federal Government is forcing, them to do already, the admission quota into these 48 universities will eventually exceed that for the 26 universities under Federal Government.
The comingon board of the state universities, and it is inevitable that eventually all the states in the Federation, including FCT, will each have at least one university, is forcing the states to provide adequate funds to run the universities. These are funds which will most likely simply evaporate but for the existence of the universities. There is no guarantee that if the funds are not used for running the universities, they will be applied to the other sub-sectors of education or any other sector for that matter. In recent times however there have been reports that some banks are threatening that after the now famous bank mergers, it is likely that graduates from some of the state universities will be disengaged. The NUC has promptly reacted to the effect that this would be unfair and illegal. It however has recognized the fact that this is a wake up call for the state universities and for NUC to further strengthen its hammer strike over state universities with courses of doubtful quality or relevance. It further pointed out that of the three types of university proprietorship, Federal, State and Private, the state universities have the smallest number of programmes with FULL accreditation. The NUC referred to the three main factors that have
been identified as causes for the low academic performance of some state universities. These are the undue emphasis on staff and students’ indigeneship, low proprietor funding and over meddling of government in the day-to-day running of the university. A situation whereby student admission is processed in the State Ministry of Education, staff salaries paid from State Ministry of Finance and contracts for capital projects are awarded in the office of the Governor, the NUC insists that under
such a situation, things will surely fall apart for such a university.
All this is coming soon after the much publicized NUC announcement of sanctions on twenty-one programmes that earned denied accreditation in one of the newly established state universities. The State Government was embarrassed and the public was appalled. Since then, of course the new Governor paid a personal visit to NUC, where the riot act was read to him. As usual, someone had to be blamed for all this totally avoidable setback for the university. So soon thereafter, he sacked the Vice-Chancellor, dissolved the Governing Council and funds came from where there were no funds before. The new Council and the new Vice-Chancellor who literally dictated their terms of appointment are now fully in charge of the university, reportable only as necessary and directly answerable to the Governor or the visitor depending upon the matter at hand. Lessons learned, though, the hard way. There can not be a better way to effectively actualize the much talked about private sector contribution to the development of education than for the sector to establish and nm educational institutions directly. There is now this type of private sector contribution at all levels of education. The fees being paid, regardless of the amount, represent the parents’ contribution to educating Nigerians from primary (including pre-school years) to the university level
The alternative is to look beyond the shores of Nigeria. While this out sourcing will still continue to happen, it will certainly be on the decrease if these private institutions, live up to their billings. I believe that they will, in the face of effective supervision and fair competition. The absorption of the children of the elites, who are able to pay fees into private schools, is a source of relief from the immense pressure they can exert on the public schools for admission; often doing so at the expense of the brighter children of the ordinary Nigerians.
2. Problems and Prospects
Mr. President BOBA, distinguished Old Boys, the Nigerian University
System has a lot more problems than the positive ones I have enumerated above. For the next few minutes therefore, I hope you will
persevere and without up-setting your digestion of this good dinner, listen to just a few from the inexhaustible list. This is all before going into the main event, namely where the northern states fit into all these and the implications therefore. There are many problems inflicting their undue stressful damage on the system. They
are stressful because the system is under unrelenting pressure, from the Nigerian public to perform against all odds. The Nigerian Government happens to be a major contributor to these stresses and strains on the system. Let me just discuss a few:
Much has been written and publicized about the dramatic and with almost messianic fervour, changes in the funding fortunes for both capital and, recurrent expenditures to the Federal Universities with the coming of the present administration. This change is reflected, for instance in change of total allocation from N9.2 billion in 1998 to N53. 7 billion in 2004. This is definitely a change but in real terms, it is not so dramatic. The value of the Naira in 1998 is almost twice the value of the Naira today and the N9.2 billion allocation was about 11 percent of the total national budget for that year but the N 53.7 billion in 2004 was only 4.5% of the total national budget. When that is pitched against the increased change in total student enrolment between 1998 and today, coupled with the accumulated decay of both physical structures and laboratory facilities, the change will not appear so uplifting. The various Federal Government regimes and the University Trade Unions have over the years been signing agreements, which have also introduced serious distortions in the recurrent grant allocation and utilization. For instance arising from the Federal Government / ASUU agreement of2003, one Federal University ended up with N2 billion bill for allowances alone, aside from the salary bill, while its total allocation for the year (2004) was only N4 billion. The salary bill was over N1 billion. So the university was left with less than NI billion for its total recurrent expenditure. This was impossible The University’s operations took a nose dive! The university should have received almost N12 billion in order to maintain the appropriate ratios between allowances, salaries, goods and services. If the 12% of the na121
tional budget allocation to the universities had been maintained the federal universities should have been allocated N150 billion in 2004 instead ofN53.7 billion. I pray that a more positive increase in funding in real terms will be put in place until at least the 12% allocation is achieved for each year.
The admission procedure and the admission quota into all the universities have never been in greater trouble than they are in today. This is arising from the
three factors namely:
(i) all parents believe that all their children are university material and should be admitted into the universities by all means pos sible and
(ii) Restrictions in the admission quota to the universities espe cially with the added emphasis in 2005, and
(iii) The geometric increase in number of secondary school gradu ates though, unfortunately, much fewer number of secondary school educated children, as the recent Post-UME screening exercise, has shown.
The total 129 , 861 places allocated to all the universities for the 2005/2006
session represents only 16.2% of all applicants. The added new criteria of post- UME interview to further allow universities to physically meet the candidates and through some method of screening ascertain that their UME scores and SSCE results match the on-the-spot assessment of the candidates, has revealed some startling facts which have given meaning to the common observations that often there is no correlation between these results (UME and SSCE) and the performance of the students in the University. A lot of these students never make it beyond 100 level despite their over 200 UME scores and as in all subjects offered at SSCE. While this screening exercise will not remove all the problems, it certainly will curtail it. Already the first round in this exercise has dramatically given credence to this additional assessment in the admission exercise. I am aware of a university for which over 14,000 candidates have
picked as their first choice and who have reasonable UME scores but it can only admit a maximum of 4849 candidates. Fortunately for this university the majority of the applicants with 240 points and above as UME scores are falling by way side in the screening exercise. The answers to these serious and complex problems in admission lie in:
(a) Only candidates with a minimum of five credits should be al lowed to sit for UME.
(b) Expansion of the existing universities, especially the first generation,
through appropriate funding and the rapid and proper development of the state and private universities through adequate funding and monitoring and
(c) The need to over-haul the entire educational system which now has been widely ‘:Id deeply invaded by the malignant cancer, called examination malpractice.
(d) Enrolment Quota
At this stage however when over 81.2% of the academic programmes in all universities have received only interim accreditation status, it will be most irresponsible for anyone to further stress the system through over-enrolment. The current plan for expansion of Federal Universities and encouragement of state and private universities to come on board should, by 2015 enable Nigerians to have at least a 30% Universities Education Participation Rate (UEPR) among secondary school educated graduates. This will be in line with the recommended UEPR of25% to 45% by the population cohort of 18 to 30 - year olds that should be enrolled in the universities if all remain in school up to that age. This was documented in the UNESCO Education World Report of 2001 to 2004 for fast developing countries. Developmental economists have argued that a minimum of30% of the 18 to 30 - year olds in school, should have access to university education based on the desire for a respectable quantity of high-level manpower needed in the social and productive sectors of a growing economy. This will be enhanced in Nigeria, by the so called “Obasanjo UBE children” who will be exiting from secondary schools in full by 2010 and if at least 10% will be seeking university admission, the projection now is that in 2006, 1.2 million children will
sit for UME, 2.2 million in 2008 and by 20 I 0 as many as 6.2 million. For comparison in this regard Britain has a target of 50- 70% by the year 2010 as against 40% that obtains today. The current UEPR in Finland in 71.2%, in Australia it is 59%, Italy 45.2%, Sweden 67.2% while in the USA it is 43.5%. In these countries all children are in school and remain in school until the age of 16-18 years. In Nigeria a little over 20% of this age group are in the secondary schools.
e) Enrolment into Disciplines
Related to all this is the current preference by candidates of discipline enrolment in the Nigerian universities. A sampling of this from 2003 through 2005 shows very little change. Social Sciences and Administration have remained disciplines of choice while education and agriculture have been consistently least attractive. On the average, Social Sciences attract about 19% of the applicants, administration 25%, Medical Sciences 15%, Engineering/ Environmental Technology 15%, Law 8%, Sciences 6%,Arts 4.5%, Education 2% and Agriculture 0.7%. This is in stark contrast to the national policy prescriptions with regards to the science/arts ratios as well as the manpower requirements to make the current National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) drive a success. In this regard apiculture has now the highest university manpower deficit, followed by engineering of all kinds especially petroleum engineering. The blame for this trend rests squarely on the shoulders of the managers of our public secondary schools,
where over the years, science subjects teaching has become almost extinct due to lack of facilities and science teachers!
f) On Campus Cankerworms
passing remark has been made on the level of examination malpractice which exists in the country’s secondary schools due to the dare-devil attempts to gain admission into the universities. This can not be totally eliminated immediately but can be reduced drastically if the on-going efforts of the three examination bodies can also get together and evolve security procedures, known to them only. With the honest help from security agencies they can have a near perfect conduct of examinations.
Easier said than done, but if we set our minds to it, it can be done.
A more worrying problem though is that once on most of the university campuses, the students are faced with the twin problems of cultism and ‘sorting’ We are aware of what cultism is and its origin. This is definitely an extension of a very silent but pervasive practice in some societies in the country. While the universities can not deal with the society at large, they can certainly deal with its practice on campus. The heat is now on. It can be controlled but not stamped out totally as long as it is practiced in the society within which the university in located. On the other hand, ‘sorting’, which is a recent coinage in Nigeria for all sorts of academic corruption, has been gradually taking high ground within the campuses. The cause of this phenomenon starts with the admission of an academically deficient student, he/she sorts herself /himself with the lecturer, etc, with the expectations that such deficiency will be submerged in the course of time. Commodities are traded for such favours be they money, material or sex. The favours in view may be admission, better grades, or doctoring transcript. Academic corruption is an international phenomenon be it for admission or for remaining in good academic stead in the university. Recently NUC has put out a small write up on this problem and action being taken to stamp it out within the Nigerian University System. I have therefore reproduced it here, because it makes for an interesting reading. We must, while on this point give the universities alot of credit for initiating and indeed enforcing, dress-code for staff and students. So far only two universities have made definite pronouncements on this; I am sure there will be more until all campuses have the code in -place.Congratulations!
g) Stable University Academic Calendar
One of the most troubling fall-outs of the regular Unions strike actions during the last couple of decades is the complete disappearance of the regular university calendar of October to June. Its negative impact at national and international levels has been devastating to the system. Regular, stable and predictable resumption and closing date make for a respectable university internationally and gives the university, parents
and students a sense of confidence in the system. With the relative decrease in union disputes and a decline in the rate of strike actions, the system is gearing toward the return of regular academic calendar. Already, about 60% of the universities are ready to resume 2005/2006 session in October/November, This is to be attained and sustained through simple prayer, that all the stakeholders will be part of the success story for a stable academic calendar as a very vital component of turning the University System away from sinking into the abyss.
h) Qualified Academic Staff Needs
With all the recent developments in the expansion of the University System in terms of student enrolment and number of universities, one of the obvious related requirements is the need for rapid increase in quality and quantity of academic staff. Even within the existing number of universities, and the enrolment figures, this deficiency in the quality of academic staff is already showing. One of the studies showed that about 23% of the existing academic staff do not have a PhD degree which is at variance with the NUC revised minimum academic standards which require that a PhD is the basic qualification for a Lecturer n. The days of easily obtaining second and or third degrees by staff from overseas universities are over. We have to look inward. In this regard, some universities are being identified to re-position themselves into becoming post graduate oriented universities. There is an estimated need for a minimum of l000 well-trained PhD holders, on an annual basis for at least the next five to ten years, to meet the increasing need for high quality teachers and researchers. These universities are primarily the first generation universities at Ibadan, Lagos, Ife, Zaria and Nsukka. Already University of Ibadan with a stock of over 300 full professors, can, at peak performance, produce 250 PhDs per annum and with encouragement, the other first generation universities can produce the remaining annual projected need. This will require that, for a start, these universities’ enrolment be re-adjusted to 60% post graduate and 40% under graduate instead of the current average of about 15% postgraduate with exception of Ibadan which has already about 53%. The Pan-African University in Lagos, a private university, is already 100% postgraduate. The universities will have to cut down drastically their under graduate enrolment, and eliminate the sub-degree programmes completely’ and replace them with post graduate programmes in order for them to receive differential funding and other benefits in research funding and international linkages. Other universities being considered for specific programmes at post graduate level include those second generation universities at Maiduguri, Abeokuta, Ilorin andAkure.
This development has a far reaching implication in terms of distribution of the academia in the country and funding benefits. One is also hopeful that these three Federal Universities identified at Zaria, Ibadan and Nsukka will, within the next five to ten years become fully postgraduate and will be the only universities owned and run by the Federal Government. Accreditation and quality assurance should eventually be the only direct responsibility of the Federal Government at all levels of education.
D. NORTHERN STATES OUTLOOKAND IMPLICATIONS
a. Historical Background
The history of the development of so-called western education in the Northern States is very well known to us all and the volumes of literature available on it, clearly demonstrate the level of concern, the scholars, administrators, ulamas, teachers and traditional rulers have been showing over the years. I am therefore assuming that background here but due to the relevance and the relationship of secondary school education to university education I cannot help but start this part of paper with that, albeit very briefly. Western education is not a religion and its medium of communication is not only English. Unfortunately for most of the Northern States, both the Christian religion and western education were introduced by the same invaders and conquerors using the same language. Consequently, the conquered, who have had their own religion, culture and literacy, vehemently rejected the religion and the education. viewing them both as one and the same thing. “Ilmin Bature” and
“Addinin Nasara” became so abhorred that any child seen going to “Makarantan Boko” was automatically ‘don wuta’. This assumption of being taught another religion in “Makarantan Boko” has had some currency because that was entirely true in the mission schools. One wonders what
the situation would have been by now in the northern states if the source of “Ilmin Bature” had been from across the desert and in Arabic Language. At any rate the so called “llmin Bature” was only relevant to the name ‘Bature’ because he introduced it to us but we all know that science, literature, astronomy, architecture etc have long been with the Arabs, Chinese, Egyptians etc, before the “Bature” or the Europeans took them over and made them their own. Coming from the sea as it did, its introduction across the amalgamated protectorate called Nigeria has over half a century of time difference from one part of the country to another. Between the first such school established by Wesleyan Methodist Mission at Badagry. in 1843 and a similar school by Church Missionary Society in Lokoja in 1901, there was a 58 year difference and our Katsina College was established 78 years after the Badagry school.
The struggle therefore, ever since then, has been to convince our people to differentiate between ‘llmin Bature’ and his religion as not being one and the same thing and to close the 58 year gap in the introduction of “Ilmin Bature” between the areas north of the Niger and Benue rivers and those south of the rivers, within the protectorate, which eventually became an independent Nation. In reality however one cannot or should not be talking about catching up or closing the gap because even if it were a race, there is no way you can catch up with someone who, right from the beginning of the race started 58 yards ahead of you and is now running at two to three times your speed! Given our background and our two systems of education, the race is a non-starter because what is even more important than speed is the willingness to run at all.
b. Current Efforts
Why have we been so slow or even unwilling to educate our people properly? The real drive to educate our people seemed to have died with the demise of the First Republic. If the attitude towards educating our people today was what obtained in those days, I dare say at least half of us in this hall this evening would not have gone through secondary school and if you did it would have been the secondary school education of today! We have not also been able to impact significantly on our
teaching of Arabic and Islamic studies within and outside our formal primary and secondary schools with drive and dedication as was done before. Let me attempt to substantiate my claims. During the first republic the unitary government of now the northern states recognized very clearly that educating our people, given our background, would have to proceed gradually but in a very determined way. To make the “Makarantan Boko n attractive to our people a very strong component of teaching Arabic and Islamic studies was included in the curriculum from primary school up to the end of secondary school. I am sure we all remember the caliber of our Arabic teachers in our College. The Government of the day also recognized that the traditional Quranic education and the attendant teaching of Arabic and Islamic Studies would have to continue but would be gradually replaced with more
organized Islamiyya Schools. They certainly did not envisage that a 4-year old child would still be begging in our streets, half a century later. Yes, the
population is not the same, but so are the available resources, today. What state governments are governing today used to be governed by Native Authorities (NA) with the support of the Regional Government. The Regional Government was very clear about its expectations on education from the NAs and the NAs delivered. The then three existing secondary schools were joined by the provincial secondary schools during the 1956/1959 years, through conversion of the Middle Schools being run by the NAs. The Regional Government made the next move in 1962 by converting the then Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria (an ‘A’ level training institution) to a full university which within two decades became one of the best universities in Africa. When it was realized that the rate of production of candidates for university education through Higher School Certificate (HSC) was too slow, the School of Basic Studies was introduced and how significant was the impact of that move! How about the Teachers Colleges development and the introduction of Colleges of Education, for NCE? The stature and welfare of teachers which maintained the dignity and honor of the teaching profession were second to none. In all this the public responded and things happened. We were not racing to catch up but we knew what we were doing and knew our goals. The whole governing
atmosphere was honest, dedicated, purposeful and targeted. Regrettably we have jettisoned all that.
The traditional4-year old street begging, has gotten worse. The ‘Almajiri Phenomenon’ is mind boggling in the 21st Century Nigeria. The Arabic and Islamic Studies programmes in our primary and secondary schools have been reduced to options, at best. Some schools simply do not offer it for lack of teachers or the gross inadequacy of such teachers. The public day secondary schools are overcrowded with visible inadequacy of everything.
The student/teacher ratio, especially in the sciences is completely out of any imaginable “Scale. The local governments have a free hand to handle these schools especially the primary schools such that they staff the schools with their wives and relations without any qualifications as teachers and the state government looks on. The entire teaching profession has been debased. The teacher is the poorest fellow in town among the working class Salaries are low, and infrequently paid, if at all and the teacher does not dare to discipline the pupil without incurring the wrath of the parent or the local government chairman or both! Almost without exception education budget in most states and local governments is most lucrative because it could be encroached upon without too much detest. The end result being of course that much is done on behalf of education and not to education or for education. At -regional level we have managed to hand over the university and it is only now that the struggle is on to recover it. It will be a Herculean task even if it becomes a postgraduate university.
c) Performance at the University Level
At the university education level we are simply out of it, though unfortunately, out of choice! The much talked about struggle to gain admission into the universities today seem at best an exaggeration for the northern states, even for those states which already have their own universities. There is gross inadequacy in the number of qualified candidates to be competitive. The now all pervasive examina130
tion malpractices for this purpose, have also engulfed the northern. states through the northern states children of the elite and supported
by their parents and proprietors of the schools, especially in the private
secondary schools. Reviewing the presentations from the northern states interms of number of UMB candidates with five credits or overall, regardless of number of credit, reveals clearly how the northern. states are not performing at all. It is no news now that in ranking the states by the numbers of candidates presented in this regard, the fourteen to sixteen bottom states have always been the northern states and is worse in the science disciplines. What is however new and very disturbing is that the relative change for the better in terms of numbers is getting worse. For instance, if one looks at national presentations for the years 200 land2002 and then compare them with the 2005 presentations this becomes very clear. At the top, one sees Imo State presenting 37,173 (10.22%) in2001,jumped to 45,743 (10.32%) in 2002 and to 99,512 (10.89%)
Compare that with presentations from Jigawa State for instance which presented 1,145 in 2001 (0.32%),562 (0.12%) in 2002 and 1666 (0.18%) in 2005. In 2005, presentations from the bottom 14 northern states, added up to 6.8% of the total which is still less than that of Anambra State alone (7.18 %) in the same year. This embarrassing dismal performance of the northern states in this arena is almost one hundred percent a failure of the leadership of the states to really come to terms with the pivotal role the proper development of human capital must play in their over-all socio-economic development and for remaining relevant to the Nigerian project. It is the most important right of the people bestowed upon their leadership to deliver. As it is, not only are the state budgets for education, relatively low as they are, some states have no qualms diverting funds released from Federal Government for educational development, to other shameful purposes. A case in point here is the problem reported on the front page of Daily Trust issue Vol. 12 No 13 of Wednesday 14/09/05. The Executive Chairman of Education Trust Fund (ETF) reported to the House of Representatives Committee on Education that a State Governor
from the North Central Zone flagrantly diverted and spent the state allocation from ETF on his political campaigns and failed to return the
money despite entreaties. She further reported that over N13 billion remained not disbursed to these states in the Zone for failure to account for previous funds disbursed to them by the ETF. So much for ~ seriousness in educational development!
Fortunately for us, such a governor did not make it back in 2003. Though currently Iigawa State seems at the bottom of the file when it comes to its presentation of number of candidates for UME, its obsession with ICT, can, if properly established, organized and run with appropriate software propel its educational development so fast that in 5 to 10 years, it may be competitive with any part of the country both in quantity and quality of it graduates at all levels of education. We all look forward to that!
d) Proprietorship of Universities
The distribution and the proprietorship of the 74 Universities in the country is another indicator as to how much the northern states are relatively decelerating compared to the rest of the country. We know the current distribution of the Federal Universities which is not likely to change since that level of Government is not likely to create another new university. At the state levels however, of the twenty-five state universities, only nine are in the northern states, namely those for Plateau, Niger, Kaduna, Gombe, Adamawa, Nasarawa, Kano, Kogi and Benue states, I believe that all states in the old northern region (including FCT) should each have a university by 2010 as is the case now for all the states south of the Niger and Benue rivers. Of the 23 private universities in the country so far, only six are located north of the Niger and Benue rivers, with all of them licensed in 2005, with exception of one which was licensed in 2003. The over-all distribution picture now emerging in the country is that there are states today with three to six universities. In fact one state, relatively small in population, has five universities, one Federal one state and three private! Yet, some other states have up to six each, one Federal, one state and four private,
With this distribution picture and with the phenomenal number of good secondary schools in these states (one state has over 90 private secondary schools), should not the northern states sit up and take a hard look at ourselves and realize where we are going bearing in mind that: We are part of this Nigerian project for better or for worse; We have accepted or rather been forced to accept English language as our official language and the medium for educating our children;
3) We are gradually decelerating in our efforts to educate our people because today, 4 out of 5 children in northern states are not in any formal school; and we contribute less than 20% of the total current university enrolment and less than 0.5% of the university age group who are in the university compared to the over 2% for the Nation;
4) We have been neglecting even the Islamic education because today, but for the private effort in establishing and maintaining the Quranic schools and the Islamiyyas, the vast majority of our children would have been illiterates in every way; the current Kano State Government direct involvement in this regard must be acknowledged;
5) We have politicized and corrupted the development of education ‘to the extent that budgetary allocations have lost meaning and illiterates are taking over the teaching jobs;
6) Because of governments’ lax attitude over the years the general public, especially communities in the northern states have not risen to the level of making effective contribution to the development of education as being practiced in other parts of the country;
7) We are gradually but surely losing out at the national level in terms of our participation in the socio-economic, political and administrative development of the country;
8) We have been further disadvantaged, for lack of relevant education,
in our participation in 21st century vital knowledge driven economy;
9) As we decelerate in educational development, compared to the rest of the country, so are we increasing the level of poverty and need in the region as a whole;
10) As this trend continues, the youth in this part of the country in particular, are becoming increasingly restive and a sense of hopelessness and disenchantment setting in;
11) We are wasting tremendous amount of bright young minds which the northern states have been blessed with; and
12) We have been told, face to face, during recent National Political (or is it economic) Reform Conference, that the Northern States (and the North Central in particular), have nothing to offer to the Nigerian economy and are over dependent on the rest of the country for our survival.
f) Way Forward
In view of all the above and much more, I would like to strongly suggest the following:
a) Return to the “Agenda For Action” as clearly spelt out in the publication by NERP, Arewa House entitled “Towards the Improvement of Education in the Northern States of Nigeria” which all the northern states agreed upon and accepted as the minimum effort to be executed between 2000 and 2005. It is now 2005 and the entire concept and let alone its implementation has been jettisoned without any visible workable alternative; politics seem to have a lot to do with its fate today.
b) Each state should establish a maximum of six senior science secondary schools, well equipped well staffed and well funded and admit only the best devoid of elite interference and managed by an independent body. During the second republic, Kano State tried this and the results have been magical in their development of science education. We have the young minds to do it brilliantly. Let us give them the chance. We owe
it to them!
c) Each northern state should have a university by 2010. This is very feasible. We cannot afford the luxury of developing the three levels of education, one at a time. They all must be developed together as the region did in 1960s. There is an element of desperation in this and with the application of ICT, this is far easier to achieve today. A properly established university should enhance the state’s educational and other socio-economic developmental efforts.
d) The private sector, individuals or groups should see establishing private schools and universities as their contribution towards developing the human capital for the northern states; to which all of us collectively or individually, owe a debt of gratitude.
e) All northern states must actively and collectively participate in addressing the issue of the Islamic education in general and the Almajiri system of education in particular. We have now, in the 21st century over 17 million of 4- 12 year old children in the streets begging under the pretext of seeking Islamic Education. What manner of education and what manner of system in the 21st Century Nigeria?
f) Girl-child education in the northern states should be free and fully sponsored at all levels of education!
g) We must economically reduce our dependence on oil revenue. A situation whereby states are dependent on this source of revenue at better than 80% is not only unhealthy, restrictive but is down right dangerous and demeaning. Where are our property tax, company tax, and personal income tax? Where is our agricultural potential? Where is our natural gift for commerce and industry? The industries need not die because of lack of raw materials or power shortage.
For instance why is Kano state and such other states not generating their own electricity to supplement that from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria? A joint venture between government of the state and the enormous available private sector where-withal, is feasible for this purpose. I stand to be corrected. The textiles are closed for lack of raw materials and power. We can solve both. The return of commodity boards, guaranteed prices and reasonable agricultural subsidies, will go a long way towards reviving such commodities as cotton, ginger, groundnuts, etc, which in turn will empower the people and consequently the states. The alternative is to stand and watch cassava production and the Cassava Board taking the centre stage.
h) We must finance most of our human capital development from our own resources in order to ensure sustainability in the event that the other sources suddenly dry up for whatever reason. The development of our human capital is our Jihad today and is the only way we can remain relevant to the Nigerian project and the international socio-economic development which has become knowledge driven and global.
Distinguished fellow Barewa Old Boys, I thank you for the honour to come before you this evening and for the grace to be such attentive listeners.