By Abdelghaffar Abdelmalik Amoka
There was this piece of trending news over the last week on a certain ranking from the National University Commission (NUC) where the University of Ibadan was the best, and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University came last. The ranking received a lot of reactions. While there were jubilations from the graduates and students of the relatively younger universities (TETFund Universities as they are popularly called) as they were highly rated on the ranking, the students of some old universities (allegedly living on past glory) were not pleased with the ranking, especially those that were ranked very low despite their gigantic structures. On the other hand, some new universities without research infrastructures were reported to have high per capital google scholar index. Not sure how that was achieved, though.
While the argument was going on among the students about the ranking, ASUU members were having meetings across the universities on another looming strike. The ASUU NEC was reported to be in a meeting this weekend to decide on the looming 2021 strike. While we are awaiting the outcome of the meeting, the students seem to be more concerned with the ranking than the state of the universities and the ASUU strike.
I have been trying to imagine the merits and demerits of the NUC ranking but still trying to figure out one. All the public universities are in terrible shape. Is the ranking based on the best among the chronic underfunded public universities? The 2013 NEEDS Assessment committee of the former president, Goodluck Jonathan, chaired by Prof Mahmood Yakubu, the then TETFund Boss and currently the INEC Boss, revealed the terrible state of public universities and their lecture halls/rooms, and students’ hostels. Some of the hostels occupied by the students were reported not fit for humans.
Has all that changed in 2021? What are we ranking? FG is still dragging the revitalisation of public universities and releasing crumbs to the universities whenever ASUU barks. What are we ranking? Research is not adequately funded in public universities, younger universities have no research structure, and most of us are publishing papers just for promotion’s sake. What are we ranking? We can’t address several challenges from the university, a supposed hub for solution development. We can’t even develop solutions to solve our own challenges within the university. So, what are we ranking?
Who is NUC ranking the universities for? The government, with their deep poverty of sincerity on education, political class so that they can start patronising the universities rather than taking their kids abroad? The parents/students who care not about the quality but certificate, the few committed lecturers or the meal “ticketers”, or the International communities? If we have a structure to rank, there won’t be anxiety over another ASUU strike just a year after the suspension of a nine months strike.
Rather than expending resources on a ranking that changes nothing, the commission should have rather diverted the resources towards putting up a structure that will make the universities rank-able. We must develop strategies to fight both external and internal aggression.
The owners terribly underfund the Universities (Federal and state governments), and the academics are dreadfully paid with an Assistant Lecturer earning a net salary of about N115,000 per month and a Professor on the last step earning a net salary of N416,000. The quest for proper funding and better welfare has resulted in uncountable strike actions. However, I still maintain that if we define our priorities well, there is the fund to provide quality education for Nigerians.
Meanwhile, we also have internal issues to sort to improve the system. For example, we have Civil Engineering, Building, and Architecture departments in the universities where we train Civil Engineers, Builders, and Architects. Yet, we have awfully built new buildings and poorly maintained old buildings. We are training leaders in the universities but have terrible leaders in the universities who behave more like local politicians. We are training business and financial experts, but we can’t help the universities manage their resources and can’t help the universities to make money from the resources within the universities. We are training researchers to develop solutions for the world, but we can’t develop solutions for our challenges within the universities.
While the universities need proper funding, we have a lot to do internally to make the university work. Else, no matter how much money is injected into public universities, without responsible leadership to properly utilise the available resources for optimum impact, without academics (not meal ticketers) that are prepared to make things work and will objectively perform NUC accreditation, the funds will never produce the desired result.
Let’s do the cleanup, and everyone will be eager to see the ranking of our universities. You will see healthy competition where universities and departments compete to outperform each other.
Abdelghaffar Amoka Abdelmalik writes from Zaria and can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leave a Reply