By Huzaifa Dokaji
Imagine a bustling city nestled in the heart of West Africa that radiated intellectual brilliance and creativity long before the Europeans reached the region. This is Kano, a city whose intellectual achievements have shone brightly throughout history, never hidden from the world’s gaze. A state North African merchants describe as “a city like a thousand city”. Allow me to paint a vivid picture of Kano’s intellectual past, a portrait that will captivate your imagination and unveil the greatness that lies within.
Centuries before the arrival of colonial powers, Kano was a thriving centre of learning, attracting scholars from far and wide. It was a place where minds converged, knowledge was cherished, and intellectual pursuits flourished thanks to state and privately-sponsored academic spaces. In the corridors of Kano’s renowned educational institutions, such as the intimidating Madabo centre, scholars delved into the depths of philosophy, science, literature, and Islamic studies. They engaged in intellectual debates, exchanged ideas, and produced works that left an indelible mark on the intellectual landscape of their time and beyond. This legacy, however, is at peril more than ever.
In a state that once boasted of kings and emirs renowned for their generous support of scholars and students, state scholarships are now only disbursed on the eve of elections, serving as mere tools for vote canvassing. Our schools are among the worse in the world. Although once a space where literary production was at its fines, schools in Kano lack access to any useful library resources. Lecturers resort to illegally downloading books online or relying on pirated copies to fulfil their teaching duties.
It is genuinely dismaying that a junior lecturer in our universities must spend nearly half their monthly wage to order an essential textbook on Amazon, while students at even the poorest universities in America have access to such materials through interlibrary loans. Adding to this bleak scenario, for example, over three years, Stony Brook University in New York spent about half of our 2023 budget for education to renovate its Student Union building. As worrying as this is, I believe Kano State still possesses the potential to emerge as a shining example of educational brilliance once again. My intervention is limited to institutions of higher learning.
To transform the Kwankwasiyya vision for education into a reality, we must transcend the mere provision of basic educational infrastructure and sponsoring students to study abroad. We must embrace a bold approach that surpasses the efforts of our Nigerian and West African counterparts. We need visionary leadership and innovative infrastructure. We need leaders who understand that education is not merely about constructing classrooms and dashing out scholarships; it is about providing qualitative and enduring infrastructure and creating an environment that fosters intellectual growth, critical thinking, and cutting-edge research. We need leaders who recognise that the quality of education is directly proportional to the quality of infrastructure provided and the system created.
Imagine a Kano State where universities boast state-of-the-art research laboratories with cutting-edge technology. Envision lecture halls that facilitate interactive and engaging teaching methods, equipped with the latest audiovisual tools and comfortable seating arrangements. Picture libraries filled with a vast array of books, journals, and digital resources, providing students and faculty with access to a world of knowledge at their fingertips. Imagine campuses adorned with green spaces, inspiring architecture, and modern facilities that foster an atmosphere conducive to learning and intellectual exploration. Imagine a Kano where lecturers are paid a decent wage.
We must transcend those dilapidated buildings that even counties are ashamed of building abroad. There is a critical need to dream beyond the limitations of what other Nigerian governors have failed to achieve. We must look to the examples set by leaders in more progressive societies and strive for such excellence. Let us aim to provide our students and faculty with infrastructure that not only meets their basic needs but also inspires them to reach new heights of knowledge and innovation. This should be the Kwankwasiyya vision.
To realise this vision, it is crucial to prioritise the modernisation and expansion of our universities’ infrastructure. Outdated facilities, overcrowded classrooms, and limited resources hinder the educational experience and impede the pursuit of cutting-edge research. It is time to break free from the shackles of mediocrity and invest in infrastructure that reflects our commitment to academic excellence. We need well-equipped laboratories, not just buildings with nothing to offer our science students. By allocating a significant portion of the state budget to education and ensuring the judicious utilisation of funds, we can establish a sustainable funding model that facilitates the development of world-class infrastructure.
The above investment will benefit our universities and attract renowned scholars and researchers from around the world. They will see Kano as a place where they can pursue their academic endeavours in an environment that supports and nurtures their intellectual growth. By looking at what governors in more advanced regions are doing, we can identify innovative approaches to infrastructure development. These leaders understand that modernising educational institutions goes beyond constructing buildings; it involves creating spaces that foster collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. They invest in research facilities, technological resources, and student support services that enrich the educational experience and provide students with the skills needed to thrive in the global economy.
b. Wages and Allowances
There is a pressing need for Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf to reconsider the current remuneration package for lecturers in our state-owned higher institutions. It is essential to rise above the confines of the narrow mindset that accepts the prevailing notion of meagre salaries for lecturers on the selfish idea that it is what all states and the federal government are paying. In this era, marked by heightened awareness and accountability, there is no plausible justification for not paying a reasonable wage when politicians have continued to show ingenuity in sourcing money to fund their expensive and outrageous lifestyles. Paying lecturers a meagre salary of $200 a month undermines their professional dedication and the essence of a vibrant and dynamic education system. Recognising the invaluable contributions of these esteemed educators, Governor Yusuf must transcend the limitations of prevalent practices and champion a new paradigm of valuing and rewarding academic expertise. By offering a respectable and competitive wage, he can demonstrate his unwavering commitment to nurturing an environment that attracts and retains top-notch scholars, who, in turn, inspire students to reach new intellectual heights.
c. Grants and fellowships
The absence of grants in Kano universities is not only a concern for the institutions themselves but also a reflection of the broader condition of education in our beloved state. No society can truly develop its education system and produce graduates who can address the nation’s needs without ensuring access to basic resources, such as grants, which fuel academic progress and knowledge dissemination. To rectify this pressing issue, there is an urgent need to prioritise establishing grant programs that cater to the needs of faculty members and students across all universities in Kano State. It is imperative to allocate funds in the state budget specifically dedicated to supporting and rewarding research, innovation, and academic excellence.
For several reasons, grants and fellowships are crucial in developing academic research, especially in developing countries. First, they provide financial support to researchers who may not have the resources to pursue their studies. Second, they facilitate collaborations between researchers worldwide, enabling the exchange of ideas and knowledge. Third, grants and fellowships often come with opportunities for training and mentorship, which can enhance the skills and expertise of researchers. Finally, supporting academic research, grants, and fellowships can lead to the developing of new technologies, products, and services that can have significant social and economic benefits for developing countries.
The government should collaborate with private organisations, philanthropists, and international institutions to establish a successful fellowship and grant program in Kano. By working together, the government can leverage existing resources to create a sustainable program that supports research and innovation in academic institutions.
Grants, both for lecturers and students, are crucial lifelines that enable universities to flourish and produce graduates equipped with the skills necessary to thrive in today’s rapidly evolving world. They will provide financial support for research projects, allow for acquiring state-of-the-art equipment and resources, and facilitate collaboration with industry partners. Without grants, universities face a significant impediment to progress and risk falling behind in the global academic landscape. Establishing fellowships and grants in Kano can help bridge the gap between local and international education systems by attracting talented scholars and researchers worldwide. This will give students and scholars access to diverse ideas and perspectives, enabling them to compete globally.
Grant investments will demonstrate Abba Kabir Yusuf’s commitment to developing Kano’s education system. It will make him, perhaps, the only governor to establish such in the entire Northern region. Such a move will enhance the quality of education and attract renowned researchers, industry partnerships, and prestigious grants to our universities. The ripple effect of such investment will position Kano State as a hub for innovation, drive economic growth, and nurture a generation of graduates ready to tackle local and global challenges.
Denying students access to grants limits their potential and hampers their ability to engage in hands-on, practical research experiences that enrich their educational journey. By investing in grants, we empower our students to contribute meaningfully to their respective fields upon graduation. Moreover, these programs will create a culture of research and innovation in academic institutions, leading to increased productivity and competitiveness.
In conclusion, by embracing visionary leadership, investing in infrastructure, and establishing grant programs, Kano State can transcend the limitations of the past and emerge as a leader in educational excellence. Let us not settle for mediocrity but strive for greatness in our pursuit of knowledge and innovation. The future of Kano’s education system lies in our collective commitment to providing world-class infrastructure and nurturing a generation of scholars capable of making significant contributions to society. Together, we can transform Kano into an educational powerhouse that inspires and empowers future generations.
Huzaifa Dokaji is a PhD student and teaching assistant at the Department of History, State University of New York at Sony Brook. He can be reached via email@example.com.