Liberalization And Democratizatization Of Education


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Liberalization And Democratization Of Education In Nigeria



Robert Obioha



culled from THE SUN, November 2, 2006



The recent face-off between the Lagos State University (LASU) and the National Universities Commission (NUC) over the running of external campuses (satellite campuses) has once again opened a new vista in our quest for worthwhile education.

The NUC singled out LASU in this regard just to show example to others that it is no longer business as usual in the provision of higher education in Nigeria. Between LASU and NUC can someone tell us the difference between the operation of external campuses and satellite campuses? Perhaps, the difference is in name, semantics or legal status and interpretation of both synonymous terms. I am neither holding brief for LASU nor NUC in this regard. I am only offering ventilating views on the need to democratize and liberalize our education system especially in the area of provision of higher education. There is no doubt that a lot of liberalization programmes have taken place in many sectors of the Nigerian economy and polity.

Really, the educational sector is never an exception in this arrangement. Hence they have established many private universities that have enabled the older ones to sit up. This wind of change has blown through the entire gamut of the nation’s education system- from kindergarten to primary and from primary to secondary. The monotechnics, polytechnics and the colleges of education are not left out. But while there is a rush to establish private primary schools, private secondary schools and private universities, there is no commensurate rush to establish private colleges of education, monotechnics and polytechnics.

What LASU has done in establishing external campuses within 200-kilometre radius (according to NUC prescription) is not entirely wrong as currently been peddled in some quarters. Maybe LASU overdid it by establishing more than it can adequately cater for in terms of manpower and infrastructure. More in infrastructure than manpower I may say. Be that as it may, LASU should not be singled out for a killing by the powers that be at the NUC.

Before Prof Julius Okojie, former Vice Chancellor of Bells University Ota, became the executive secretary of NUC, there was Professor Peter Okebukola from LASU. Does it mean that what Okojie has now seen that Okebukola just glossed over? Does it mean that because Okebukola is from LASU, he therefore compromised standards as per the establishment and running of external campuses? As I am writing this piece, many universities outside Lagos State are still maintaining one form of satellite campus in Lagos and other such high commercial areas.

I do not know if NUC is aware of this. Some of the hitherto closed satellite campuses are still been operated in one guise or the other. Even foreign universities are running satellite campuses in Nigeria and award dubious degrees from first degree to masters and even doctorates. Is NUC listening? Can NUC do something about these allegations? As I am writing, some theological makeshift colleges and unregistered universities are operating and awarding dubious B.A, MA and Ph.D degrees in Lagos and other designated centres in Nigeria.

NUC should not pretend that there are more Nigerians thirsty of university education. NUC should not be blind also to the fact that it is time the provision of higher education is very much liberalized and democratized so that it will no longer be a preserve of the few. Possession of a university degree (no matter the level) should not be a cultic thing. It is not a mark of the new arrivals, neither is it an entry point to the exclusive club of “been tos.” Education is a right. The problem even among the educators is that they confuse education with schooling. Because of this seeming confusion, many Nigerians regard education as schooling.

That is why they must spend six years in primary school, six years in secondary school and four or more years in the university. The higher the number of years spent, the better the quality. That is why doctoral students in many Nigerian universities spent more years than required getting it. Our present schooling system cannot produce the scientists that will take us to the moon. It will not even produce the engineers that will fix our roads.

It won’t even produce the award-winning medics that will take care of our health neither will it produce the world-rated economists that will turn the economy around. Instead of schooling, which encourages less learning, I vote for education that is worthwhile and problem-solving. And for this miracle to happen, that education needs to be liberalized. It must be demystified and taken to the market places as LASU is presently doing. A meeting of the gown and the town. For us to evolve a system that will compete with the best in the world, we must be ingenious and seek for education that is relevant in solving our immediate problems.

What is the need of studying about other people’s history when we know a little about Nigeria, West Africa and the African continent? Our education must be rooted in our soil. We may study Hegel, Shakespeare, Homer and Socrates and even Plato and Aristotle so far their offerings are relevant in improving our lot. Instead of castigating LASU, NUC should encourage that young university in its revolutionary approach to the democratization and liberalization of education. The argument that LASU has no manpower to run some of its NUC approved external campuses is a lie meant to give a dog a bad name. There is ample evidence that the least lecturer in these campuses holds a master’s degree from reputable Nigerian universities.

Doctorate degree holders and senior academic staff from adjacent universities also teach in many of these campuses. If NUC is in doubt, let it conduct accreditation of these campuses. All the lecturers for these campuses were recruited after going through an interview recruitment panel conducted by LASU’s parent campus at Ojo. What NUC should ask LASU to do now is to streamline its external campuses, remunerate adequately the lecturers, improve on the infrastructure and recruit more lecturers in the areas they are lacking.

Ordering the closure of these campuses and throwing the students away like that does not in anyway augur well for the nation’s education system. All the advanced countries of Europe and America and lately the Asian Tigers got to their present heights because of liberalization of educational opportunities.
In this era of e-learning, people should stop thinking of a university to mean structures and buildings. The era of big structures as citadels of higher learning is already going out of the way. The future of education and worthwhile learning belongs to e-learning.

Since the liberalization of the Internet, knowledge has been made available to all. Just open your PC and before you know it, all the researches available in any particular field you want is open to you at the press of a button. Tell me of any university professor that does not use the Internet today. If there is any, such a professor should do a re-think and embrace the e-learning. Otherwise, he will be professing nothing.

Imagine what Christianity would have been today if it was not liberalized. Whether we like it or not, the emergence of Protestantism and later Pentecostalism has aided more than anything before it, the spreading of the gospel in more unconventional ways.

What kills education and learning is being “bookish.” Let us liberate our minds from bookish learning to one that we can use our brains and hands effectively to solve the everyday problem that plagues our people and our environment. The White men have conquered their environment with their learning; let us do so here for our country by theorizing and researching on how to improve our condition on earth.
Imagine what would have happened to African literature if people like Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka did not stick to their guns. Imagine what would have happened to African history, if people like Kenneth Dike, Adiele Afigbo, E.A Ayandele, JFK Ade-Ajayi and Obaro Ikime etc did not stick to the philosophy that Africa has a history worthy of study.

In every field, Africans and, indeed, Nigerians should strive to make their contributions to the body of existing knowledge. You need not quote Hegel or Shakespeare to achieve that. We cannot get anywhere by aping those in Europe or be waiting for research direction from them. We must evolve our own cannons for research in whatever field, for human and existential problems are dissimilar among nations and regions.


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