By BOLANLE BOLAWOLE
Recently, an undercover reporter blew open the scandal of overseas university education and its deleterious effect on our educational system and national development. But it is not as if we have not always been aware that many of the certificates brought home from abroad by our folks are sub-standard and do not compare to any acquired at home. For anyone who has travelled in neighbouring Benin Republic and Togo, many of the one-bedroom-flat universities there are ramshackle and the quality of education they offer leaves much to be desired. Same applies to some extent even in Ghana. Many simply go there to acquire certificates which they return here to flaunt for prestige purposes. Lazy students whose parents have excess money to spare prefer these so-called institutions where they get on a platter what serious students elsewhere sweat it out to acquire. I have seen graduates of some of those institutions who could not write a simple letter. One such graduate that I even tried, without knowing the truth, to get enlisted in the NYSC failed serially to compose a simple letter. She claimed to have spent three years in a university in Benin Republic to study Business Administration! For years she failed to scale that simple hurdle but many of her classmates who were well connected, according to her, got promptly admitted to the NYSC without even writing any letter! They must be working in some highbrow MDAs or blue-chip private companies by now!
Many simply go there to acquire certificates which they return here to flaunt for prestige purposes. Lazy students whose parents have excess money to spare prefer these so-called institutions where they get on a platter what serious students elsewhere sweat it out to acquire.
The O’ Level result itself that many of these students use to gain admission is suspect. Another one that I knew attended the Nigerian campus of a university in Benin Republic and was admitted to study Nursing without Chemistry! Nigeria places much emphasis on paper qualifications; that is why. Politicians and entertainers are known to covet certificates they do not merit for prestige purposes and as status symbols. Persons who got awarded doctorate degree honoris causa are quick to begin to address themselves as “Doctor”. All manner of institutions award doctorate degrees these days and in all manner of funny courses or disciplines. We must begin to de-emphasize the undue value we place on paper qualifications. We must also begin to encourage our students to study at home for many reasons. One: What education tourism costs this country is enormous. Such money ploughed into the education sector here will do the system a world of good. Two: The “Japa” syndrome is further accentuated by education tourism and the brain drain that this represents is an enormous depletion of the manpower needed for national development. Three: The cultural dimension of the loss suffered when our youths are disconnected from their roots, its values and traditions in early age cannot be over-emphasized. Many of them find it difficult to fit again into our society, even as they struggle to belong to the foreign culture and society that discriminates against them. They lose both ways.
But it is not all foreign education that is bad! Countries like China, India, etc. plan the direction and focus of the foreign education they allow their citizens to be exposed to. I am not sure you will find their students in Benin and Togo; studying what? Now that the Federal Government has woken up very late to tackle this menace, it has, characteristically, taken a knee-jerk approach, throwing the baby away with the bath water. A blanket ban on degrees from Benin, Togo, Kenya, Uganda and other places is not the best approach. Are we saying there are no quality universities in these countries? What of the students in those universities whose standard compares favourably with ours? The innocent must not be allowed to suffer with the guilty. Corruption within the system here – at the Federal Ministry of Education and the NYSC – is at the roots of this problem. In Nigeria, for instance, we have the National Universities Commission that has the data on the universities here; a similar system should operate in other countries and we should be able to have a reliable database of quality universities in every country of the world. Such information should be on the website of the NUC, the Federal Ministry of Education, NYSC, etc. And such websites should be operational, updated regularly and not maintained only for the purpose of siphoning budgetary allocations.
In those days, foreign students and lecturers flooded our universities; no more! I remember I was taught at Ife and Ibadan by some of them. Our universities were well rated internationally then. We have lost those lofty heights now. If a fraction of what we lose to education tourism is ploughed back into our universities, we shall begin to regain the glory of the past. We must stem the tide of brain drain. We must also implement the FG\ASUU Memorandum of Understanding. It takes a Federal Government that sets its priorities right to do that. Unfortunately, the 2024 budget promises no such thing. The FG has correctly jettisoned IPPIS; next, it must accord full autonomy to the universities and the universities must not abuse the autonomy so accorded. It is in the area of abuse that many are apprehensive of the capacity and capability of our universities to ride the storm. Corruption and abuse of office; conflict of interest and tin-God mentality are rampant in our universities. So, will autonomy, if and when granted, not go ga-ga like I once wondered?
Law graduates, but not lawyers
Two recent events are worth recalling here. A professional colleague called me to complain that his son who graduated in Law from one of the universities run by a Christian Mission was yet to proceed to the Law School two years after. The boy was asked to go for the NYSC to while away time; he did. That done, there was no word on when he would be called to the Law School. There are hundreds of such Law graduates all over the place. I made enquiries. What is the problem? Is it over admission? Or is it Accreditation problems? Mum has been the word from the universities concerned. I attend JAMB’s stakeholders’ meetings; the shenanigans of the egg-heads of our institutions of higher learning will shock you. But for the forthrightness of the JAMB Registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, the admission system will be nothing to write home about. Between the vile elements engaged in examination malpractice and the university authorities playing monkey games with university admission and administration, I wouldn’t know who is more condemnable. Block one loophole, they immediately dig another! After parents paid through the nose and students burned the midnight candle to study and pass their examinations, why should they be denied the progression they deserve? Why are the Law graduates not going to the Law School? This is one instance when silence is not golden. So, the authorities concerned should speak!
Stalking Achievers University, Owo
The other event is that of a stalker that chose, of all private universities, to stalk Achievers University, Owo. Who sent him? And what is the mission? Investigations have been conducted; his identity is no longer a mystery. He goes by the name Feranmi Oyedele; born on August 2nd and claimed to have attended Olabisi Onabanjo University between 2018 and 2022, graduating with B. Sc. Physiology degree. He described himself variously as “Freelance Blogger”, “Content Writer” and “a passionate wordsmith and polity enthusiast”. For “all those interested in advertising” on his platform, he gave his email as academic[at]gmail.com or bayo[at]academicful.com and mailing address as 20 Adeniran Ogunsanya Street 101241, Ikeja, Lagos. In one of the photographs on his platform, he wore an English suit; in the other, he was fully kitted in the NYSC attire. According to investigations, he was still serving in the NYSC as of November last year. His offensive publication read: “Top 14 Nigerian universities to avoid in 2024” among which he mischievously listed Achievers University, Owo. How can a university be “top”, yet, must be avoided? As if recanting, he then omitted Achievers University from another list he compiled as “13 Nigerian universities with lower (sic) NUC rankings (sic)”. As can be seen from just the headline alone, the grammar of this self-acclaimed “passionate wordsmith” is poor! In a demonstration of his bad faith, even though he deleted Achievers University from his “13 Nigerian universities with bla-bla-bla”, he has neglected to pull down his other “Top 14 Nigerian universities bla-bla-bla.”
My grouse? These are the kind of “writers” that the unsuspecting public and those who cannot differentiate fake, quackery, and pretenders from the original and the professional mistake for journalists. They are the ones ruining the profession for true professionals and making our learning and decades of hard work and toil come to nought. They are also the ones giving social media a bad name, despite its innumerable contributions to the advancement of knowledge and societal development. Certainly, the guy mentioned here cannot be alone in the perpetration of such sordid acts. They must be investigated. And must be made to account for their crimes. In view of recent developments of certificate racketeering, their claim to scholarship must be investigated by the relevant institutions and authorities. Also, the NYSC must take interest in anyone wearing its uniforms, especially those suspected to have committed a crime.
Only last week, a list of some alleged “100 fake professors” in some Nigerian universities trended widely and wildly on social media but the NUC and four of the ranking universities so named – Redeemer’s University, Covenant University, University of Lagos and the University of Ibadan – have come out to describe the publication as satanic. Why this campaign of calumny against some of our leading universities? Readers must be familiar with my write-ups on Achievers University, Owo. I have attended in a row at least its last five convocation ceremonies and have witnessed its meteoric rise and growth in leaps and bounds. Many will be surprised to know that Achievers University is the first private university in the old Ondo State (made up now of Ondo and Ekiti states). It commenced academic activities on 2 April, 2008. In this wise, it is senior to Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (owned by legal luminary, Chief Afe Babalola), Elizade University, Ilara-Mokin (owned by business mogul, Chief Ade Ojo), Wesley University of Science and Technology and Sam Maris University, both in Ondo Town.
Achievers University is listed as one of Nigeria’s 10 best private universities, out of 120. There is no way such a university should be so harshly and unjustifiably put down like this blogger, a Youth Corper as at last November, tried (though unsuccessfully) to do. Whose interest is this blogger serving? I was there last December at the university’s convocation when the Registrar, Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria, Dr. Faruk Umar Abubakar, who, impressed with the facilities on ground, increased the university’s quota for Nursing students from 175 to 250. The acting VC, Prof. Mrs. Omolola O. Irinoye, is a professor of Nursing from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. I was pleasantly surprised to find my friend, Prof. Bola Akinterinwa, on Achievers University staff list. Akinterinwa was Chairman of the Editorial Board of This Day newspaper and Director-General of the prestigious Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, among others. Achievers University Faculty and facilities compare favourably with the best anywhere in the country. I am happy not just because this university is in my home town but also because it has quality. Achievers University held its 13th convocation last December. The university has matriculated 17 sets of students and graduated 13 sets.
Achievers University is fully operating at its permanent site with over 3,500 students and 800 staff. It currently offers 38 programmes at the undergraduate level and 10 programmes at the postgraduate level. These are: COLLEGE OF SOCIAL AND MANAGEMENT SCIENCES (COSMAS) – (1) Accounting: Established in 2007/2008 Academic Session as one of the pioneer programmes, Accounting enjoys full accreditation of NUC and ICAN and runs PGD, M.Sc. and Ph.D. at Postgraduate level. (2) Business Administration: Established in 2007/2008 academic session as one of the pioneer programmes, enjoys interim accreditation at undergraduate level but full accreditation at PGD, MBA, M.Sc. and Ph.D. levels (3) International Relations: Also established in 2007/2008 academic session as one of the pioneer programmes, enjoys full accreditation of NUC and runs PGD, M.Sc. and Ph.D. at Postgraduate level. (4) Political Science: Also established in 2007/2008 Academic Session as a pioneer programme, enjoys full accreditation of NUC and runs PGD, M.Sc. and Ph.D. at Postgraduate level. (5) Economics: Also a pioneer programme established in 2007/2008 academic session enjoys full accreditation of NUC. (6) Criminology and Security Studies: Established in 2015/2016 Academic Session, enjoys full accreditation of NUC and runs PGD, M.Sc. and Ph.D. at Postgraduate level. (7) Mass Communication: Established in 2015/2016 academic session, enjoys full accreditation of NUC. (8) Sociology: Established in 2015/2016 academic session, got its first intake in 2020/2021 and due for accreditation visit. (9) Public Administration: Established in 2015/2016 academic session, got its first intake in 2020/2021 and due for accreditation visit.
Achievers University runs four Colleges; namely: COLLEGE OF NATURAL AND APPLIED NATURAL SCIENCES (CONAS), with the following Departments: (1) Microbiology: Established in 2007/2008 academic session as one of the pioneer programmes, enjoys full accreditation of NUC. (2) Biochemistry: Also a pioneer programme established in 2007/2008 academic session enjoys full accreditation of NUC and runs PGD, M.Sc. and Ph.D. at Postgraduate level. (3) Industrial Chemistry: One of the pioneer programmes established in the 2007/2008 academic session, enjoys full accreditation of NUC. It runs PGD, M.Sc. and Ph. D. at Postgraduate level. (4) Computer Science: A pioneer programme established in 2007/2008 academic session, enjoys full accreditation of the NUC and runs PGD, M.Sc. and Ph. D. at Postgraduate level. (5) Geology: Established in 2011/2012 Academic Session, enjoys full accreditation of NUC. (6) Plant Science and Biotechnology: Established in 2020/2021 academic session, due now for accreditation. COLLEGE OF LAW (COL): The College awards Bachelor of Laws (LL.B). Established in the 2017/2018 academic session, enjoys full accreditation of NUC and Council of Legal Education.
COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY (COET) runs the following courses: (1) Computer Engineering: Established in 2016/2017 academic session, enjoys full accreditation of both NUC and the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN). (2) Biomedical Engineering: Established in 2016/2017 academic session, enjoys full accreditation of both the NUC and COREN. (3) Mechatronics Engineering: Established in 2016/2017 academic session, enjoys full accreditation* of both NUC and COREN. (4) Electrical and Electronics Engineering: Established in 2016/2017 academic session, the programme enjoys full accreditation of the NUC and COREN. (5) Civil & Environmental Engineering: Established in 2022/23 academic session and is not due for re-accreditation until November 2025. (6) Mechanical Engineering: Established in 2022/2023 academic session and not due for re-accreditation until November 2025.
But for the forthrightness of the JAMB Registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, the admission system will be nothing to write home about.
There is also the College of Basic Health Sciences (COBHS) which runs the following courses: (1) Medical Laboratory Science: Established as one of the pioneer programmes in 2007/2008 academic session, it enjoys full accreditation of both the NUC and the Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria. It runs PGD, M. Sc. and Ph. D. programmes at the Postgraduate level. (2) Nursing Science: Established in 2015/2016 academic session, enjoys full accreditation of NUC and the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria. It runs PGDN, M. Sc. and Ph. D. at Postgraduate level. (3) Public Health: Established in 2020/2021 academic session, and was due for accreditation in November 2023. (4) Human Anatomy: Established in 2020/2021 Academic Session, due for accreditation in November 2023. (5) Human Physiology: Established in 2020/2021 academic session, due for accreditation in November 2023.
On 1st December last year, the NUC approved the following additional programmes for the university: (1) Medicine and Surgery (2) Pharmacy (3) Physiotherapy (4) Health Information Management (5) Banking and Finance (6) Procurement Management (7) Library & Information Science (8) Remote Sensing and Geoscience Information System (9) Guidance and Counselling (10) Chemistry Education and (11) Biology Education. Little wonder, then, that Achievers University is ranked among the best universities in the country by the relevant authorities.
To arrest the scourge of worthless paper certificates from across the border as well as cause the drain on our resources through education tourism to abate, home-based universities doing well must be encouraged. Away with Pull Him Down syndrome!
*Bolawole ([email protected] / 0807 552 5533)