Throughout the six months when the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU) were on strike last year, the University of Ilorin chapter was not. Now, the chapter has added a new feat by completing the first phase of a N7.28 million female hostel.
According to the university’s ASUU chairman, Professor Wahab Egbewole, the need to embark on the project was informed by the mantra of their unionism for development. He said: “We have watched with consternation the plight of our children, wards and students struggling and scrambling for the limited number of rooms on the campus. A number of them have fallen victims of shylock landlords and wicked neighbours while living outside the campus. We, therefore, resolved to contribute our quota towards alleviating the sufferings and challenges of these young and vulnerable minds by building an 80-bed hostel for the female students.”
We consider the building of halls of residence by the University of Ilorin ASUU a commendable gesture that is worthy of emulation. It is also important to note the fact that the university has made a very good case for university autonomy and the need to reform the Ivory Tower, especially given its stance on ASUU.
Following the controversial dismissal of some lecturers, a case that was eventually settled by the Supreme Court, the University of Ilorin was eventually suspended by national ASUU. Interestingly, the university has leveraged that suspension to run uninterrupted academic sessions for almost a decade and that has made it one of the most-sought-after institutions of higher learning in Nigeria today since it has established a tradition for not joining ASUU strikes. Of course there has been an ongoing debate about the morality of the university benefiting from whatever gains ASUU makes in its constant battles with the federal government despite not participating in any of the strikes.
For us, the value of the University of Ilorin example is that each institution should be able to make its choice. It is especially important against the background that no Nigerian university features on the world’s top 1000 universities for the year 2014. It is equally worthy of note that no Nigerian university is listed on the Academic Ranking of World’s top 500 in 30 academic fields including Engineering, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science and Economics. Yet every four years thousands of graduates are churned out in these disciplines from our universities.
The point being made here is that Nigeria’s tertiary education has steadily deteriorated over the years.
You only need to engage some of our university graduates in a 10-minute discussion to discern the level of decay. It is worse when they have to do a written test. This, no doubt explains why Nigeria university graduates with first degree are now required to undergo more rigorous and compulsory retraining and examinations before they could be admitted for higher degree courses in several universities in Europe and America.
According to the Nigerian National Policy on Education, the nation’s tertiary institutions are established as part of national development goals with the task to inculcate into the graduates proper skills for survival of the individual and the society. It is also expected that graduates of higher institutions would “develop the intellectual capacity to understand and appreciate their local and external environments”. But to what extent have these policy objectives been achieved?
An objective assessment of Nigeria’s educational system reveals that what has been evident over the years is a steady decline and decay of the institutions. An international survey of Africa’s national universities concluded that in many countries including Nigeria, “education has been reduced to the substandard level in which little or no learning is taking place”
That actually is the story on most of the campuses of our public universities, except that of Ilorin.