In the quest for higher education in other countries, Nigerians settle for anything including substandard universities which admit as low as six passes. KUNI TYESSI just back from Ghana takes a look at Ghanian Universities and Nigerian patronage.
That over 150,000 Nigerians are currently enrolled in Ghanaian universities may not be a surprise, but what may be is the fact that about 60 per cent of these students are some of those who for one reason or the other could not gain admission into Nigerian universities and other institutions of higher learning.
The Deputy Head Mission, Nigerian High Commission in Ghana, Mr. Mohammed Kurmawa who confirmed this said Nigerian students spent not less than N1.6 billion yearly in Ghanaian universities. The Nigerian envoy who hosted a team of National Universities Commission (NUC) officials and Nigerian journalists who were in Ghana to understudy Ghana university system expressed reservation with the standard of some of the private universities.
While noting that “it is only in a place like Ghana that one will discover that public universities are more expensive than the privately owned”, he revealed that depending on the course of study, tuition fees is between 6,000 to 8,000 GH Cedis (about N450, 000 to N600, 000) a session as against charge in private universities of between N200, 000 and 300, 000.
He disclosed that despite the high fees, most Ghanaians prefer the public institutions due to the reputation they had built over the years and their quality of studies as well as graduates.
According to him, “in 2012 alone, Nigerian students spent about N1.6 billion in Ghanaian universities. Average Ghanaian elite is proud to send his children to public universities. Schools like University of Ghana, Legon, Cape Coast University and Kwame Nkrumah University among others are very standard, and this is to tell Nigerian government the urgent need to restructure public institutions to meet international standard so as to discourage Nigerian parents from sending their wards to these sub-standard institutions.
“In over 90 percent of private universities in Ghana, the students are Nigerians, only 10 percent are Ghanaians and indigenes of other countries. We need to enlighten our people back home on the true position of things. Not that Ghanaians do not have money to send their children to these private schools, but they prefer to send their children to government owned institutions,” he stated.
Kurmawa expressed regret that most parents rely on their children to give them information about the schools they intend to attend, saying “may be, the children have just two credits in their SSCE and you see these children securing admission. There is need for Nigerian government to liaise with accreditation board here so that they will give you the list of accredited schools.
“What is surprising and disturbing too is that Nigerians top the chart of foreign students in these private and sub-standard schools where you get 99 percent to be Nigerians and majority of them are northerners, they don’t even speak English there because it’s more or less like a home for them. Am very sure majority of those students do not have more than 3 credits, some of them once you obtain six passes they will offer you admission. What they do here is business centres and Nigerians are flocking there”, he disclosed.
LEADERSHIP uncovered a disturbing trend whereby a lot of Nigerians are admitted into many of the private universities, some of which are operating in a one or two-storey structures. For instance, the Sikkim Munipal University (SMU) where Nigerians constitutes 90 percent of the student population is located in a plaza.
Meanwhile, Nigerian students in Ghana have accused the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) alongside other staff unions of destroying university education in Nigeria through protracted strikes and intimidation from lecturers.
The students who spoke in their numbers to our reporter also asked the Federal Government to scrap the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) as well as the post-UTME which they said had contributed a great deal in frustrating Nigerian youth in their academic pursuit.
A Nigerian student of Valley View University, the first private university in Ghana, Olakot David from Osun State, said he decided to leave Nigeria to study in Ghana as a result of the frustration he went through in securing admission through JAMB.
David and many others attributed the exodus of Nigerian youth from the country for the purpose of acquiring education to the admission policies of JAMB and the incessant strikes by ASUU, ASUP and other unions operating in the tertiary institutions.
However, a student of Sikkim Munipal University (SMU), Ghana, Isa Mohammed Umar, from Borno State said the Boko Haram insurgency in the state drove him and about 38 members of his family out of Nigeria to study in Ghana and other parts of the world.
Umar, who also advocated the scrapping of JAMB said he sat for Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) for four years and was unable to secure admission.
He said the situation was compounded by the insecurity in his state, pointing out that the Boko Haram menace in the North East was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
According to the students, what is required in securing admission in Ghanaian universities is only the West Africa Examination Council result, which is acceptable across West Africa.
However, Prof. Naa Adamafio of the University of Ghana, Legon and Prof. Daniel Bour, Vice Chancellor of the first private university in Ghana, Valley View University, said parents’ knowledge of the serene and conducive environment for learning attracted them to schools in Ghana.
On his part, Prof. Buor of Valley View University noted that, “reputation, parents’ knowledge of the schools and international exposure which most parents want for their children without necessarily sending them very far from home, as well as differences in culture, and the incessant strikes in Nigerian universities are majorly the reasons why Nigerians come to study in Ghana.”
He disclosed that there are over 250 Nigerians at the Valley View University, pointing out that there is no disruption of academic programmes in Ghanaian universities as is the case in Nigeria.
While it has been agreed and established that incessant strikes contribute to the many deficiencies in the quality of our graduates, other factors are also known to play major roles as authorities of schools visited point to the reputation of a school and the country at large as important in promoting quality of education.
They advised that for Nigerian public universities to thrive in all spheres, payment of fragmented allowances must be discouraged and consolidated allowances adopted.
The experts noted that instead of having unions negotiating for the welfare of lecturers, the university council and the vice chancellors should instead negotiate, bearing in mind that the school employs the lecturers while the government pays for their services. They equally listed transparency and publicity as important ingredients in achieving giant stride in education as in other endeavours.
They also counselled that public universities should be given full autonomy to run its affairs, pointing out that “by so doing, they are free to charge real and reasonable amount of money as education is known to be expensive worldwide as money is needed in the purchase and replacement of items used and will be used”.
On publicity, Prof Naa A Adamafio, dean international programmes, University of Ghana, Legon indicted the Nigerian media for the inability to ask the right kind of questions during strikes, while emphasising that the media has a great role to play in promoting education and getting the public to know and understand the true picture of things.
“Sometimes the media does not ask the right kind of questions. They do not investigate deeper. If lecturers are saying that workers in the ministry of finance are paid more than professors, the media should investigate and publish the figures. If you have a different figure, then you can also bring it out and publish, any misinformation from the media is enough to set the whole nation on fire,” she stated.
She said government’s involvement in the affairs of public institutions had not helped matters, emphasising that education needed to be properly funded and the government could not do it all alone, hence the need for autonomy.
“By stopping public universities from charging fees, education is destroyed. Education is expensive. It needs money because chemicals, equipment and materials are bought. The government should take their hands off and allow them to charge realistically,”she further said.
While trying not to take sides with the government or with the university management, Adamafio insisted that lecturers must be given a mandate to deliver and must also be supervised by the appropriate regulatory bodies or authorities concerned.
An important lesson government-owned universities in Nigeria need to learn from their Ghanaian counterparts is the culture of maintenance of infrastructural and allied facilities.
Prof. Adamafio said the predominantly sparkling white walls and red roofs of the University of Ghana, Legon were not deliberately chosen as they had always been the colours in use right from the inception of the university in 1948, adding since they brighten the school’s environment, they remain the established colours.
Going round the school, Leadership observed that students were hardly seen wandering about as is common in many of Nigerian public institutions. The authorities said that was the tradition of the institution, the students are hardly seen as they are either having lectures, studying and carrying out research in the library or doing other things that are of benefit to their stay in school, but certainly not roaming about. (Leadership)