By Aaron Ossai
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has advocated for a change in Nigeria’s system of education to focus on development of talents, rather than training of students to be employable only.
This, he added, will put an end to the practice of churning out graduates that depend on others, instead of Nigeria depending on them to attain much needed development and progress.
Speaking on the topic, “Leadership by Products: The Role of Universities,” at the matriculation ceremony of Covenant University, Otta, Ogun State, as the Guest Speaker, Hon. Dogara, argued that it is time for an education system that will leave a mark that will force the world to make a room for graduates of Nigerian schools.
“You can be intelligent, smart and skillful but if that is all you have got, it’s an employer that will hire and pay you. But when you discover, develop and release your gift, it’s the world that pays you. Unfortunately, our education system was not designed to train students to identify and develop their gifts but to train us to be employable. For Nigeria and indeed Africa to make the needed progress, we must discard this colonial masters’ design of an education system that continues to churn out products that depend on others rather than products we can depend on.
“Education is not necessarily the key to success and just like democracy, education guarantees nothing. I say so because the Bible does not say that a man’s education makes room for him, but that his gift does. Again, if education were the key to success, then all professors, all Ph.D holders and all the educated will be prosperous, stable, secure and happy. But sadly that is not always the case because it is one’s gift that is the key to his success,” he added.
Dogara explained further, “I should never be understood to be saying that education is worthless. I believe in education and I know that education is most important in personal development and advancement but the point I am making is that we need more than education to make a mark that will force the world to make a room for us.”
Saying universities must take the lead by empowering and investing more in their students, he admonished Covenant University to ensure that its fruits (products) out-competes products of other universities through innovation, debate and encouragement of dreams and visions, even though it will not be an easy task.
“Universities must also be centre of excellence and innovation. The products of this matriculation must lead in innovation to honour one of the cardinal goals of this institution which is the “birth of path-finders, pace-setters and trail-blazers”. Without innovation no university can compete. Thankfully, innovation has nothing to do with new things as nothing new is being created by God. All you need to innovate is present. Innovation has to do with arranging old things in new ways. Ideas are the key to innovation that’s why universities must be encouraged to engage in debates about pleasant and unpleasant issues and to question possibly all things including those working and those not working. Any university that diminishes debate and the spirit of free inquiry will diminish as a result.
“A great Institution is not rated by the quality of its buildings, professors, or how conducive its learning environment is, I concede these are ineluctable rating criteria but the most indisputable and uncontested criteria is the quality of its products. Of what use is a first class tree if it produces second class fruits? Incidentally it is the fruits that tell you the quality of a tree. If you have quality fruits check the quality of the roots of the tree it came from.”
The Speaker commended Covenant University for delivering innovative tools, some of which have been adopted by the National Universities Commission (NUC), adding, “Is it for nothing that First-class graduates of the University have emerged tops in the presidential Special Scholarship scheme for Innovation and Development (PRESSID), 2013-2015?
“In the 2015 Webometric ranking, Covenant University emerged as overall best in Nigeria and West Africa and number 15 in Africa. Covenant University has also remained the best Private University in Nigeria and No. 1 in Web of Repositories in Nigeria and West Africa (2013-2016).
“Covenant University has demonstrated leadership in being a pioneer in centralising Entrepreneurship in University curriculum in this country. This today is the cutting edge competitive factor that distinguishes the theorist graduate from those that have skills and capacity for self-employment and wealth creation. Yes, there is no doubt that this University could proceed to lead in helping to correct the sad negative image of and narratives on the Black Race in the world today. Covenant University, by what it has accomplished so far, represents a major promise that a wholly black built and owned Institution will finally make it to the Ivy League of world Universities in our life time.”
He conveyed the National Assembly’s willingness to consider request for new laws that will support and encourage the best research endeavours that will solve the nation’s economic and social problems.
“If private universities are focused, they could overtake the public universities as theatres of innovation and quality research, thereby becoming more competitive, which is the correct trend in developed economies. In this regard, the National Assembly could consider laws that will promote productive research partnerships between private and public universities. If this will enhance the competitive and ranking capabilities of our universities, so be it.”
While acknowledging that studying in private universities is expensive and may not be affordable to all those willing to be educated, Hon. Dogara, however, called for the establishment of student loan scheme saying, “This kind of training is not cheap anywhere in the world. I like something about the Chinese they say good things no cheap, cheap things no good. Governments Endeavour must be to provide students loans so that gifted kids can access these loans with which to pay their fees,” he said.
In his remarks, Chairman, Board of Regents and Chancellor of the University, Dr David Oyedepo, expressed gratitude to Good that 15 years after its establishment, the university had made remarkable progress in academics.
He told the students that the university placed priority on moral and spiritual upbringing, advising them to adhere to the rules and regulations of the university.