By Stephen Olufemi Oni, Ilorin
A Senior Advocate of 7Nigeria (SAN), Mallam Yusuf Ali, has lamented that no Nigerian University is among the top 500 Universities in the latest World University Rankings for 2021, saying this can only be interpreted to mean that “Nigeria is ‘incompetent’ to provide globally accepted degrees that can be presented and used anywhere in the world.”
Ali, who was the Convocation Lecturer at the 2021 convocation ceremonies of the University of Ilorin, spoke on the topic: ‘Tertiary Education and the Future of Nigeria’.
Taking a look at the rankings of universities in Africa, the Convocation Lecturer was particularly miffed that out of 200 top universities, only 25 Universities from Nigeria that prides itself as the ‘Giant of Africa’ made the list, while South African universities dominated the top despite the fact that South Africa ranks very low on the quality of education in the world.
He added: “The first Nigeria University on the list came in at No 42 which is University of Lagos. This was followed by University of Nigeria, Nsukka at No 43, University of Ibadan at No 51, Obafemi Awolowo University at No 66, University of Port-hacourt at No 77, University of Ilorin at No 78, Covenant University at No 79, Ahmadu Bello University at No 95, Federal University of Technology, Akure at No. 106 and Rivers State University at No. 125.
“The above ranking, even within our own continent, is nothing to write home about for a country that boasts about intellectual wealth. What then is responsible for the low quality of University in Nigeria?”
Ali, who noted that the running of tertiary institutions is capital intensive, identified inadequate funding as one of the greatest challenges being faced by the Nigerian universities, lamenting that budgets for education across the country are a far cry to the 26% of national budget for the educational sector prescribed by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
He, therefore, urged the government to rejuvenate the higher institutions, by increasing funding of the education sector, while asking universities on their own to begin to source for funds outside of the government.
Despite the inadequate funding of universities, Ali said there are various areas of waste by the leadership of the universities, which, if well harnessed, can be effectively directed towards the expansion of facilities to accommodate a larger number of students.
He said: “The existence of several official vehicles, which some institutions brand as project vehicles, but used for private businesses do not augur well for the system. Even when these vehicles are most times used for private activities, they are fuelled and maintained by their respective institutions. This in itself negates the principle of consolidation.
The scarce resources available to the universities are not channelled towards research and training. Rather the university is involved in all things that are not part of its core mandate.”
The Universities, Ali said, should also seek alternative sources of revenue generation to augment what the government allocates to them, adding that apart from the release of fund, there is the dire need for an effective monitoring of the management of funds being allocated to the sector.
In addition, he said there is the need to educate donors and well meaning members of the society to donate generously towards education funding, adding that government alone cannot meet all the needs of the education sector.
He said: “Education should not just be seen as the responsibility of only the government. Rather it must be appreciated that the very future of the nation depends on how seriously we address the issue of education, knowledge and innovation because higher education is crucial for national prosperity and progress. There is the urgent and dire need for industry to come to the aid of the universities, not only in the areas of direct endowment or establishment of chairs but in active engagement of the universities in commissioned research efforts, that will bolster the income of the universities.”
“There is urgent need to focus on the funding intervention agencies like TETFUND, NEED ASSESSMENT and others to rejig them for better service delivery. There is the need to rework the modalities of this intervention to make them robust, equitable, transparent and goal getting.”