The Vice-Chancellor, Enugu State University, Prof. Luke Okechukwu Anike, has among other things said that universities do not just engage in academics, but also provide solutions to problems that confront the people, Peace Obi reports
The enormous potentials of the university system, its capacity and capabilities in dealing with both academic and non-academic problems might not have been sufficiently appreciated by the society. To point the attention of the society, her leaders and policy makers to the seemingly neglected role of the academic community, the Vice-Chancellor, Enugu State University (ESUT), Prof. Luke Okechukwu Anike, has said that aside academic services, the university system is meant to proffer solutions to diverse problems confronting the society.
Speaking recently with the newsmen at the convocation ceremony of the state-owned university in the Coal City, Anike disclosed that the university community possesses all it takes to address different issues arising from human environment. Speaking on the relationship between the university system and Nigeria socio-economic development, Anike noted that one of the the cardinal objectives of the university is community service. According to him, the university and socio-economic development of the country are two elements that must work together for the good of the society. Stressing that it is a relationship that must be sustained, the Don said that the university community has the options of using knowledge and skills to find solutions to diverse problems. “The essence of the university is to proffer solutions to the societal issues. That is why the cardinal objectives of the university are community service. When problems arise, the universities take them up as challenges and look at all the options using knowledge and skills to find solutions.
“So you cannot separate the university system from the society. They must work together. So we want the government to challenge the universities by giving them more tasks specific towards finding solutions to particular problems in the country both socially and economically. With the right funding and motivation, we will be able to provide sustainable solutions to some of our contemporary problems in the country.”
The Don who said that he believes in free flow of action that yields results and that at the end, the expected results are used in moving the society forward noted that it has been partly responsible for the recent landmark ratings of ESUT as the number one state university in the country and the number 17 in the country, in the recent webo-metric survey rating of universities. Discussing the roadmap in sustaining the feat, Anike said, “From on-set, I have promised that our university will take bold steps to ensure global visibility and excellent academic ratings. We have also tried to build best practices and skills so that they will be strengthened and be more confident to carry out whatever functions that come their way. We have tried to build linkages and connections with institutions around the world and we will continue to build such linkages.
“In fact this morning, I will be signing an MOU with Anglo Ruskin University in the United Kingdom for staff and students exchange programmes and for collaboration and research which is one of our principal actions. In addition to the collaboration/linkages with other universities and agencies, and as a way of enriching and enlarging its coast in terms of academic content, capacity building and internalisation, the university has successfully signed MoU with a number of foreign collaboration in areas of staff and student exchange, curriculum development and other areas of mutual benefit. Some of the institutions include, Dolphin University Ireland, which was attracted by our dear Governor, Right Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi when he visited UK, University of Wolverhampton, England to mention a few.”
Speaking further, the VC who disclosed that ESUT management is committed in making the institution the number one choice for seekers of quality higher education, however noted that insufficient resources has been a clog on its wheel. “We as a university, we cannot say we have everything that we need to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves, especially with regards to funds and materials, for instance, laboratory materials and other important features and structures that the university requires.” Adding that working with a government that appreciates and values education has made the job a lot more easier for the institution’s management.
“In terms of funding, it is pertinent to mention that the government of Enugu State has shown deep interest in allowing the university to function by providing subventions to the universities regularly. We are very happy with our governor who believes in education and achieving excellence and he has maintained that by showing great interest and releasing funds to us as at when due.
Disclosing other sources of funding and assistance to the institution like the state local governments, TETfunds, corporate organisations such as the Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigerian Communications Commission, Innoson Group and a philanthropist like Prince Arthur Eze, the university’s, Chancellor, Wakili Adamawa whom he said has also mobilised his friends in the support of the university projects, the VC said that it has also extended its tentacles to its alumni, well-meaning individuals as well as international organisations. Calling on philanthropists and well-meaning persons to invest in the nation’s education system, Anike said it would enable universities live up to their responsibilities.
“I think it is necessary to motivate other philanthropists and other well-meaning persons to invest in education because the gains of such investments to the community and the nation are unquantifiable. Such funds will allow universities like ours to obtain some features and materials that are necessary for the smooth running of universities. We still need to continue to work at the pace or increase the pace in order to achieve the goals of which the university was set up and set the pace for the development of our university.”
Noting that the economic downturn has had a critical impact in the smooth running process of the university system, the Don disclosed that “it becomes more difficult to be able to get the proper and quality materials we will require to carry out the critical functions you need to do to maintain the standards with other universities. That is why I said that government should challenge the universities more by asking them to carry out specific tasks geared towards solving particular problems,” he said.
And despite the economic recession, Anike said that the welfare of the ESUT staff remains paramount on the scale. According to the Don, his administration believes in management with human face. “We believe that the staff should get what is due to them. As a result, we put prize target to providing their emolument. When we pay them, we can then ask them to do their work. If you do not pay them, you do not expect them to do their work. We make every legitimate efforts to ensure that staffers are paid. As long as we have the resources to do that, we pay them and ensure that they re-dedicate themselves each month in carrying out their functions.”
And that with an inclusive management system, seamless information flow among others, the relationship between the management and the staff remained cordial. “The university management cherishes its teachers and programmes. It is very critical for us. We have been able to do this by laying every information to the unions and other interested members of the university. When you tell them the truth, everybody becomes aware of the situation on ground. There is nothing to hide. We maintain seamless information flow between management and staff and we call meetings often,” he said.
Discussing on the roadmap towards positioning ESUT to be globally competitive, Anike said making it attractive to prospective scholars is the beginning point. According to him, “We want ESUT to be a university that people seek to enter and graduate from. In that line, we are ready and committed to hire the best staff and leadership, timely intervention for any crises, for information that will be valuable for staff and students and then organise them. We emphasise research because the university was established for that purpose. We should be able to carry out such mandate by emphasising collaboration and linkages to solve contemporary problems.”
Painting the global picture of the university, the VC envisages in the next four years, he said, “I would like to see ESUT as having moved forward from what the situation is to another level. To have a large number of our staff and students quartered within the university so that 24 hours everyday, we will have communal activities within the university. I want to see ESUT to be a full community of its own. A large proportion of our staff leave the campus after work and in a university, there is no after work. This is the kind of global picture we want to have of ESUT.”
On his part, Ugwuanyi who commended the Governing Council, the management, staff and students of the state owned university, Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), for keeping faith with their mandate, and ensuring that the institution’s flag continues to be high despite many odds, noted that he had at the inauguration of the Governing Council in January 2016 charged the Council and the Management of ESUT, to deploy all their energies and competences to improve the fortunes of ESUT and take it to the desired pinnacle of intellectual and technological excellence.
“Today, we have come, not just to witness the 17th Convocation but also to celebrate the milestones that it has achieved in the recent times.” The Governor, who is also an Alumnus having obtained two Master’s Degree from ESUT, assured that “as a government and in line with our promises, we have continued to place a very high premium on the improvement of the quality and standard of education in Enugu State, and we have continued to develop and implement policies that are designed to reposition and revitalise educational institutions at all levels in the state. These include provision of critical infrastructure, renovation of existing facilities and the re-equipment of our schools so as to enable them compete favourably with their contemporaries and keep up with emerging realities and developments,” he added.