Blending the Town and Gown for Effective Research

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The absence of research in higher institutions of learning in the country, is becoming a worrisome trend, as University professors who spoke to Funmi Ogundare, submit that there has to be a merger between the town and gown, commitment and willingness on the part of government and stakeholders concerned, aside a policy that works

The importance of research in Nigeria’s higher institutions of learning, cannot be overemphasised, as in accordance with university ordinances world-wide, academic researches remain the yardstick for employment, promotion and retention of credible academic staff to date.

In Nigerian universities, it has for long been a culture adopted since the time of the establishment of the first university education in Nigeria, University College, badan, as an affiliate College to the University of London, as early as 1948. Indeed, one of the three cardinal duties of a university is that it serves as a place for teaching, center for research and that which offers community service.

It is therefore evident that research occupies a primary role and it has since then remained a vital hallmark of the academia in Nigeria. For Nigerian universities and all other universities world-wide, academic progress can not be guaranteed, without a minimum amount of competence and expertise in research and quality research output, in addition to teaching, where university training is involved.

In the same vein, no nation is known to progress when educational development is neglected. Observers who have been monitoring the trend argued that the country has not been investing much on research as a result of large-scale corruption, vision-less leadership, planlessness and lack of political willpower. Some also argue that the country is yet to reach where it should be in terms of socio-economic development.

However, some university dons are of the opinion that there has to be commitment and willingness on the part of government and stakeholders concerned, aside an effective policy that will ensure that the country develops to its full capacity.

The Vice Chancellor of Adeleke University, Ede, Osun state, Professor Dayo Alao said since the key essence of academics is research, students must be taught right from their undergraduate level how to research and identify relevant problems , with the aim of proffering solutions that will help the community and society at large .

“Higher institutions are established for the purpose of research, the ultimate of learning, that is why you identify a problem, work on it and look for a solution. In doing this, you are embarking on a research, ” he said
Emphasising on some of the problems hindering research, Alao expressed concern that the nation itself constitutes a hindrance.

According to him, “our environment and our nation is not research oriented because even the money government puts in education is not encouraging . In other countries where people do well, they put a lot of money in education and research, such that you see some young people who have talents and right from the young age, they are encouraged financially and environmentally to really see what they are bringing out. In other parts of the world, they will work on computer and come up with some progress, however, the African environment is not encouraging research.”
The VC stressed the need for the government and other policy makers to encourage research through a national policy, that will be properly addressed and monitored.

“The government must be very interested in research and , even right from the elementary age of a child, it is also very essential for the nation to encourage research,” he said, he expressed concern that no governor has ever been reported to seek for research material in any of federal universities in the country.

“I have never seen any governor going to the University of Ibadan or University of Nigeria, Nsukka, or Ahmadu Bello University, to ask for research material. Industrialists must also be encouraged to be research-oriented, there are so many problems in the industries, so there must be a blend between the town and gown to encourage universities and industrial-based research.”

A Professor in the Department of Lifelong and Continuing Education, University of Lagos, Oluwayemisi Obasoro-John said many researches had been carried out over the years in the institution , especially in the area of primary and early childhood education, which had been successful, but at bigger levels, such research may not see the light of day.

“When there are inaugural lectures, they are not funfairs. They are ways of disseminating research findings , but when you do that , what happens to it in the system? It just dies. At small levels, things have been happening , but at bigger levels, where you will expect to have breakthroughs they are hindered.”
She opined that the dissemination of research findings would be taken seriously by various schools, adding that there has to be commitment and willingness, aside funding to carry out any research.

“We know it is not easy to carry out any research. We need funds to be able to pay the researchers and the assistants. They will not be doing it for fun. As an academics, are you willing to take the other step other than looking and reading at what others have done? What are you contributing to it? The next one is commitment, if you are not committed , you can not be a researcher because it does not come easy and the results may not be obvious immediately , so you have to wait and persevere , you do it more and more before you get results. The government too, must buy into it, the town has to buy into what the gown is doing so that we can have a robust education system, ” Obasoro-John stressed.

Another Professor of Educational Foundation, University of Lagos, Mopelola Olusakin, affirmed that people who carry out research in the institution, have made efforts to seek for funding online and through written proposals, adding that some lecturers had gotten research awards and grants in the process.

“A lot of people write research proposals, on the internet, there are opportunities for people to submit proposals for their research works and some of us lecturers have won some research awards and grants and a lot of these lecturers are doing it using the name of UNILAG and giving part of their grants to the university , as part of our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), so we are carrying out research work.”

The Don stressed the need for more funding and effective implementation of the research findings, noting, “it is one thing to carry out research works, it is another thing to make use of the findings. It shouldn’t just stop on the shelves . People , companies should go ahead and make use of the results of the research works. Government should implement and it will be for the betterment and development of our nation. That will make us to go higher.”

Olusakin also stressed the need for the Buhari-led administration to put the right people in government who would carry out research works in the area of proper budgeting and implementation that would turn things around for the growth of the nation.

“We are talking about economic recession, we have qualified and eminent professors who have ideas and carried out research works, but most times, those who are lecturers are left behind and when it is time to put people in positon, they will put those who are not interested in coopting persons who had carried out research works and have ideas of solutions to some of these issues and challenges we are facing as a nation.”
She argued that if the country is making use of the brains it has, it will not be where it is currently, as a nation.

“Abroad, they tap into the brains of our people and they are getting results. You will hear that somebody who is having breakthroughs in the UK or US is a Nigerian. Why can’t we identify such people here in Nigeria and make use of the potential that God has given to them to develop our nation? I think its high time government will fund research works in the universities and tertiary institutions and also make use of the findings of the research works.

“Nigerians pay people abroad to come and carry out research work. You will see people fill a survey, that is research. They do that a lot so that they can know where they are coming from and where they are going to, at a particular point and where they could go later , that is how to develop. You have to know where you are coming from, where you are now and where you should be.”

The Vice Chancellor of Edwin Clark University, Professor Timothy Olagbemiro, recalled when he joined the university system in 1978, as Lecturer l, at Bayero University, Kano (BUK), saying he got opportunities from foreign institutions and attracted research grants from the British Council, the United States National Foundation(USNSF), as well as the International Foundation for Science(IFS), which he enjoyed continously for over a period of 10 years.
“With collaborative partners in UK and US universities, These enabled me to use first class research equipment which we were not able to afford in my universities at Bayero or ATBU, Bauchi. My research findings were published in international Journals of high repute. Of course such publication soon earned me my professorship in the field of Chemistry in 1984.

When l joined ATBU, Bauchi, university research grants just as it was in Kano, were made available to academic staff. On occasions l served as chairman of that committee when l assisted the Vice Chancellor. Academic staff were made to draw from the university research grants either as individuals, or collaboratively as groups. There l was able to set up a multidisciplinary research group, The Scrub Savannah Studies, comprising of academic staff from Chemistry, Biological Sciences, Botany, Physics, Mathematics, Animal Science, Soil Science, Plant Science, as well, as Mechanical and Electrical Engineering.

“The group studied the scrub savannah region of Nigeria, with the aim of improving human capacity, enhancement of food production as well as the environmental factors responsible for the spread of river blindness in that zone. The over 43 member participants secured funding from the university research grants, as well as from the British Council, DFID Program.”