Only Education Reform Can Save Nigeria, Says Babalakin

The Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN), has said a reform of the education sector is the solution to Nigeria’s problems.

He spoke yesterday at UNILAG during the 2017 annual lecture of the institution’s School of Postgraduate Studies with the theme: ‘Governance and Democracy in Nigeria.’

The lawyer, who chaired the occasion, said: “I challenge the university to do more, so that we can train the high number and good calibre of dons required to satisfy the gap and inadequacy we have today in the formal education sector. I look forward to UNILAG becoming a centre for generating and advancing ideas. Let me warn that if the intelligentsia of a nation stops thinking; if the scholars stop inventing; if the students stop learning; it is only a matter of time before we enter a painful cull de sac. One of the challenges of today is how we can regenerate interest in intellectual work; how we can revive the love for scholarship; how we can get students and teachers to realise that choosing career in the academia is a worthwhile, fulfilling and rewarding career.

The solution to this lies in all of us. Let us wear our thinking caps. Let us sit down together. There is a massive opportunity now for us to create a harmonious situation in the university environment. The federal government is currently discussing with the unions, through the negotiating committees, on how to find alternatives to funding education and enhance autonomy of the universities. If we reform the education system successfully, we would have started the journey of reforming the whole country. I am happy that the guest lecturer mentioned that it is only in Nigeria that you have direct correlation between increase in religious practices and decline in moral values. It is something that has baffled me for a very long time that as we become more religious, we become more immoral; and this questions our sincerity a lot.

“Particularly on education, I appeal to all and Sundry here to take Alli’s exposee as a challenge to improve the educational system; as a challenge to be creative; as a challenge to find ways of returning education to what it was nearly 40 years ago, when the first choice job for any outstanding intellectual was to return to the university. Our fathers created this and we lost it.”

The time has come for us to redeem ourselves. Please, if you have ideas on how this can be done in a sustainable way that will show that we are scholars and scholarship entails finding solutions, this is the time for you to put it on the table.”

The guest lecturer, Mallam Yusuf Alli (SAN), said it was sad that no African university was named as one of the top 100 universities in the 2017 global universities’ ranking. He said there was need to improve our higher education and make it at par with that of countries currently considered as reputable.

Alli also said: “Good governance includes a broad reform strategy and a particular set of initiatives to strengthen the institutions of civil society, with the objective of making government more accountable, more open and transparent and more democratic. It involves the traditions and institutions by which authority in a country or organisation is exercised. These include the process by which governments and leadership structures are selected, monitored and replaced; the capacity of the government to effectively formulate and implement sound policies; and the respect of citizens and the state for the institutions that govern economic and social interaction among them.”

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