Wale Babalakin
Wale Babalakin

The Pro-Chancellor and Chairman Governing Council of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Dr. Wale Babalakin, has called for the reformation of the education sector, saying that it would improve all sectors of the economy.

Speaking at a retreat organised by the Osun State University in Ede, Osun State, Babalakin said the country is at a crossroad and that its emancipation will be led by the reformation of the education sector, once its leaders are able to get the education system on the proper footing.

“It will propel the other sectors of the nation and begin an unstoppable forward movement. It is unfortunate that a country with a population of about 150 million persons and the largest country in the whole of Africa has no tertiary institution that has any favourable rating in the world.

“Various rating agencies have placed the most outstanding Nigerian university at number 800 or below in world ranking. It is acutely hurtful that even in Africa no Nigerian university is rated among the top 20. More saddening is that once upon a time, Nigeria had universities that were highly rated in the world.”

The pro-chancellor recalled a television programme where Professor Olu Akinkugbe, an outstanding academic and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin and Ahmadu Bello University, said at a point in time, the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, was rated as the fourth among medical institutions in the Commonwealth. “The significance of this is more appreciated when we realise that Commonwealth countries included the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, India, Pakistan and Malaysia, and so what happened?”

Highlighting the issues affecting the sector, Babalakin said: “The first is how do we fund the tertiary education system? A plethora of universities have sprung up in recent times. The federal government has created a number of universities. Almost all the states in Nigeria have their own universities. Many private concerns have also established universities. In setting up these universities, I hope that these various bodies have a fair idea of the cost of running them. According to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) quoting a National Universities Council (NUC) source, the average cost of achieving full accreditation for universities’ programmes in Nigeria is $3,000 that is today above N1 million.

“In effect, a university with a population of, for example, 5,000 students should have N1million x 5,000, that is N5 billion as its resource base for running the university. Based on this calculation, it is certain that most of the universities in Nigeria are not well funded. More disturbing is the fact that it is very doubtful if the proprietors of these universities have the capacity to fund them even if they were willing to do so. We have to, as a matter of urgency, stop creating institutions that we do not have the ability to provide for.”

He said universities must be funded from public and private sources, adding, “government alone cannot fund all the expenses of creating a first rate university. Universities cannot depend entirely on the resources of the federal and state governments. All stakeholders in the education sector must harness their intellectual and other resources to create sufficient funding for tertiary education.

“In order to make a university achieve the standards we seek, greater vitality must be introduced into the management of the university. Within the Nigerian laws today, majority of council members in the university are internal members; that is members chosen from within the academic personnel of the university.

“This act of grace from the federal government and some other proprietors of universities must be complemented by a high degree of discipline and responsibility from the internal council members. The university administration, as a citadel of learning, must reflect truthfulness, scholarship and fairness in all its dealings. It cannot be a place where there are divisions based on ethnicity or governed by cartels.

“To propel the universities properly, we have to set key performance indicators that are consistent with international best practices that must be aspired to by all universities. It will among other things assess the contribution of the university to the larger society. It will rate the universities using the appropriate criteria which include student/staff ratio, funding capacity of the university, its ability to attract research grants and the contributions of its members at large. When all these are introduced into our university system, then we would have begun the process of transforming our tertiary education system in Nigeria.”