The Vice-Chancellor of the Lagos State University, Professor Olanrewaju Fagbohun, who recently commemorated his two years in office, presented his scorecard at an interactive session with journalists including Funmi Ogundare. He also said the institution has encouraged whistle blowing to curb sex scandal because it is one way of geting information from students
What are the achievements of your administration since you came on board?
I will start by thanking the Lagos State government for the development projects that have been consistent with our institution. You will recall that when this administration started, we had a situation where the government came in, tarred the entire road of the university, put in lightning and changed a lot of things. The government has not stopped since that development started.
The government has continued to support us with our subvention to ensure that at the end of the day, at least 80 per cent of our subvention we, are able to get it from the state government and that is going a long way to ensure that regularly, salaries are paid on time to members of staff. Again, we have continued to enjoy the very robust support of the state government in terms of funding to support our accreditation exercise, as you all know, accreditation is the life of any institution. The state government has continued to support us to ensure that we are able to measure up with global practices and other institutions in the world in terms of what is expected of us as an academic institution.
How has the institution been able to connect the town and the gown?
We have continued to have strategic engagements with ministries and parastatals. One of the things that members of this group have continued to ask me all the time is that all of the things that we do, what is the nexus with the town, how is the town utilising it? I am proud to tell you that one of the things we have been enjoying in the state is ministries use our faculties in terms of research to deepen their activities. For instance, there is a security summit that has just been concluded, a number of faculty members that are part of the exercise were taken from the university. There is a socio-economics study that Lagos State government is doing now; our Faculty of Social Sciences is also very much involved in this exercise. So you see a situation where the state government has confidence in us and they are able to leverage on us for some of their activities.
How soon will the institution commence admission into the Open and Distance Learning (ODL) programme?
LASUâ€™s Open and Distance Learning (ODL) programme has been approved now by the National Universities Commission (NUC) and they have asked us to start off, but we want to take-off in a way that will be very effective. We had stated earlier that we want to give access to as many people as possible. The way we can give that effectively, is if the platform we are going to use is ready and will not be disrupted at any time the activities start. We are doing things in-house for now and putting necessary machinery in motion so that by the time we want to roll out in September, it will be a continuous thing that will not be hindered.
What effort has your administration made to expand infrastructure and provide hostel accommodation in the institution?
In terms of physical infrastructure, a whole lot of things have continued to happen; one of such is the 6,000 bed space model hostel. The Lagos State Executive Council has approved and Price Waterhouse Coppers (PWC), the transaction adviser which we picked to insulate ourselves from pressures of people who just want jobs for the boys, have done a good job in terms of ensuring technical and financial competence of those to be involved. They have been able to select two different companies that will be involved in the construction of about 13 of the hostel blocks. We are looking at constructing about 16 actually and we already have two firms who would handle 13 of the projects. Very soon, a date is going to be announced for the ground- breaking ceremony. The good news is that the executive of this state has given a final nod for us to continue with that project and we have been able to have two of the construction companies that bided for it and would construct 13 of the structures.
Recently because of the enabling peace that we have had in the university, we have been able to attract benefactors who are now willing to support us; Caverton has just given us a 500-capacity auditorium. We also have approval for the construction of a primary health centre through the office of the Special Adviser to the President on Sustainable Development Goals. They gave us the PHC and a brand new ambulance. Construction has started and duration for the project is 20 weeks, so in another four to five months, you should see the edifice up and running.
Is there a public private partnership structure on ground to develop infrastructure in LASU?
We will soon do a ground- breaking ceremony for a private funded 2,000 capacity computer based test centre (CBT). This is a partnership we are doing with the private sector because we want a situation where during JAMB examination and the rest of them, LASU will be a major hub for it and we will be able to ease up the pressure for students who are coming in all the way from Badagry and Mile II. We have a 2,000-capacity which we believe that in the next six months, the construction would have been concluded because discussions are at a very advanced stage. We are at the point of signing important documents.
These are aside of TETFund intervention programmes that we have, which means when you see these different projects; you will also see TETFund-sponsored projects, which we have received our allocation for and it is just going through the due process of selection and those who are going to be involved. We are going to be focusing the utilisation of our TETfund allocation on Ojo and the College of Medicine in Ikeja. In terms of collaborations and partnerships, we have continued to deepen our efforts at internalisation of the university which is a critical focus of the mission of this administration and we are also ensuring that we deepen collaboration activities. London Southbank University is one of those which we have signed a very effective MoU; University of Georgia for the Faculty of Arts; Cornell University for the Business School.
As a matter of fact, the Cornell team will be coming to LASU between May 7 and 12. The University of Education, Winebar is going to be working with our Faculty of Education. The Technical University, Germany is also going to be partnering with our Faculty of Engineering. The Nigerian Airforce and Nigerian Research Space Development Agency (NRSDA) are working with our Aerospace Centre of the Faculty of Engineering and we are doing the result verification of the centre with the NUC, so it is going to go out shortly as a full-fledged department.
Indiana University is working with our Faculty of Science and in another one month or so; some of our students will be going to Indiana University as part of the exchange programme that we have structured. As stated earlier, TETFund has continued to give us support and this is in two critical areas: physical infrastructure and programme upgrade, conference attendance, staff training and development and institution-based research. So you can look at it in terms of development of our infrastructure and capacity building.
How did you clear the backlog of certificates?
That is one issue that affected us in times past and I want to say that is an issue now in the past, we have totally concluded that. Although in cases like this, you cannot say that it is now zero, there are still some individuals, so what we did was to leave an office, even though we have wound up activities, we have left an office to take care of complaints that are coming in from this area and that office is manned by the former director of LASU external system project himself, so that if anybody has complaints, you can write and communicate with that office and the office will deal with it. That is in terms of anything that is still outstanding, but in terms of the bulk of it, we can say that 95 per cent of that issue has been cleared. We have closed the external system and we have also had a closer exit meeting with our partners who also has relationship with us and we have given directives so that all our banners in these campuses would be removed. There are clear directives that all of these should be removed.
What is your administration doing about studentsâ€™ welfare and ensuring that they have the needed skills for the workplace?
In terms of studentsâ€™ welfare, we have continued our monthly breakfast engagement with our students, we are now establishing a career development centre because we recognise that it is not sufficient for us as a university to just graduate our students and tell them to go, when you look at Ivy League institutions, what they do is they monitor their students and they are able to tell you that the employability ratio of our students is 60 per cent or otherwise because they track their students.
That is what we are doing with this career development centre such that from the time somebody comes in as a student of our university, you enrol online with this centre and they continue to monitor your progress in terms of getting you affiliated as a student member to professional organisations that you will be dealing with by the time you are through. For those in the school of communication, they will be getting involved with institute of journalism for instance, student members and the rest of them so that they can start feeling what is the ethics of this profession that I am going into? What are the rules and regulations? Catching them young, guiding them in terms of how do you prepare CVs and a host of other things.
We have also signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a number of companies and small-scale enterprises to deepen entrepreneurship activities. At the last count, I think we have signed about eight of them. What do we want to do with these companies? We want a situation where they act like incubation centres for our students such that while in school, they will start doing some things with these companies and at the end of the day, they imbibe the skills.
Our TETfund-sponsored entrepreneurship centre is ready; entrepreneurship is critical to us as an institution and we are not relegating it to the background in any way. Then the â€˜Ready Set Workâ€™ programme, which is aimed at deepening the entrepreneurship skills and employability set-up of our students has continued with the state government. We are entering the third phase now and that will kick off very soon. The state government has not left us from the time the support has been on when this administration came in.
In terms of staff welfare, promotion processes are very much on course and from time to time we bring in top-notch third parties to also assist in giving effective quality assurance to our processes. Training and development is a critical component and we are also doing that.
How were you able to curb the issue of sex scandal in the institution?
All universities have the challenge of sex scandal but in LASU, we have encouraged whistle blowing because we believe that it is one way that we can get information from students. When we get the information, we quietly go after it that is why you see that the disciplinary process in the institution has been very thorough. In terms of dress code, mischief-makers are bent on causing crisis in LASU because they benefit from crisis. At the end of the day, some of them, when they see us discipline students, they go on social media to say all sorts against the university management. Some members of staff also incite students against the school.