Adesegun Ogundeji argues that the establishment of the two new universities is desirable
On the 8th of February, 2022, the National Universities Commission (NUC) stamped the seal of authority on the establishment of two new specialized universities in Lagos State.
The State House of Assembly had earlier passed a bill for the transmutation of the Lagos State Polytechnic, Ikorodu to the Lagos State University of Science and Technology (LASUST).
Also contained in the bill was the transmutation of the State’s two Colleges of Education – Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education (AOCOED), Otto-Ijanikin and Michael Otedola College of Primary Education (MOCPED), Naforija, Epe – to the Lagos State University of Education (LASUED).
The bill to establish the two new specialized universities was assented to by Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu to give the process the needed legal backing. The establishment of these universities brings to three the number of state-owned universities in Lagos. The premier university of the state, the Lagos State University (LASU), was established in 1983 by the administration of the highly respected late Lateef Kayode Jakande (LKJ).
Like it was speculated then, that the establishment of LASU and other state universities by the then five states controlled by the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), except Oyo State, was a response to the perceived plot to slow down capacity development in region, tongues have also started wagging as to the real motive behind the creation of the new universities.
To some, it is a needless exercise as there is still a lot to be done in the state’s public primary and secondary schools as well as at LASU. Some even question the state’s financial capacity to cope with the funding of the new citadels of learning.
Others see it as a mere populist stunt to shore up the approval rating of the governor preparatory to a second-term bid. Such lines of thought are expected, considering the diversity of our society.
Speaking at the NUC headquarters, Governor Sanwo-Olu cleared the air on the real intention of the government when he said that “the creation of the two universities is not about being ambitious, but about doing what is proper for the people of the state”. The Executive Secretary of NUC, Professor Abubakar Rasheed corroborated the governor’s view and also perfectly put the decision in proper perspective. He said: “We congratulate the governor on his efforts and initiative. We congratulate your team on the vision of moving Lagos State forward. We particularly congratulate you on your decision to invest wisely in higher education.’’
Speaking further, the NUC boss said: “The Lagos State University of Science and Technology certainly would be a benefit to the position of Lagos as the hub of industries and technology in this country and West Africa. And if properly supported, this is a university that can help Lagos State’s determination to transit into a knowledge economy.
“Lagos can move ahead of others based on investment in education. I know that the economy of Lagos alone is the fifth largest in the entire African continent. The economy of Lagos alone is more than the economy of Ghana and Ivory Coast put together”.
The fear of what becomes of the academic pursuit of the students of the upgraded institutions was allayed when the Special Adviser to the Governor on Education, Mr. Tokunbo Wahab in response to recognition of the institutions said: “By the way of this recognition by the NUC, they can’t admit students into subsisting structures as Polytechnics and Colleges of Education. That ends, but they will have to graduate the students that have been admitted before now”.
It is common knowledge that getting admission into tertiary institutions in Nigeria has become a herculean task. The preference for university admission is very high amongst our youth population.
The dichotomy between the Bachelor and Higher National Diploma (HND) degrees has not helped matters. Even, the directive of JAMB to admission seeking students to pick a University, Polytechnic and College of Education as preferred institutions in that order has not reversed the situation.
Many school leavers have had to write JAMB severally as their parents could not afford private universities and the children are not prepared to settle for any certificate lesser than a university degree. The implication is that the Polytechnics and Colleges of Education with high students’ carrying capacities have less learners on campus, while capital and recurrence expenditure continues to rise.
Lagos is home to over 14 million youths. According to available data, in a previous admission exercise, only 3,500 out of the 36,000 qualified candidates that applied to LASU for admission that could be admitted.
With the current spate of insecurity in the country, one does not need to be a soothsayer to state that idle youths portend a grave danger that could further aggravate the already tense security situation.
Thus, the decision of the government on the new universities makes a lot of sense. First, because of the preference of the youths for university education. Second, it will help to produce the needed human capacities to drive the state, nay the country, in all facets of life. Third, it will greatly address the idle youth syndrome.
Of importance is also the fact that the universities were established for different purposes. While LASU is a conventional university, the two new ones LASUST and LASUED specialize in science and technology and education respectively.
Particularly, the new University of Science and Technology will boost entrepreneurship activities in the state, thereby further enhancing wealth creation. It would provide manpower for the economic development of the state and the country at large.
Vocational and entrepreneurship skills development programmes will certainly help develop the potential of the youths to make them relevant in the 21st-century global digital economy and make them employers of labour.
This will go a long way in addressing the issue of youth restiveness, crime reduction and other vices capable of undermining development efforts across the country.
The new universities will, no doubt, reduce the pressure on Lagos State University, provide other alternatives to aspiring students, especially indigent students who cannot afford private institutions.
Considering the affordable fee (N25, 000) being paid by students in LASU, it is expected that in its characteristic manner of always seeking out the good of the people, the state government is also going to be very considerate in determining the fees payable in the new institutions.
Stakeholders are, thus, enjoined to join hands with the government in order to ensure the total success of this laudable move. It is evident that LASU alone could no longer cope with the admission needs of the larger students’ population of the state, hence, the need for the establishment of more universities
On a final note, the establishment of the new universities is desirable, sustainable and in the interest of the growth and development of education in the state and, indeed, the country.
Ogundeji is Director, Strategy Centre, Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Lagos