Kuni Tyessi in Abuja
The Gambia, one of Africa’s English speaking countries, has solicited for postgraduate scholarships in Nigerian universities for its students.
The Gambian Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology, Prof. Pierre Gomez, made the appeal during a courtesy visit to the acting Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Chris Maiyaki, in Abuja Monday.
Gomez, who commended Nigeria for laying the foundation for university education in The Gambia, said most of the principal officers, including the vice-chancellor in the first university in the country were Nigerians.
While commending the quality of Nigerian universities, the minister said Gambians, who had earlier undergone postgraduate programmes in Nigerian universities under the World Bank-sponsored African Centre of Excellence (ACE), are now playing strategic roles in the country.
He said The Gambia is particularly interested in postgraduate scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programmes.
“Because of the relationship we have between Banjul and Abuja, we are here to seek support for scholarships at postgraduate level in different areas, especially in STEM, and to know whether the TVET are under your purview, because this is something we want to see in getting support in that area, and also in capacity building.
“As you know, education liberates the individual. We want to have functional education, one thing is to have your Masters and PhDs but then the other thing is for you to able to solve societal problems,” Gomez posited.
The minister, who also called for support in the area of capacity building, said: “We still have developmental issues and we strongly believe higher education can change the situation.”
Responding, the Acting Executive Secretary of NUC, Maiyaki, who was joined by other directors in the commission, assured the minister of support, saying Nigeria would not relent in playing a big brother’s role despite having its own challenges.
“Even though we don’t have enough access, every year we have about 2 million Nigerian kids (students) applying to universities and we barely meet up to 50 per cent.
“If you take electricity supply, Nigeria is not self-sufficient but we provide electricity to Niger Republic, that is our deliberate friendly stance from independence,” the NUC boss said.
Maiyaki expressed delight that the visit came on the heels of the recent launch of Core Curriculum Minimum Academic Standards (CCMAS) in the Nigerian university system.
“Our new curriculum has just been launched and the visit is taking place at a time Nigeria re-engineered its curriculum. CCMAS is revolutionary and dynamic,” he said.
Speaking further, Maiyaki said Nigeria has also opened up its higher education space to attract major players across the globe through the transactional education guidelines put in place by NUC.
“We have decided to open up Nigerian higher education space so that we can invite players, genuine players. We are open to very well meaning interventions, foreign universities are at liberty to come,” Maiyaki said.
On the request for postgraduate scholarships, Maiyaki urged the Gambian minister to send a formal proposal on the specific programmes and universities of choice in order for NUC to process the request.
While saying NUC was also ready to encourage joint research between scholars in Nigeria and those in The Gambia to address shared problems, Maiyaki revealed that the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has come up with a plan that will attract about 500 students from The Gambia to Nigerian universities and called for exploration of the opportunity.