More Varsities with Quality Teaching Content is a Prerequisite for National Development…Prof. Osinbajo
For Nigeria to effectively confront the challenges of meaningful growth, which would result in addressing the problem of unemployment and creating a highly trained workforce, with consistent capacity to innovate, there is the urgent need for the nation to increase the size of her higher education system, with greater focus on content.
This was the position declared by Professor Yemi Osinbajo on the occasion of the 9th Convocation Lecture of Covenant University, on Thursday, June 26, 2014. Delivering the lecture titled, “Repositioning Nigerian Universities for the 21st Century: Paradigms for Innovation and Change,” Professor Osinbajo said a nation with a population of over 150 million, that is dependent on just 139 federal, state and private universities to satisfy the educational demand of its population cannot be said to be serious about driving innovation and change.
According to him, Nigeria’s higher education system is the largest in sub-Saharan Africa, yet the entire university system in the country can only offer admission to 20% of successful Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) applicants.
He stated that funding has been the major perennial problem of the nation’s education system and one of the key manifestations of this is the degraded capacity to engage in any meaningful and quality research activity.
“Between 2009 and 2013, Nigeria had only 439 scientific and engineering articles published in physics, biology, chemistry, mathematics, clinical medicine, bio-medical research, engineering and technology, earth and space science. It is quite apparent from the figures that if commitment to research in science and technology is any indication of commitment to innovation and change, then Africa’s largest economy is far from demonstrating serious commitment,” he pointed out.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) noted that the nation’s poor investment in higher education has resulted in her being ranked 115 out of 144 countries in the Global Competitive Index of the World Bank behind countries like Zambia, Ghana, Kenya, and Egypt.
Under the same period in focus, Professor Osinbajo stated that there are no official records available to show the level of innovativeness and patent rights granted researchers from Nigeria when compared with South Africa, Singapore, and South Korea that can boast of 608, 1,081 and 148,136 respectively.
The erudite scholar posited that the phenomenal rise of several developing countries such as Chile, Korea, Taiwan and Singapore underscores the imperative of innovation in the adaptation and use of available technology, which is anchored on a government-driven environment for creative and innovative adaptation of technology in partnership with the various institutions of higher learning.
He noted that while the 21st century University must invest in systematic development of research, useable knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurship, there was still need to align with the current discernible pattern in the development of technology-driven entrepreneurship today by harnessing the creative energy of many young people outside the walls of formal educational institutions.
Professor Osinbajo advised that as Nigeria joins the rest of the world in chasing economic advancement through harnessing the knowledge economy and its digital foundations, the nation must steer her higher education to redress the fundamental crisis of “a corrupted society” bedeviling the nation.
The corrupted society, according to him, manifests itself in the way that the vision and objectives of almost every institution are distorted and contorted to fit the brand of corrupt practices which best suits it, and consequently, the whole institutions that make up that society are defined by corruption.
The core step in the place of a paradigm shift towards innovation and change, he noted, must start with the elite consensus to deal with the issue and decide that the nation’s core values must be repaired. Quoting him, “It is my submission that the arrowhead of that renaissance is the nation’s system of higher education.”
He challenged the system of higher education to start presenting empirical correlation between the poverty and dysfunction of institutions and the absence of values that nothing would conduce more to development and progress. In addition, he said that Christian universities have the special privilege and duty to take the lead in developing this paradigm, because the Christian faith is one where the scriptures clearly say that believers or adherents are responsible for the destiny of their communities and nations.
Professor Osinbajo submitted that the burdens that history lays upon Christian universities in particular as the world seeks to define paradigms for the universities of the 21st century and beyond are clear; they must systematically develop and aggregate a body of literature and knowledge on the impact of the gospel on development, seeking to understand by research and study, why the gospel which shaped and grounded development in the West and by imitation Asia, has not yet achieved that in many parts of Africa.
In addition, to establish a college/faculty and programmes that focus on these issues and finally, developing materials, which will help all and sundry in the study and interpretation of the principles of the Christian worldview for use in teaching at all levels of education.
In his remarks, The Chancellor and Chairman, Board of Regents of Covenant University, Dr. David Oyedepo, commended the quality of the delivery and above all, the depth of the research work invested in the lecture by Professor Osinbajo.
He reiterated the need for national rebirth and a drastic change of approach if the nation must attain her place on the global stage. According to him, “Until we review our approach, we will never improve on our results.”
Dr. Oyedepo canvassed for a massive review of approach as an institution and a nation in the quest for getting the kind of results that we desire.
He said he was engrossed in the subject of ‘corrupted society’ as unveiled in the lecture, as there is no way any meaningful development can come out of such society, until the pandemic of corruption is confronted and conquered.
The Chancellor said he was excited by the place of university education in driving change as enumerated in the lecture, and pointed out that a recent publication showed that the 400 leading universities in the world are actually those that belong to leading economies, who have placed premium on quality education in their countries.
Of that number, 110 of them are domiciled in the United States of America, little wonder that they are a super power in the global sense of it, 49 are in the United Kingdom, while there are just two in Africa. Dr. Oyedepo noted that it has gone beyond providing education, to the kind and quality of education being provided, as these determine what the people and economies of such nation’s amount to in international competitiveness.
He decried the poor funding of the nation’s education system, with a meager 8% allocated to it and the same little allocation goes out through the drainpipe of corrupt practices, without anybody having the moral strength to ask where and what the money was used for because of being partners with corrupt individuals in charge of the system.
“We are the ones resisting the change we claim to expect and desire. What Nigeria needs is for each one to start from the position he or she is, fighting the virus of corrupt and sharp practices, and doing our best to make things work,” Dr. Oyedepo enthused.
The Chancellor said, he is excited by the rise of Christian universities, as this is a step in the right direction in packaging and buffering students against the ‘corrupted society’ ahead of them, and helping them to make the difference in their chosen fields of endeavour because of their being grounded in their God.
Dr. Oyedepo stated that there was hope for Nigeria. “We have wished enough as a nation, it is time to stop wishing and start working. There is still hope for Nigeria, with hope kept alive and our hands on deck we will live to see the changes that we crave,” he concluded.