Universities are in a position to provide at least 40 per cent of the solutions to Nigeria’s challenges and attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Peter Okebukola, former executive secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), has said.
Okebukola said that the pathway to achieving this 40 percent capability lies in strengthening the research capacities of the universities’ staff through in-country and international training experiences, better resourcing of research laboratories and workshops, and provisions of sizeable grants for quality research.
Speaking at the 2023 Convocation lecture of Babcock University on the topic ‘From Tangible to Virtual Reality: Redefining the Nigerian University System’, Okebukola noted that if these enablers are not in place, Nigerians should not turnaround to accuse the universities of irresponsibility to the nation’s needs.
He explained that while the past and present were tangible, the future was the virtual reality, adding that the future of university education in Nigeria needed quick-fix interventions based on a gap analysis conducted over the last two months by his group of scholars.
According to him, access to the university must emphasize more on the primary and secondary schools to get better input into universities. Of what use are weak, very weak primary and secondary school products for our universities?
Okebukola noted that if the foundation of Nigeria’s education system was strengthened through better quality primary and secondary schools, many of the quality challenges now being faced at the university level would cease to be.
“Strengthening basic education means getting all the out-of-school children into school, it means resourcing our primary and secondary schools to better deliver quality education. This includes engaging better-quality teachers in the right numbers, paying them well and exposing them to continuing professional development,” he said.
Proffering a solution to the challenge, the university professor said it was only when there is assurance of an improved basic education being put in place by such actors as local governments UBEC and state governments that there can some guarantee of improved inputs into the university system.
“I am convinced that if by 2024 such guarantees are gradually in place, in another five years, our universities will begin to witness a stream of better quality inputs from the secondary system,” he said.
On the future of quality in the university system, Okebukola noted that “quality is driven by a multiplicity of factors including the curriculum, teacher quality and motivation, curriculum delivery, quality of governance, and quality of resourcing.
“Happily, NUC now has in place the Core Curriculum and Minimum Academic Standards (CCMAS) with 30 per cent content from each university to reflect institutional uniqueness. This leaves us with several other quality variables which we should attend to with greater vigour in the next five years”, he explained.
He lauded Ademola Tayo, the President/Vice Chancellor and his management team for the progress the university was making.
“In physical development, academic development, quality of staff and quality of graduates, this university has made stunning progress,” he said.
Further, he said, “Tayo has been outstanding; he is likened to still water that runs deep in the horizon of quality university education. He is not a noise-making vice-chancellor but a performing vice-chancellor.
On the university, he said that the data NUC shared with him before coming “confirm that Babcock is easily in the top-tier of the 263 universities we have in Nigeria today. Tangibly, you are the best. Virtually, you are the best. You are currently running 37 undergraduate programmes and none, absolutely none has NUC denied accreditation. Only one is in interim status making your score 97.3 %. This is laudable,” he said.
Ademola Tayo, the president/Vice Chancellor of Babcock University described Okebukola as one of the finest intelligentsia Nigeria is blessed to have.
“Every nation has a message to deliver. Nigeria has a message and mission. Together we can figure out how to assist our country to be greater”, Tayo said.