Fashola Charges Nigerian Universities To Provide Functional Template For National Development
Jan 31, 2012 - Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Tuesday charged universities in the country to provide a functional template for the development of the country noting that there has been an unpleasant gap between the nation's university graduates, the research outputs of the institutions and the most pressing needs of the country.
Governor Fashola, who delivered a lecture on the topic "Education Research and National Development: Bridging the Gap between Town and Gown" to a capacity filled main auditorium at the 8th Annual Lecture of the University of Lagos'School of Postgraduate Studies, said in spite of the numerous defects in her educational system, the nation still has to look to her institutions of research and learning for more comprehensive and viable solutions to her problems.
Attributing the slow pace of the nation's development to the unserious attention paid to education and research in the country, Governor Fashola declared, "Ironic as this might sound, I strongly believe that with proper leadership and support, our educational and research institutions can definitely play this role creditably".
The Governor attributed the defects of the country's educational system to policy inconsistencies, inadequacy of financial resources, industrial unrest on the campuses, corruption of values, poor orientation and attitudinal issues among others adding, however, "Our universities especially owe us the debt of a functional template for sustainable national development and, whatever it takes, we must collect that debt as soon as possible".
Governor Fashola said as a first step towards confronting the challenges of her education and research, researchers should be presented with "a clear cut statement of the philosophy which spells out the direction in which Nigeria wants to channel her development efforts".
"In our fifty years of statehood, we have tinkered with quite a number of inconsistent policies. Politically, we have tested almost all the options –parliamentary, presidential, military and even an interim government", the Governor said adding that similar variations and fluctuations are also seen in our economic and educational systems.
According to the Governor, "In the absence of a definite and sustained policy in the various aspects of our national life, it becomes practically difficult for meaningful research to be conducted locally on any subject, so we always end up blaming the IMF and the World Bank for any measure which we consider unpopular".
Noting that the country's educational institutions are grossly underfunded compared to their contemporaries across the world, a situation which, according to him, "is perpetuated by the policy of keeping school fees very low, even at the tertiary level while relying heavily on government subsidies", Governor Fashola declared, "However, there are always too many commitments competing for government resources and the subsidy is never commensurate with the amount really required to run these institutions optimally and efficiently".
On attitudinal challenges, Governor Fashola who noted that wrong attitude would hamper research "even with the most stable of policies and unlimited funding",blamed the seeming wrong attitude of the country's academia to research to the fact that along the line, economic considerations began to supersede the passion for teaching and research adding, "Before long, we started viewing research from the narrow prism of career advancement and progression rather than the global parameters of relevance and utility".
The Governor noted, "As in other climes, it would be inspiring to see a coordinated and sustained research programme on the particular societal problems of Nigeria. This must, of course be preceded by an accurate diagnostic assessment. Extra effort must then be made to clearly articulate both the motivation and the results, not just in academic journals but in the mass and popular media.
"Furthermore, there must be deliberate follow-up efforts, and appropriate links with the industrial sector to ensure that enterprises are created that can optimally utilize the output, or that sufficient rapport is maintained with the relevant government agencies and businesses that can take advantage of them", the Governor said, adding that it is imperative for universities to take their cue from society and the business world, even in deciding on areas of research, and to develop parameters for measuring the utility of such research results and academic publications.
Governor Fashola said apart from tailoring research to societal aspirations, "the areas of difference between what our graduates are taught in school and what is required of them outside must be substantially eliminated", adding that what is needed is a thorough review of study programmes at all levels and in all institutions, with the active participation of employers in the public and private sectors.
Advocating collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas among universities and other tertiary institutions, Governor Fashola declared, "Just as all research institutions need to develop closer ties with industry, the universities should also not stand aloof from other institutions like polytechnics and technical colleges, each coming with its own strength. I think there is a unique potential for fruitful collaboration and cross-fertilization of ideas among the institutions. Joint research efforts and peer reviews should also be encouraged".
"Furthermore, I would canvas similar associations with foreign institutions, which should enable us bridge the gap somewhat and take advantage of the facilities and human resources available in the more developed world", the Governor further suggested.
On policy-making, motivation and funding, Governor Fashola said for real progress to occur, "governments at all levels have to recognize and actively promote education as the key to survival and economic development',adding, "Essentially, this involves the evolution of a consistent policy, devotion of more funds to the sector and ensuring that its leadership is always placed in the right hands".
"Placing education on such a high pedestal will further motivate an inflow of funds from the private sector by way of donations and endowments which, even in the advanced world, has proved indispensable for the survival of many institutions", the Governor said adding that the question of research funding needed to be properly and decisively addressed.
He noted that research is capital intensive and, therefore, requires sustained funding, even when the desired results are slow in coming, adding, "Uncoordinated funding is not capable of producing sustainable results. The government alone cannot fund education and research, hence the need to harness the potentials of endowments, grants, aid and similar schemes".
The Governor stressed the need to rectify what he described as "two disconnects", which, according to him, must be reconnected "in the pursuit of our national development agenda", listing them as "a disconnect between the tertiary and foundational levels of education and a disconnect between our educational output and our national objectives",
"What I urge is a close scrutiny of existing policies to see what works and what does not work and to make adjustments accordingly. This will give true expression to the various educational initiatives going on in different States, and give full recognition to the strength of our diversities, both in needs, resources and abilities. A one-size-fits-all approach may simply be counter-productive" Governor Fashola said adding, "Our national developmental and economic objectives must be the bedrock of our education policy".
Governor Fashola regretted that among the 46 countries listed in the latest Human Development Index (released in November 2011) Nigeria is number fifteen, sharing the ranking with countries like Senegal, Nepal, Haiti and Mauritania adding, "In the context of the foregoing international matrix, our underlying developmental challenges in Nigeria will include issues of law enforcement, security of lives and property, public infrastructure, mass transportation, food security, employment and productivity."
Thanking the organizers for the honour of the invitation to deliver the lecture, Governor Fashola, who noted that there could be no better setting for the discussion on the topic of the day than the University of Lagos, Governor Fashola declared, "So much hope was invested here and in other pioneering universities by the founding fathers of Nigeria. However, I lay particular emphasis on the University of Lagos because it was the one closest to the corridors of power and influence, as well as the centre of commerce and industry".
Earlier In his address, the Chairman of the occasion, who is also a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Mr. Justice George Oguntade, described Governor Fashola as an erudite lawyer and a great scholar who is the best Governor in Nigeria adding that when he received the invitation to the event and considered the pedigree of those the event would attract, he had no objection to it.
In his closing remarks, the Dean, School of Post Graduate Studies, Professor Obinna Chukwu said the School of Post Graduate Studies has not been disappointed at the choice of Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN) as the Guest Speaker adding that the Governor has once again proved that he is not only a lawyer but an all rounder who has done justice to the topic of the day by his very enriching treatment of the topic.
Special gifts were later presented by the Vice Chancellor, Professor Adetokunbo Sofoluwe on behalf of the Senate and Students to the Governor while another one was made by the Deputy Registrar/Administrative Secretary, School of Post Graduate Studies, Mrs. Yetunde Ogunlewe on behalf of the School of Post Graduate Studies.
The well received lecture which drew intermittent applause from the diverse audience and a standing ovation at the end was attended by students, members of the State Executive Council including the Commissioner for Education, Mrs Olayinka Oladunjoye, traditional rulers including the Ranodu of Imota, Oba M.A. Bakare–Agoro and eminent Lagosians like the Asoju Oba of Lagos, Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas, members of the academia and post graduate students of the institution.