By Dele Sobowale
“When about 50 higher institutions were approved to take off within six years, where were the faculties expected to come from? In 2004, when I was a PGD student of the School of Mass Communication of the Lagos State University, LASU, we had a prominent lecturer who also lectured at Babcock University, Ilisan, Remo.
I think he spends every Wednesday there. He was simultaneously running his doctorate too somewhere. He was always looking harassed. We had a lecturer too who taught a law course. One day during a two hour lecture, he excused himself as if to go see another lecturer in another classroom or to urinate. But, he was away for about an hour. Unbeknown to us he was a lecturer in another school as well and there was a clash of timetables and he just had to go to the other school.
Even the government schools battle with the problem of inadequate teaching staff. This is because, and usually, members of the faculty in an old government school migrate to newly established ones. The consequence of setting up more government schools is the promotion of poaching, nepotism and lower standards.
Nepotism, because they are usually enticed to their state government tertiary institutions – non-indegene faculties never feel a sense of belonging – and low standards, because just about any inexperienced lecturer ends up becoming a dean or HOD”.
Oluseun Olufunwa firstname.lastname@example.org
First of all, I want to express my appreciation to ‘Seun for this message which came through my email box. He is the first commentator since this series started who has got a good grasp of what this focus on universities is all about. It is meant to be an interactive medium.
Granted, I started it all by persuading VANGUARD that this is an abiding issue which requires everlasting attention by all stakeholders – which means virtually all adult Nigerians. Certainly, if you are not a student, you are a parent or grandparent or Uncle or Aunt of a university student.
Perhaps you are a lecturer or the relative of a lecturer. One way or another our fates individually and as a nation are inextricably linked with the quality of our universities. It is not a personal crusade; it is a national endeavour which I have simply chosen to place on the national agenda for as long as we exist.
Second, he touched on several issues in his message to me. I had extracted only two out of the five or six for discussion today. And I have quoted him, at length, because he was a “victim” of staff scarcity of which some of us are aware – but not as intimately. I think the better is best told in the first person.
Unfortunately, Seun was only one of several hundred thousands of graduates who had suffered the same fate in the hands of Nigerian universities and lecturers – both public and private. However, let me assure Seun and our other readers that I was well aware of the problems he described so well as far back as the early 2000s.
One of our colleagues, at VANGUARD, resigned his appointment to join one of the first three universities to get established in 1999 – Babcock, Igbiniedon and Madonna. His was a non-academic staff and he did not last long. When we met, shortly after his departure from the university, one of my first questions to him was: “does the university actually employ all those professors and lecturers advertised in its brochure”?
His answer was shocking. “Don’t mind them; most of those academics just lend their names for a fee. Most of them don’t teach there or they just come occasionally”. This was education 419 at its worst; it reminded me of the “Bait— and—switch” tactics of dishonest salesmen in the United States, which resulted in the Truth in Advertising Laws.
Those laws made it illegal for anybody offering anything for sale or subscription to makes false claims about what is on offer. What universities offer basically is education and one of the ways to determine what the students will receive is to know who will do the teaching. For a university to claim to have a Nobel Prize Winner on its faculty when the laureate never teaches any class at the university would have been regarded as fraudulent under those laws.
Universities are also expected to teach high ethical and professional standards to their students. How then does a university which falsifies its faculty list, even where professional courses like law and medicine are involved, promote high professional and ethical standards when the university itself is enmeshed in academic corruption of the worst sort? Consequently, some of the universities have got their students and graduates into deep trouble.
But, there were only four or five private universities in Nigeria at the time and I had assumed that the problem would solve itself. Unfortunately, that turned out to be false optimism on my part. The problem got bigger and is rapidly getting out of hand.
More and more young people, like Seun, are being taken to the cleaners in universities –public and private. For a lot of reasons – not all of which were the fault of private universities – a severe scarcity of teaching staff developed nationwide. Among the causes of shortage of lecturers were the following:
EXPLOSION OF UNIVERSITIES: As the population of Nigerian kids seeking university admission increased astronomically, governments, at federal and state levels responded two ways. First public universities were forced to admit more students than was advisable for quality education to be delivered.
When that failed to solve the problem, they took the second step. They increased the number of universities nationwide. Then in 1999, the Federal government granted licences to three private universities. The chart below tells the story:
UNIVERSITIES ESTABLISHED IN NIGERIA SINCE 1948