Of Self-Serving Relocation of Universities

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No doubt, Nigeria is ranked among the developing countries of the world pejoratively termed as third world countries. An index of underdevelopment used as the international benchmark for arriving at the status whereby Nigeria is so ranked as belonging to the infamous club of third world countries, is the literacy level of the populace which by all intents and purposes, is not salutary and promising.

With only a few years to the MDGs 2015 deadline, Nigeria is unlikely to meet the eight goals in the Millennium Development Goals, including but not limited to eradication of poverty. Poverty is further reinforced among a good number of Nigerians by the high rate of illiteracy among the adult populace.

Nigeria’s office of the World Bank, in a document published in April 2011, claimed that the nation’s literacy rate marginally improved by 25 per cent through construction and provision of equipment to primary and secondary school classrooms in over 1,000 communities.

In the report titled; “Macroeconomic Stability And Delivering Services To The Poor”, the World Bank wrote thus: “Despite Nigeria’s strong economic track record, poverty is significant, and reducing it will require strong non-oil growth and a focus on human development. Barriers include the investment climate, infrastructure, incentives and policies affecting agricultural productivity, and the quality and relevance of tertiary education”.

Statistics for Education in Nigeria from 1999 to 2005 published by the Federal Ministry of Education is loaded with frightening facts regarding the state of education and literacy in Nigeria. Vast as the country is, only a total of 299,386 qualified primary school teachers were recorded in 2005. In that study, Oyo State had the highest number of qualified teachers amongst the states with 24,679, representing 8.24 percent.

This was followed by Lagos State with 21,471 (7.17 percent), while Zamfara State recorded the least with 1,249 qualified teachers. In an editorial published on Thursday, June 21, 2012, ThisDay newspaper revealed that about half the population of teachers in Sokoto State can neither read nor write.

Because poverty is high among the greater percentage of Nigerians, most people on their own have realised that one sure way to escape the poverty vicious circle is to embrace capacity training/ building and advanced human development which is believed in informed quarters as a panacea to the poverty trap.

Politicians have also cleverly cashed in on the mad rush by most people for education and especially tertiary education to gain some mileages and advantages over their rivals. Some of these governors have gone to the ridiculous level of relocating already existing state-owned universities and other educational facilities to their place of birth to score cheap and senseless political mileage and do nothing about funding and research. Funding and research are what matters about universities and not location.

According to Wikipedia; “Strong research and funding have helped make United States colleges and universities among the world’s most prestigious, making them particularly attractive to international students, professors and researchers in the pursuit of academic excellence.” But in Nigeria of the 21st century, what occupies the attention of local politicians who hold juicy offices as state governors is to change the location of higher institutions to their geo-political domains.

In Bayelsa, Imo and Ekiti states, governors of those states are embroiled in the needless controversy of moving already existing state-funded universities to their own local council areas for purely political reasons. With less than 100 days in office, Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State reportedly ordered the relocation of the Bayelsa State College of Education (BYCOE), Okpoama in Brass local government area to his own community, in Toru Orua in Sagbama local government area.

Education stakeholders and political analysts in Bayelsa State said that the above move is meant to hurt the immediate past governor of the state, Chief Timipre Silva who established the school in 2009 and located it in his own community. In Imo State, Governor Rochas Okorocha has reportedly relocated the Imo State university from Owerri senatorial zone to his Orlu senatorial zone.

The establishment of the Imo State University, according to many observers, is traceable to the Imo State Law No. 4 of 1981 which provides for five temporary campuses for the university to be located at the existing five senatorial zones in the old Imo State.” Successive administrations in Imo State also played their own politics with the structure, location and funding of the Imo State University since the then state university was ceded to Abia following the creation of Abia from the old Imo State.

For Nigeria to get it right, and for us to bridge the technology gap, state governors should not dabble into the needless politics of relocating already existing higher institutions to favour their immediate environment but must shift emphasis to improving better, transparent funding of these schools to create good learning environment for research and capacity development of Nigeria’s younger generation.

-Onwubiko is the head, Human Rights Writers’ Association Of Nigeria

 

In : Education

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