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When varsities turn to constituency projects

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By Dr. Pini Jason II

SIR: All over the world, universities are regarded as sacred places where knowledge is mined for the betterment of the society. In Nigeria however, universities, particularly public universities are established lately to serve as a fulcrum for the political advancement of those who providence have made to occupy political leadership positions at the various strata of government.  In fact, the national president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi often referred to these crops of universities as constituency projects!

When political leaders begin to see universities as “constituency projects”, the university education sub-sector is set for a crash. This is premised on the fact that, university, just like a child needs care and protection; and that can only be achieved when adequate resources are available to cater for its needs.

In the last ten years, the Federal Government has established not less than 15 new universities without regards for their sustainability in terms of adequate financial resources needed to keep them afloat. Some states that mostly relied on borrowed fund to pay their monthly salaries have more than one!

Ironically, some of the newly established universities should not be more than a department in a well-funded university. How can one justify the establishment of a University of Transport Studies when we have departments of transport technology in most of our universities? How can one justify the establishment of a University of Petroleum Resources when we have departments of petroleum resources related studies in most of our universities?

Funding of universities have been the major sources of friction between the federal government and ASUU, in fact it is one of the major reasons why ASUU has been on strike in the last seven months.

At the moment, we still have some universities where students still take their lectures under mango trees! We still have lecturers on professorial cadre without office accommodation!

If you go round our universities, you will discover that 80% of the projects, either completed or on-going are being funded by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund). TETFund is a product of ASUU struggle.

The unfortunate thing is that, instead of government to consider and relate with ASUU as a stakeholder in the university project, ASUU is seen as an enemy that must be crushed at all cost. That should not be so. As I type this, university teachers who constitute the membership of ASUU are being owed between three to eight months of their salaries.

The truth is that, as long as government refuses to fund the universities they established, Nigerian graduates will continue to remain unemployable.

  • Dr. Pini Jason II, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State.

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