Isaac Rotimi Ajayi, Professor of Radiation and Health Physics is the Vice Chancellor of Crawford University, examines the challenges facing university education in Nigeria while offering solutions to address them.
What is your assessment of higher education in Nigeria?
Honestly, the education sector in Nigeria has been vastly underfunded because it has not yet been placed in the right perspective in terms of priority and integrity of purpose i.e. acquisition of state-of-the-art facilities, provision of infrastructure, deepening of programs in terms of quality staff or staff who would provide sound education.
What recipe do you recommend for the myriad problems facing education in Nigeria?
To be frank, education is a critical sector of any nation; it is the only way for citizens to be of good service, to add value, freed from poverty and ignorance. It is the duty of the government to ensure that every citizen is educated as evidenced by developed countries in kindergarten, primary, junior and senior high school to higher education institution, as as the primary responsibility of government. I would like to see education in Nigeria given priority position, special attention, brought to the fore by building more schools and providing adequate resources i.e. teaching materials, trained and qualified teachers, create an environment conducive to student learning; and the government’s sincere commitment to strict supervision in others to produce credible students in our higher institutions. Although government alone cannot shoulder the burden of education, government should be in the lead in attracting help from stakeholders such as parents, institutions, NGOs, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) conglomerates to complement or support government efforts.
Nigerian graduates are said to be unemployable because universities do not train for industry. What is your opinion?
To some extent, that’s true. We should know that the type of education we provide in universities is not such as to easily fix our students or graduates in industries. On the other hand, industries should also be ready to train students/graduates, as well as partner with universities in the training process, which is very essential. Currently, universities are concerned with employability, that is why we have created the entrepreneurship department for our students to be trained in various skills; besides the training of the head, that is, the intellectual development, we also engage the hand which is psychomotor for the practical skills. As they enter the job market, industries should be ready to provide direction to our graduates, to retrain them for desired designations or functions. From my personal experiences, I have two students I trained in physics, one graduated 1st class, luckily he got a job in an auditing firm, the company retrained him to become an auditor; the second passed the First Bank aptitude test, came first and became a banker. It is the duty of universities to ensure that we produce highly intellectual, exposed and well-rounded graduates; at the moment, we are encouraging the “dress and city” relationship in our education systems.
Observers say the problem facing universities could be solved by granting autonomy to the ivory towers. Is it correct?
Yes, very fair. I am a strong advocate of university autonomy. A central command or control situation cannot work. We have examples in other countries where autonomy is granted. What we need is to establish minimum standards for universities to function. Under normal circumstances, letting university owners determine the salary structure of their staff or workers, what courses or programs to offer, etc. This is what works in the United States of America.
How do you rate private universities? Would you like to ask for more?
Honestly, private universities are a blessing to the country. Imagine if there were no private universities in Nigeria today, what would have been the fate of many graduates from these universities. In fact, we complement the government’s efforts. Private universities must be encouraged so that they can function optimally. I ask no more; but I advise well-meaning people who have enormous resources and love education to invest in areas or places where such services are needed, but strictly adhere to standards.
With the number of universities in the country, many potential applicants still cannot gain admission. Does the solution lie in the creation of more universities?
No, the solution does not lie in the creation of more universities. Currently, private universities are not meeting their capacity quota in terms of student enrollment. These universities have plenty of spaces for students; applicants cannot be admitted to the institutions due to cost. If the government can support private universities through financial interventions or aids such as grants, scholarships and scholarships, more students will gain access to these universities. The availability of financial incentives, for example, scholarships from various governments, institutions or wealthy individuals, would also help most of the qualified young idlers to gain access to the universities of their choice. Therefore, the pressure could be reduced in states and federal universities which are already overcrowded in most cases.
What is the evolution of Crawford University?
Crawford University is an offshoot of the Apostolic Faith Church in Nigeria. The institution is a bold step by the church to diversify into the third level of education. The effort aims to produce graduates with moral excellence, self-confidence, inventive drive, and the spirit of innovation. We received the business license from the federal government on June 9, 2005. With God’s help, the university was opened for the first batch of students on September 30, 2005.
As the third Vice-Chancellor of Crawford University, what could you count as your accomplishments?
To God be the glory, I will attribute all our achievements to him. We have tried to improve the integrity of our programs in all colleges by striving for competence and excellence; our university programs are better delivered. For example, our courses are expanded; we obtained full accreditation for mass communication as a flagship program; while all other programs are accredited by the University Commission of Nigeria (NUC) and professional bodies. In addition, we have improved the infrastructure of the establishment with the provision of additional classrooms, a hostel; student enrollment is improving, we are enjoying peace and stability on campus by the grace of God; management has been consistent on staff development by adding more faculty to the system.
What are your challenges and how do you overcome them?
Challenges are always part of life, we need to face them head-on, we need more funds to continue expanding our infrastructure, student enrollment in terms of achieving our goals; the roads leading here, ie from Atan to Agbara, need urgent attention in terms of repair or reconstruction as they are in a deplorable state; and maintaining discipline among the youth is a major task, we must be firm in asking them to abide by the rules and regulations of the college. Fortunately, to the glory of God, most of our students are accountable both inside and out.
What sets Crawford University apart from other universities?
Crawford University is very unique as it is driven by the motto “Knowledge with Godliness”. In the process of educating our students, we instill in them morality and the fear of God. Second, the university has zero tolerance for any act of indiscipline or any form of social vices, immoral behavior is not permitted, we treat our students individually with adequate attention to their welfare. At the end of their studies, our students receive 3 certificates, on academic studies, information and communication technologies and entrepreneurship, i.e. professional skills, which makes them fully equipped for the future.
What are the university’s plans for the future in the short, medium and long terms?
In the short term, the university will expand curricula with some courses to include architecture, environmental studies, property management, and quantitative survey; in the medium to long term, we intend to add more colleges such as law, agricultural sciences, humanities, etc., while we look forward to accelerating our programs to achieve world-class status by the grace of God.