The Vice-Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Prof Eyitope Ogunbodede, has said that the major challenges facing the education sector in Nigeria are lack of good leadership and improper utilisation of funds, not funding.
Speaking during the maiden annual lecture of the Rehoboth Dream Solid Foundation held last Thursday at the Naval Dockyard, Victoria Island, Lagos and themed, ‘Public Education in the 21st Century: A Reappraisal of the Nigerian Education System since Independence’, Ogunbodede also proposed strategies for improving access to education in the country.
The vice-chancellor stressed the need for policies and strategic plans, accreditation of programmes, maintenance of regular academic calendar, strengthening of research and research policies in tertiary institutions, university-industry linkage, staff discipline, conflict resolution and work ethics, as well as university autonomy.
He said, “The problem of our education system is not entirely funding. Even when the funds are provided, the capacity to utilise them in a way that will advance education in this country is just not there. When you are the leader somewhere, do your best to ensure that you make a difference.
“Look at Nigeria, for example, we have people that we can point to as leaders who have actually changed the condition of their state or the condition of their local government. That is what every leader in the country should do. You cannot do everything, but the one that is within your capacity to do, do it well.”
Commenting on the general presumption that private universities would outshine public universities in the future, Ogunbodede said, “OAU, for instance, will be 50 years-old in 2021. You can’t compare that with a university that is just starting today. Among the crème de la crème of the alumni that we have, we can boast over a 100,000 people who will contribute meaningfully to the university without feeling the pain.
“The private universities can never be a threat to the first or second generation universities. But then, the leadership of the public universities must begin to think and remember that if they fail to see the future, they may become the followers of tomorrow.”
The vice-chancellor also dismissed the claim that graduates of private universities have an advantage over their colleagues in public institutions in terms of employability. “I don’t think that is the case. However, we need to engage ourselves in a way that will change the curricula. What used to happen was that graduates were immediately employed by government after leaving the university. It’s a new development that graduates are no longer getting jobs, and that’s the challenge that we need to confront. The curricula need to reflect this change. So, it’s not an issue of being private or public, it has to do with the curricula that we are running in all our universities,” he said.
In her address, the co-founder of the RSDF, Mrs. Abimbola Komolafe, described the foundation as a non-profit, non-partisan and non-governmental organisation engaged in charitable activities to advance the social and economic well-being of the less privileged through the promotion of sustainable education, mentoring and skills acquisition.
Komolafe said the foundation organised the annual lecture to provide a platform for informed debate. “It is the first in the series of annual lectures aimed at discussing topical issues that will contribute to the improvement of access to quality education in Nigeria. Through this forum, we hope to help build sustainable public education in Nigeria.
“The annual lectures will provide a platform for informed debate, independent analysis, and new policy ideas for feedback to relevant stakeholders,” she added.
Also, the foundation unveiled its 2018 Teachers’ Excellence Award during the event, which saw Mrs Felicia Olugo of Badore Communuity Junior Secondary School emerge best teacher in the Eti-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State.