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Toward Transforming Nigerian Universities for Quality Education: The Need for Nigerian Universities Professors' Forum     By Dr. Raphael Ogar Oko             

Newsdiaryonline  Sun Nov 13,2011


Dr Oko

We live at the most critical time in Nigeria’s history, as we have great opportunities, increasing population and resources as well as face most challenging moments. Having transited through colonial rule into independence and witnessed a short-lived civil rule in the first republic and passed through unimaginable military interruption in governance into the new millennium with uninterrupted civil rule, we are at a position to determine the new future of Nigeria. Yet, this age of history finds Nigeria confronted by serious challenges in literally every aspect of our national life – religious, regional, resources, politics, business, security, education, etc. The very survival of our nation and the about 167 million citizens is not only affected but actually threatened. No greater danger confronts us today than increasing cases of corruption, poverty, selfishness, terrorism, unemployment, hunger, immorality among young and old people, all resulting from lack of access to quality education and the misuse of knowledge by certain religious, political and economic interests.

Where do we have to turn to at a time like this? Politicians seem incapable of addressing the challenges. Religious leaders are in more complex situations as the denominational struggle is unable to allow them act together. The youths are not empowered and women seem helpless. Education in Nigeria is in crisis! Many universities are emerging, many colleges and other educational institutions are springing up but admission to universities are becoming more complicated. The number of Nigerians seeking admission and studying in universities outside the country, even in smaller nations is increasing and the cost implication on our economy is unimaginable. Everyone is wondering which way is Nigeria and the education system heading towards. Yet, in the face of these challenges, Nigeria is blessed with accomplished intellectuals who are making great contributions around the world and within the country. We have problems and at the same time have the manpower to solve the problems, but unable to connect the people with solutions to the problems that we face.

Without doubt and further hesitation, it is natural for our country whose education system is in crisis to make a determination and turn towards its professors and intellectuals to provide answers to the basic problems facing the nation’s education system and the world at large. For if hope cannot be provided from those whose life work has been in the advancement of human wisdom in Nigeria, then where else can Nigerians turn in its desire for continued national progress and development? If the professors cannot profess solution to our problems, who else will offer the needed ideas and strategies to the numerous challenges? Despite all the challenges, every Nigerian seeking for happiness in life realizes that education is a fundamental tool for personal and collective well being, and is therefore seeking for education. The goal of education for all need to be realized. One of the greatest challenges today lies in the provision of higher education opportunities in Nigeria. More than ever before, the number of qualified secondary school leavers who are unable to secure admission into tertiary institutions is increasing and yet more secondary school graduates are being mass produced annually.

To achieve the goal of quality education of all, by all and for all Nigerians and national development, educational policy makers and leaders have constantly sought answers and attempted solutions. Several educational reforms initiatives and transformation agenda have been proposed, implemented and reviewed but yet the outcome of education and the opportunities for quality higher education in Nigeria seem to be dwindling. Governments at the Federal and State levels have established universities to address the challenges of providing opportunities for university and higher education. Private agencies and individuals are investing in education at all levels and religious bodies have recently joined the league of proprietors of tertiary educational institutions with the hope that admission can be reduced, unemployment after school can be reduced and young graduates can be more engaged in meaningful activities. More scholars and professors have emerged in recent times and one is tempted to expect that the quantity of Professors would have led to the quality of education and needed quantity of opportunities for admission. It seems however that the professionals remain disconnected from each other in their efforts and wisdom. This is an issue we need to address as we seek solutions to our nation’s problems in education.

Again, another dimension seem to be missing in our efforts to provide qualitative higher education. Graduation ceremonies are often marked by expressions like “being found worthy in character and in learning…” but the struggle to have graduates with worthy character persists in our nation. The desire to have graduates worthy in character and career have been a major challenge for scholars and researchers who have researched and presented at numerous summits, seminars and conferences. We have universities with character education curriculum but we award degrees in character. The National policy on education has complicated the problems the more as there are no clear regulations on the duration of university education, academic calendar for universities and even worse still, there are no provisions for higher degrees like Masters, PhDs and how to become a professor in our national policy. We must continue the search and research for the changemakers that can offer the needed solutions to our educational problems, especially higher education which is the high hope of most Nigerians today.

At this critical time in our nation’s history, it is important to initiate efforts to inspire professors with a new global vision of education, and in particular, higher education, to enable them take the leadership required to respond to the nation’s challenges. There is the need to empower professors to renew their universities as well as connect professors to information, each other and to educational resources. We need to utilize the wisdom of high level professionals who are committed to advancing human wisdom and eventually appreciate and celebrate their accomplishments. There are no better groups to bring together at a time like this to address the challenges of higher education in Nigeria. We need an opportunity for the dialogue of professors and professionals on the new future of education in Nigeria. In any local community faced with severe challenges and issues, it is usually natural for them to turn to the elders of the land for their wise counsel. I think that the time has come for Nigerians to turn to the elders in the education for their wise counsel and great wisdom. Herein lies the need for the initiative for the convening of the Nigerian Universities Professors Forum (NUPF) by Global Educators for All Initiative.

The Nigerian Universities Professors Forum (NUPF) is a platform beginning with outstanding professors and senior scholars to discuss and share ideas on the way forward for tertiary education in Nigeria. It is our hope that the NUPF will provide the needed opportunities for professors and universities to become more interconnected in order to provide opportunities for quality education and to address the many emerging national challenges. It is our hope that such a forum could provide an organizational vehicle for the efforts of the academic community to advance the cause of quality education as a tool for national transformation and sustainable peace and development. Since the NUPF will be composed of professors and scholars from diverse and interdisciplinary basis, who perceive the crisis of education in Nigeria, it will offer a unique opportunity to formulate new ideas and methods for realizing a viable new system of education in Nigeria.

Throughout the history of Nigeria, leaders and policy makers have always used or rather often misused the word "quality education” without any sense of commitment. Some have advocated free education but yet provided nothing that was free for teachers, learners and even the institutions. Many have externally espoused this phrase as a campaign slogan, yet have done nothing after electoral victories and our country remains in the dark on the way forward. For this reason, many younger people are still being denied of opportunities for education even in the age where leaders are proclaiming “education for all”. We think that now is time to begin genuine discussions on the way to realize quality education of all Nigerians, by all and for all Nigerians. A situation where we proclaim education for all and a philosophy of education for self defeats our intention before we even commence.

If we must be able to achieve education for all by 2015 and be able to respond to the challenges that will come from the accomplishment, we need to look beyond providing primary and secondary education. We need to begin to prepare our tertiary education to meet the impending expectations of university education for all. If we realize that everyone without exception needs to be educated to the highest possible levels, then we must not wait until all children would have graduated from secondary schools to begin preparations for tertiary education.

Also, as quality education cannot be achieved by only providing access to education, we need to look into the content of our educational programs. We need to create a balance or equality between education for character and education for career. Quality education that will produce valuable citizens cannot be found by focusing on only external characteristics of intellect and entrepreneurship education. So, internal characteristics of emotion, attitude, ethics need to be included in our tertiary education programs. To achieve this, our professors and scholars cannot be ignored. They need to be informed about this new thinking in a way that they are inspired and can make a commitment. They need to be empowered with the needed resources and tools to address the challenges and most importantly, there is the need to connect professors to information, colleagues and resources.

Academic community members in Nigeria need to be called upon to develop new ideas for the benefit of our nation and the world and should actively guide the younger generation and all citizens toward the goal of universal education. Professors and other outstanding scholars should have the needed energy to do research and engage in long term educational planning. In the past, the theory of the “teachers reward in heaven” kept many scholars on earth far away from gaining public recognition. Many professionals in Nigeria in the past have not received the needed recognition for their hard work and effort. Although no nation can grow beyond the level of its scholarship, it has been very unfortunate that professors and accomplished scholars who have helped so much to contribute to the development of our nation have not earned enough recognition, respect or rewards. This has even made outstanding professors not to be role models for the upcoming generations.

At GEFAI, one of our five point focus is to appreciate and celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of educators. For this reason, we have a deep respect for scholars, and we do understand this and therefore are seeking for ways to actively help in bringing their ideas and wisdoms to public notice. This is one of the purposes of the idea of the need for the periodic convening of the Nigerian Universities Professors Forum (NUPF).

The goal of preparing for and achieving education for all Nigerians at all levels is a task that need to be realized. All Nigerians deserve quality education from conception to tertiary level and throughout life. So, in order for this goal of education of all to be achieved, no single professor or researcher can exist alone and work all alone to provide a sufficient solution to this national aspiration. Professors need to be connected to each other and their efforts need to be coordinated. This is one of the purposes of the establishment of the NUPF by the GEFAI. However, having struggled through a nearly 40 year philosophy of “education for self reliance” we have found ourselves under the present circumstances where professors are divided into several groups, disciplines and institutions as each seeks for self reliance. The needed collective reliance principle that should have advanced the work of professors and other educational leaders is missing. This is a task that we need to address. In other words, without a clear platform for professionals to share ideas, it will remain difficult to create the necessary coordination of efforts for national development.

In this age of Open Educational Resources (OER), I think that the diverse range of knowledge has become too wide for one professional to be able to master all that is needed to be known. It is getting some complex now to find theories that are able to stand the taste of time even within a generation. Technological breakthroughs have taken great dimensions that professors can connect with each other and sustain on-going research work beyond their lifetime. We definitely need a new generation of professors who can take responsibility for the indemnifying the past and begin the building of the new future of Nigeria and the world. This is one of the purposes of beginning the NUPF: to be a forum of outstanding professors researching quality education of all, by all and for all. Recognizing that so many problems are caused by boundaries of disciplines, NUPF feels that within the true academic community, there should be no boundaries in terms of disciplines or other educational initiatives. We need open universities that are truly open to all, and we need to arrive at a point where learners in Sokoto can be registered with the university in Lagos and learn and earn their degrees still in Sokoto. We need to move to the realization that professors are in the position of parents of the academic community members and they need to have a broad heart of parenting learners everywhere.

We further envisions the NUPF as the foundation on which to build an interconnected university system in Nigeria with harmonized curriculum, calendar, programs and activities. It is our strong belief that members of the NUPF can educate other scholars and find a way to make this idea of an interconnected university system a practical reality in Nigeria. It is our hope that the NUPF will facilitate the establishment of the National Universities Graduation Examination Board, strengthen the JAMB as well as seek ways of bringing together university senators to provide support to political senators.

The NUPF shall convene and organize periodic meetings, seminars, symposiums and summits/conferences to address the new future of education in Nigeria. Even though the goals of the forum cannot be attained within such conferences and summits/meetings, we shall develop follow up programs to ensure that many issues that need continuing research will be addressed.

It is hoped that in the future NUPF will be embraced by many professors and scholars as well as other professionals. There is no single method by which the NUPF will guide Nigerians toward the goal of education of all, by all and for all. Each state or institution, as well as every course of study, has unique circumstances. Even though every chapter of NUPF will strive to understand and address itself to its particular needs, it is very important to re-emphasize the importance of interuniversity and nationwide coordination and cooperation.

We are hopeful and believe that NUPF members will form long-term plans based on such universal ideas and global aspirations in the areas of education for all by 2015, Vision 20:2020 that have all been formulated. Let us become the new millennium educational leaders that can give new hope to our nation and provide access for quality education of all, by all and for all.

The NUPF envisions a new Nigeria nation that creates opportunities for quality education of all citizens by all stakeholders and for all citizens at all levels of education. Our mission is to seek to create a new nation where educational opportunities are guaranteed and quality education is ensured. Realizing that this effort is needed now, we shall utilize the approach whereby we are able to:

·         Inspire professors and other professionals with a new global vision of education of all, by all and for all

·         Empower professors and other professionals with professional development programs

·         Connect professors and other professionals to information, each other and to resources

·         Utilize the wisdom and resources of professors and other professionals to advance quality education

·         Celebrate the commitment, dedication and accomplishment of professors and other professionals

More than ever before, there is the need for the establishment of the Nigerian Universities Professors Forum as an interdisciplinary assembly of professionals committed to addressing the issues facing education in Nigeria. No groups are better positioned to discuss and create a new direction for education in Nigeria now than the professionals who have lived their lives seeking to advance wisdom and knowledge. I hope that the response to this need will be urgent and with a sense of commitment. In a home without parental guidance, the children hardly realize that they are brothers and sisters and may end up fighting each other. Unless professors take a parental position in offering parental guidance at this critical time, our universities will remain in shambles and become a shadow of itself selling grades to students and students stabbing each other as enemies when they are supposed to be brothers and sisters as well as each other’s keepers.


By Dr. Raphael Ogar Oko, International Coordinator, Global Educators for All Initiative, 2009 Ashoka/Hewlett Fellow and Winner, Champions of Quality Education in Africa

email :Raphael.oko@gmail.com

Transforming Nigerian Universities ... By Dr Raphael Ogar Oko









This is the document referred to in the Witness

Statement on Oath of Clifford O. Kokogho as

Exhibit COK.2
















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