The 45 illegal universities – by Banji Adisa

8 Comments » April 8th, 2009 posted by // Categories: Higher Education in Nigeria



GUARDIAN

April 8, 2009

The 45 illegal universitiesBy Banji Adisa

IT is no longer a secret that the educational sector in Nigeria needs redemption, at every level. The rot set in a long time ago and we were all watching the decay like a movie. The result is the contentious decline in standards up to the university level. It is commonplace today to hear complaints of a secondary school student whose reasoning could not match that of a standard six of old, or a graduate whose faculty can hardly be compared to that of a senior secondary school student.

The system has been so bastardised that a frustrated teacher or anybody with the means to put up a small structure can go to town and make noise to gullible parents to bring their children or wards for instruction. The secret is simply adding ‘international’ to the name of the school. Some schools even bear names that ordinarily ought to have set parents thinking about the quality of knowledge being passed to kids there.

With the rash of private universities in the country now, the deception is high. The harsh economic realities have thrown up two lucrative ventures in contemporary Nigeria: running a church or setting up a school at any level. Today, a first degree from a Nigerian university does not command any respect from foreign institutions seeking admissions for higher degrees. Products of these local institutions would first be subjected to some assessments before the foreigners can determine their suitability, which was not the case some years back.

Running through a story in the papers two days back brought sad memories of a glorious past in the country’s educational system, a time when it was a pride to belong to one of the leading tertiary institutions – the premier varsity in Ibadan (UI), Unilag (Lagos), OAU in Ile-Ife, UNN in Nsukka, ABU and many more. The National Universities Commission (NUC) said it has identified 33 additional illegal universities to take the total to 45. Unbelievable! Who do we tell about 45 illegal universities in a country that still has all the quality controls in place? Some people must have spotted a gold mine in the venture, at the expense of the ignorant students and parents on one hand and the country on the other. A fake vice-chancellor of one of the schools was reportedly apprehended. Fair, but not far reaching enough because there has to be evidence of prosecution. Who are the racketeers behind this war against the state? NUC, the story goes, has invited law enforcement officials to unravel the perpetrators of the act. That is, the burden has shifted to law enforcers. We should not be surprised to discover later that if no action was taken against them; more illegal schools would then spring up except the NUC itself takes special interest in the matter by keeping the heat on the police.

In one year alone after the discovery of the first 12, 33 others joined the list, including a so-called Blacksmith University in Akwa. Royal University, Izhia, Samuel Ahmadu University, Makurdi, Volta University College, Ghana (Nigeria Campus) etc. For goodness sake, what desperate parent would approve of his ward studying in a university called Blacksmith? Black what? The operators could well have settled for Goldsmith University. As a parent, I will not think twice before I turn down any move by my child to go to a Blacksmith University.

Seriously, has varsity education become so cheap that any block of flats can be converted to a university with all manner of fake lecturers? This is ridiculous. Among the lot, somebody with brain waves even believes that Volta (Ghana) would surely ring a bell among Nigerians because, of recent, Nigerians have been crediting that country with some wonderful transformation in every area of life, a feat made possible by serious leadership, with the best of intentions for their people.

These suspected illiterate, business-minded owners of the illegal varsities seemed to have taken a cue from some equally illiterate Nigerians who are so short of ideas to give funny names to their establishments or schools. I’ve seen a few of them around such as Ceramic Private School, Opulent High School, Campus College, The Elect Nursery and Primary School. Pray, what has ‘ceramic’ got to do with the name of a school? Is there any connection between ‘opulent’ and qualitative education, or seeking knowledge. Could it be that the proprietors of The Elect are expressing a religious bent of the school or it’s just another way of emphasising that their pupils are lucky children? And what about Campus College? What a name for a supposedly serious institution!

All these are just reflections of the desperation of our people to raise cash to stay afloat in the hard times. The Lagos State Government conducted a survey last year and pounced on a number of the illegal secondary schools in the state. It was a revealing exercise indeed. Some ‘schools’ are no better than mama put kiosks or fried yam stalls. Yet, parents were sending kids there in the name of private schools. So, by the time such pupils make it to the next level, they become liabilities to teachers.

Another perspective to the desperation is the craze for certificates. Everybody needs one to qualify him for a non-existent job after his education. This system has to be restructured to de-emphasise paper qualifications. I believe it has done enough damage in our society. The employers are complaining everyday out there in the labour market, as they long for more quality products from the schools.

The neglect of the education sector by the government for over a decade is monumental. So much was lost to inconsistency in policy formulations and paucity of funds to the institutions by governments that cared less. The barely illiterate leaders the country has been blessed with over time could not see any need to revamp the critical sector. Until recently when university dons fought a hard battle to get enhanced pay, the ivory towers were almost crumbling under the weight of neglect. During the period, the country witnessed the highest level of brain drain from which it is still struggling to recover.

In fairness to the NUC, it has been taking some steps to sanitise the system. For instance, it’s battling to list and de-list some courses in the varsities, even in the established ones classified as first generation universities. Its running battle with some of the schools over illegal satellite campuses is also noteworthy. But it has to be a continuous exercise to have the desired impact. Of course, this must be followed up by an efficient public awareness, to assist the students and parents who are potential victims of the shylock proprietors.

It is easy to lead some students astray because of the huge number chasing the few available placements every year. Last Saturday, about 1,182,300 candidates took the university matriculation exams for the next academic year. At the end of the day, just a quarter of the candidates would be placed in the schools. The competition is so fierce that the rejected majority is pushed to compete the following year with new candidates. Such desperation therefore pushes the young minds to seek alternatives outside the country for those with the means, and to those local illegal institutions for many others. It’s even good that the country has liberalised the system to accommodate more state universities and lately, private varsities. It could have been worse.

No matter the pressure, the NUC must not give up, there should be no room for glorified secondary schools to operate as universities. Operators of the 45 illegal institutions must be dealt with according to the laws of the land to avoid mortgaging the future of many unsuspecting students. So far, only the government approved 94 Federal, state and private universities remain legal entities.

 

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8 Responses to “The 45 illegal universities – by Banji Adisa”

  1. bayo ojo says:

    LOL. truely this is laughable!
    the schools you listed are of standard themselves? Have you seen High schools outside Nigeria? They are better than UNILAG, ABU, OU and all the schools combined. Dude let people get educated. That’s what Nigeria needs. Accreditation is a joke in Nigeria. All the schools are all below world standards. why filter them?

  2. bayo ojo says:

    McDonalds, Burger, KFC all have University where they train their managers and employees. Yes they are call Universities.

  3. segun Bajo says:

    So far so good.
    The fault is your government, and the nigerians.
    I wish late Obafemi Awolowo were alife today, see?
    Let me ask you, which era is now good ? the present era or Baba-Awo Era ?. Nigerians will continue deceiving themselves at alltime?

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  6. vincent emmanuel says:

    the rot of nigerian universities started from the tip of our toes and has now gotten to the head. i believe in the step being taken. i just pray that it does not increase the height of corruption in other nigerian universities cos am sure that those whose schools were closed down will do everything within their reach to earn admission in other universities. lets go back to the root and start fighting whaqt i personally term “education corruption”. God bless you richly

  7. verval egbe says:

    so is igbenidion among the universities that where scrapped?

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