Taking into account the need to urgently arrest the protracted crisis bedevilling Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomosho and the necessity of restoring the institution to its former glory, the Chairman of the newly inaugurated Board of Governing Council of the university, Professor Oladapo Afolabi has assured that LAUTECH will be back on its feet within 90 days.
Prof Afolabi who gave this assurance on Tuesday, 25th July, 2015 while speaking at an exclusive interview on ‘Community Today’ an online television programme on CEOAfrica, stated that the newly instituted Board of Governing Council which was inaugurated on Monday 24th July, 2017 was given a mandate by the Governors of Oyo and Osun States to make the university work.
The former Head of Service of the Federation explained that upon receiving the mandate, a brainstorming session was held by the seven-man Board of Council where they devised a 90- day plan of action that will bring an end to the debilitating challenges that had the school shut down for months.
He expressed hope that after the stipulated 90 days, the plans put in place by the council would yield positive results and get the institution running again.
He said “After our inauguration, we were given a brief and strong mandate by the two owner-state Governors to simply make the university work whichever way we can. So we had our first brainstorming today (July 25) and we have developed for ourselves a 90-day plan of action.
We hope that within 90 days, we should see a difference in the university. So, let’s hope that we can get this plan quickly developed.”Stating that he would rather not disclose the details of the restoration plan, the LAUTECH Pro-Chancellor, revealed that his Council will have strategies developed to attract people – both staff and students – to the institution.
He further noted that plans will be devised on restoring the excellent quality of education which the school is known for.
State of University Education
Speaking about the state of the Nigerian University education, the former Pro-Chancellor of the Technical College, Ibadan explained that tertiary education in the country took a downward turn when education began to be politicised, adding that the quality of education got compromised with the advent of free education.
Chairman of the newly inaugurated Board of Governing Council of the university, Professor Oladapo Afolabi
According to the Professor of Applied Chemistry, the rich quality of education was gradually eroded when people began clamouring for free education which inadvertently made a lot of students disinterested in acquiring university education.
He said “Because we politicised education and said that education will be free, quality got compromised, such that even students are no longer inspired to remain in the university.”.
Prof Afolabi further stated that the falling standard of education accounts for lack of motivation by the students, a trend which he blamed on the high rate of unemployment and over-populated labour market that cannot guarantee a good job after graduation.
He however noted that efforts are under way to correct this anomaly with the creation of the Technical/Entrepreneurial University in Oyo State which would commence operations in October, 2017.
He said “We are trying to correct this by having an entrepreneurial university in which case you go in as a student, we develop both your brain and brawn and you become useful to yourself as you graduate. You are not going to wait for anybody to employ you; you are going to create employment. That is why the university is located in an industrial zone so that you can have real hands-on training.”
Speaking further, Prof Afolabi identified poor-funding as another major challenge militating against university education in the country, a problem which according to him, caused quality professionals to leave that country’s university system for better pastures outside the country.
“Our poor university system is caused by extremely poor funding. You will find that good quality people migrated from the system. We could not maintain good quality people here and we could not attract good quality people,” he said.
The Professor explained that the best way to restore the Nigerian University system to its former glory is to put a stop to free tertiary education.
He proposed that Nigeria should take a cue from Denmark where every student who gets admission into the university qualifies for a loan that can be repaid after graduation through a tax system. He also noted creating a society where graduates can be easily employed will go a long way in arresting the problems of education.
To tackle the challenge of poor-funding in Nigerian universities, Professor Afolabi stated that the step to take is to ensure that universities are relevant and are autonomous financially, administratively and academically.
“If universities are financially autonomous, they can raise their own fund within the scope of the resources available,” he said.
The Professor explained that the way to get universities to be financially autonomous is for them to charge their fees appropriately, adding that the government can award scholarships to students who cannot afford the fees, rather than dole out subventions to the universities.
Effects of Unionism on University Education
Expressing his opinion about the place of unionism activities in Nigerian universities, the former Federal Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour stated that he supports unionism activities but detests irresponsible unionism.
He stated that collective unionism strengthens the cause however disruption of activities by unions can be detrimental to education.
Prof Afolabi surrounded by Journalists present at the interview
The Professor noted that it is sometimes necessary for staff unions to agitate and demand their rights, especially when they are owed salaries.
He explained that many of the strike actions embarked on by unions was necessitated by the stagnant pay package received in spite of inflation, recession and various economic challenges, adding that many a time, the demands of the union are ignored by the government until strike actions are embarked on.
He therefore advised the government to take pro-active measures in preventing unionism agitations by negotiating for conditions that will be favourable to both parties.
He also urged the labour unions to be reasonable and put the educational needs of their students into consideration when expressing their grievances. “Union leaders must know that the lives of their young students are on the line whenever school activities are disrupted.
These young ones cannot stall their growth just because their teachers are on strike. So I urge them to be reasonable and considerate when making their demands,” Prof Afolabi appealed.