Japa syndrome is affecting education seriously – McPherson varsity VC
The Vice-Chancellor of McPherson University, Ajebo, Ogun State, Professor Francis Igbasan, in this interview with JOHNSON IDOWU and DARE OLAIWIN, speaks on the allocation for education in the 2024 budget among other issues that affect education in Nigeria
Recently, President Bola Tinubu presented the 2024 budget to the National Assembly. In the proposed budget, N2.18tn was earmarked for education accounting for 7.9% of the total budget. Do you think this is enough to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal on Education?
Year in and year out, people in the academic sector are always disappointed by the attitude of our government because the budget they have always presented has always fallen short of UNESCO’s recommendations. UNESCO recommends that 25 per cent of the budget should be dedicated to education. Education is the bedrock of development. If you are talking about military, water, and everything, if you don’t have education, you will miss out completely. All these other sectors that the government budgets millions on, especially security take the junk out of our budget every year, and cannot achieve its objectives without education. Sadly, this money ends up in individuals’ pockets which is why we are getting what we are getting in terms of education quality.
And this is why some of our graduates today from public universities can no longer compete effectively with their counterparts in the world. Some of them cannot even compete favourably with graduates from private institutions because private institutions have better equipment and facilities to train their students compared to public universities.
I came from a public university and I know what is tenable there and what the public universities are going through. The government has not taken that bold step to focus on the development of education. The budget is a big disappointment. One expects that President Tinubu will do better but he has followed the trend. He has not improved with the seven per cent allocation out of the 25 per cent that was prescribed by UNESCO and those of us in the education sector have been clamouring every year that the budget for education is grossly inadequate. The Federal Government is using over N6.5bn to buy a presidential yacht, how does that improve education? The N6.5bn cannot be expended on salaries of ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities) members. My advice is for the government to shift their focus from what they believe in which is shortchanging education by not funding education.
Are you saying private universities are doing better than all the public universities in Nigeria?
They are doing better. It may not be all the public universities in Nigeria but the majority of the public universities in Nigeria are wallowing in abject poverty. What I mean is that in terms of facilities and manpower, most of the public universities today are empty. The personnel, the lecturers, those who are qualified, and those who are experts have all left the country. The japa syndrome is affecting education in a very serious way.
There are some departments in public universities that when you go there, you will only see two or three lecturers. The brains are going and now we are not realising what the impact would be but in the near future, we will see the negative impact. Every year we talk about the 2050 millennium development goal but every year we are doing nothing and by 2050, we will realise we have not achieved anything just because our leaders failed to realise that education is key and it is the bedrock of development.
Gone are the days when you say private universities do not have resources but today, in many private universities, I can say that 90% of private universities in this country are well equipped more than what is applicable in public universities.
In your opinion, what is the viability of the student loan initiative of the Federal Government?
Well, the Federal Government has announced that it is starting student loans but the question is have they started implementing it? Let us wait and see when the implementation will start. By the time it commences and between one year or two, we should be able to assess them. By then, we can look at who are those people getting the loans. Are they the indigent students or the loan is being granted to children of the political class? You know the Nigeria factor, they would say they are giving loans to the children of the less privileged like mechanics, vulcanizers and others but by the time you look at the list and the beneficiaries, you will discover that the money is circulating within the same circle.
Let us wait until the implementation starts and in another two to three years, we should be able to assess the success or otherwise of the initiative. It is too early to say whether it will go far or not. It is a good development but the problem is how will the implementation works.
What is your stand concerning the conversion program of the NBTE in collaboration with some foreign universities which has received condemnation from the NUC?
I will pitch my tent with the National University Commission because anything that relates to the first degree is regulated by the NUC and the commission has a list of recognised universities around the world. For instance, if someone comes from Ukraine with a certificate from any university in Ukraine, the first point of call is the NUC to look at the certificate and examine if the university is recognised. If somebody does a conversion program in a university that is not recognised, what happens to that certificate?
We have renowned universities in this country where anybody who graduates from polytechnics or colleges of education can do whatever conversion they intend to do. Somebody brought a certificate to this school recently, a PhD certificate which he claimed he did online with a university in America and I asked him at the interview how is it possible to do a PhD online, a PhD by research. How did you do the research?
These are some of the things we see in the education sector but it is the responsibility of the NUC to regulate such anomalies. So, it is the NUC that I will support. If anyone wants to do a conversion, let them do it in accredited universities in Nigeria and not just a conversion that they will do online and get a certificate within six months without attending classes.
In the face of the harsh economy, is there any compelling need for MacPherson to increase its fee?
We have done that. We did that marginally by adding a small amount to our fees because when you look at the economic situation in the country it is no longer feasible for us to stay where we were a year ago. A little of petrol you know the amount. A bag of cement has gone up compared to what it was last year and we need to put infrastructures in place. Also, our staff are agitating for a better salary. For instance, starting from December 1, we increased our staff salary by 30%. So, by the end of December, they will take 30% higher than what they have been getting before.
What we did to ensure that the increase does not affect the parents is that we allowed them to pay the fees four times in a session. We split the payment process into four and this has really helped the parents who have, in turn, commended us for our magnanimity.
We have over 25 accredited courses that we are running among which are Law, Nursing, Medical Laboratory Science among others.