By Suleiman Farinwata

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Professor Faruk Haruna Abdulrasheed, Provost, Niger State College of Education Minna

The man himself

Professor Faruk Haruna Abdulrasheed came to Niger State College of Education Minna (C.O.E) 2009 as a young Professor of Physical Health Education to resume as the provost of the institution at an age below 50yrs. Earlier on Prof. Abdulrasheed had been a lecturer and a Director of Sports at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, for several years and reports has it that his performance there were enviously memorable. He came to college of Education Minna, with a Passion. The Passion saw him overall, performing commendably better among his peers. When Prof. Abdulrasheed resumed, C.O.E Minna was just an ordinary college of education as in ‘just’ _ moderately conservative’ structures and human resources, but within his stay of eight years or so, the institution had transformed to one of the best among its equals.

The institution made tremendous strides on scholarship aspects, teaching and non-teaching staff were encouraged and motivated to improve their educational status through the judiciously use of both internally generated funds and from Education Trust Funds. Lecture halls, theaters and laboratories were of standard, adequately built, equipped and above all functional! The school now serves as a joint admission Matriculation Board ICT Examination Centre because of its well functional ICT Centre with a dedicated line of power and standby generators to avert any incidence in case of power failure.

The network of well laid motor able roads within the institution was remarkable. It is at the examination section that one needs to doff off his cap for Prof. Abdulrasheed, before his arrival, the section was always a difficult place to resolve issues, students complained of missing results, some students supposed to have completed their courses but had plenty carryovers, some have only statements of results instead of certificates in their possession having graduated for several years making their employer’s skeptical of their educational qualification. The professor turned around the examination and certification process of the institution, registration now is done online by the students themselves, the lecturers also marked and record the students’ results online, Prof. Abdulrasheed provided an ICT portal for that. Students now with their smart phones could see their results on line and for those that graduated could see their certificates online if they are ready. What time did not permit Prof. Abdulrasheed to finish is, for the students writing their examination on line as been done in other institutions. It is our hope, the successor shall continue from where the professor paused.   

Prof. Abdulrasheed built a digital Radio Station in the College, called Ultimate FM 103.9 but, the school offers no course in Mass Communication. The professor did that to provide avenue for training and talent discovery of those students that may in future pursue career in communication industries.

Digital Communication is the in–thing now in the world, Nigeria has a dateline of June, 2017 to be digitally compliance in its communication technology or to be shut out in the committee of nations. The FM Station is a suitable training workshop for the students. The students should be able to learn how to develop ‘contents’ that is going to be in high demand by the digitally compliance country. In simple terms, the Radio Station is for the students to be competent in making /producing contents for the digital communication, making them provides services and also employers of labors and overall become self sustainable. In a larger image, the college may succeed in turning out graduates that are labour employers instead of seekers. The FM Stations is also part of corporate social responsibility of the college to its immediate neighbors and other places within the reach of the FM. The Radio Station helps in educating, informing and entertaining the public and most importantly, the aggregate of the content of the radio programmers are on Developmental Journalism, a field that if active, shall help in facilitating the country going out of recession quickly.

From any keen observer of Prof. Faruk Haruna Abdulrasheed sojourn as Provost, irrespective of the professor’s plethora of achievements, one would notice that Prof. Abdulrasheed held so closed to his heart his intention of establishing Niger State University of Education. The Professor wanted the University of Education to address problems of quantity and quality of teacher education and related educational issues in order stop and prevent further falling standard of education in the State and the country at large. Had it been the professor succeeded in establishing the University, – that would have been the icing on the cake of his performance in the college.

Professor Abdulrasheed should be rest assured that History must be kind to him in recognizing his efforts and the mileage he covered in his attempts to build a University of Education for the State.

With all sense of decency there is need, to sincerely address the rot and decay in our educational sector. The issues associated with the sector are challenging and glaringly overwhelming. The Minister of Education Malam Adamu Adamu during 2017 budget defense said, that every Nigerian should be ashamed of the country’s falling standard of education, when asked by the House of Representative Committee on Basic Education whether he was ashamed of the falling standard of the country’s Education. To further buttress his answer Mallam Adamu added, that some grade II teachers are better than the holders of National Certificate of Education (NCE). The Minister attributed the problem to lack of funding for the country that has about 13 million children out of school which is the highest in the world. Mallam Adamu lamented that, even those children in schools are not getting the best. He advised, the next thing to do is to engage in teachers’ development. Now, one can clearly see the angle Professor Abdulrasheed came from, on why he needs a university of education to address the issue of quantity and quality of teacher education and related problems.

All the same, I wish to congratulate Prof. Abdulrasheed, because from what is seen in the college it is evident that a good foundation has been laid for the take off of the University of Education.

But, supposed that Prof. Abdulrasheed has the pleasure of setting up the University of Education, then what? The professor shall then realize that as a pioneer Vice Chancellor, there are difficult challenges to overcome. Some of these challenges the professor had started addressing them – those associated with stakeholders. The challenges are in phases, the first one is that of convincing the stakeholders that the state needs another University and such one (University of Education) for that matter; the phase of getting National University Commission (NUC) accreditation; the phase of making sure that the basic known principles of university are sustained; the phase of protecting the university autonomy; the phase of funding of the New University.

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COE Minna, school gate

Philosophy of Establishing a University 

Presently there are over 142 University in the Country including the two Universities (Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai and Federal University of Technology, Minna) in the state and most of these universities offer courses in Education and other related matters: This brought the question, whether the state really needs a University of Education. The answer is, yes. At least that was the answer Professor Friday E. Okonofua Vice-Chancellor, University of Medical Sciences, Ondo City gave, when he delivered a lecture at Foundation Day First Ceremony of Edo University, Iyamo, Edo State tittled “Overcoming Challenges in Pioneering New Universities in Nigeria”. Prof. Okanofua said, Universities exists for the sole purpose of building human resources for the advancement of societal development. He also added, that despite the large number of Universities in Nigeria, the Country has not ameliorated its development challenges, thus this suggested that much more needs to be done and therefore the country must continue to search for new institutions with new strategic direction that can help build the type of nation we deserved. If that is the case, then Prof. Abdulrasheed is in order to have sought to establish University of Education in the state that will be able to identify unique solutions to the existing educational problems in the state and the country at large.

It is worthy to note, that Prof. Abdulrasheed was not the first academician to have wanted to solve identified educational problems by building a University of Education. Ghana in 1992, built the first University of Education in Africa called University of Education, Wineba with Prof. A. Asabere Ametaw as Vice Chancellor. Ghana established the University in order to train teachers for the Ghana’s educational systems. The University had 29 academic departments and centres, 7 facilities with 18 distance educational study centres.

In Nigeria, Ogun State built Tai Solarin University of Education, located in Ijagun, Jebu Ode in the year 2005. The University supposed to help produce educators that shall be leaders in all sphere of disciplines and to continue updating and enhancing the quality of teaching and learning. Professor Olukayode Oyekanmi Oyesiku was the pioneer Vice Chancellor of Tai Solarin University of Education. While in the year 2009 River State established Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Porthacourt  because the State wanted to address the acute shortage of trained teachers lost after the civil war in 1970 and provide avenue for the graduates of the defunct River State College of Education to improve on their academic qualifications within the same environment.

So Prof. Abdulrasheed must have tried hard to sell to the stakeholders the idea behind the university and the need for the university, bearing in mind the existing institutions in the state that could offer similar products and services. It is also important that the promoters for the establishment of the university are able to make all the stakeholders key in and buy into the idea. To this end, Prof. Abdulrasheed was successful. Some times in the months of March/April 2015 during the 7th Niger State House of Assembly, the legislatures passed the bill for the establishment of Niger State University of Education and the bill had Governor’s Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu Assent that time. But the new administration of Governor Abubakar Sani Bello set up a committee in the month of September, 2015 to determine the viability and sustainability of Niger State University of Education. The Committee had 7 members with Hajiya Dije Bala as Chairperson, Ahmed Sadauki, Aliyu Ekan, Mohammed Agwai, U.B Ahmad, Aminu Bako and one other as members. The Committee’s report is yet to be made available to the public. So one can understand the importance of the roles of stakeholders and the need to get them on board and at the same frequency.

Challenges             

Nigerian constitution places education on the concurrent list, so this means states could establish their university once their House of Assemblies promulgated the Act for the establishing the University and the Governor’s assents to the bill. But, the biggest hurdle in licensing University is getting National University Commission (NUC) to agree.

Section 10 Act No. 16 of the federal Government of Nigeria 1985 and amended 1988, empowers NUC to lay down Minimum Academic Standard (MAS) for Universities and to accredit their degrees and other academic awards.

Crossing NUC hurdle is no small task – if you want to know, just ask the people of Plateau State University, Bokkos. The University was only able to graduate its first set of students in 2015 after 10 years. The reason for such long time was that Plateau State University Bokkos, could not get any of the 17 courses run by the University approved by the NUC, National University Commission cited No. obedience with its guidelines, inadequate structures and that the University need to employ more academic staff. The issues raised above by the NUC are not easily surmountable because of the limited resources and their technical nature. Then, there is the issue of quality assurance, for a programme to be accredited, it must pass (B-MAS) meaning Bench mark minimum Academic standard, the process involves critically assessing the following:

(a) Staff strength (b) objective of the programme (c) lecturer’s work load (d) course content’s relevance to National Development (e) Admission Requirements (f) Graduation Requirements in terms of credit hours (g) quality of examination questions and external examiner’s reports on moderated questions and results (h) adequacy of lecture halls, learning facilities and laboratories/workshops (i) quality and relevance of library materials.

Above all, a fully accredited academic programme has only a life spam of 5 academic sessions after which the process starts all over.

This challenge is going to be a serious one for a pioneer state university that has to compete for resources with three or more other higher institutions coupled with dwindling income to the state that sometimes resort to financial bailout from the Federal Government to make ends meet.

Before the Present Minister of Education Mallam Adamu Adamu made such a damning comments on the country’s poor standard of education during 2017 SUBEB budget Defense. Earlier on, his predecessor Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau in the month of May 2015 approved the upgrade of 4 colleges of education to the status of University of education for the Purpose of quality teacher education in order to enhance making first degree the minimum teaching qualification in country to tackle the falling standard of education. The colleges of education upgrade to the status of University of Education were Adeyemo College of Education Ondo, Federal College of Education Zaria, Alvan Ikoku College of Education Owerri and Federal College of Education Kano. But the upgraded Colleges of Education could not stand the scrutiny of NUC and the huge financial commitment involves. So by September 2015, the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), Professor Joshua Monday announced, the four Colleges of Education upgraded to University of Education were reversed to their former status of Colleges of Education.

Prof. Abdulrasheed should have been aware that building a new University is like building a new house – there is the need to have a very strong foundation both literally and metaphorically,  and Prof. Okonofua in the same foundation lecture delivered at Edo State University Pointed out that the first five years in the growth of a university is crucial to its development, because should anything goes wrong or right, it is the phase of development that shall be praised or blamed as the case may be. So our professor would have known that as a Pioneer vice – chancellor he must be careful of the things they do because History is there to make Judgment. Some of those things are the shenanigans that political class and other stakeholders shall put on the path(s) of the University growth to greatness. One of the critical aspect that enhances grow to greatness of a University whether new or old is the shielding of the basic principles of freedom which Universities are known World Wide are not compromised.

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The Challenge of Autonomy

University autonomy is necessary if that University must rise to the demand of global competitiveness – the University should be able to compete competently and favourably among its peers. The autonomy of the University includes academic freedom, which Russel in 1993 saw as the right of teachers to put out forward new ideas of which sometimes might not be popular and to be able to follow unhindered a line of research to wherever it leads and regardless of the consequences, and most importantly, the teacher should have the freedom to teach the truth as he/she sees it. But, let me ask this question, does Nigerian Universities enjoy this freedom? let the answer be an issue for future discourse.

If not for the way things are handled in this Country, the issue of the University autonomy is supposed to be a settle matter, because former president Olushegun Obasenjo saw to that. In 2003, Obasonjo Administration passed the University Autonomy Bill to ensure that Universities are able to govern themselves without external interference.

Funding Challenge

Prof. Abdulrasheed would have faced the challenge of funding the University of Education, because it is a constant issue in all new universities. This means that pioneer Vice Chancellors must have a creative way of funding the University, of course such ways must not fall squarely on parents in this challenging times. Still, the responsibility is on the government and the stakeholders should not have it in their minds that – “those who pays the Piper dictates the tune and perhaps the dance steps”. They should realized that financial automony has a gestation period and Universities attain financial self sufficiency when run autonomously and properly under selfless leadership. This is why, in selecting the pioneering leaders, we must get it right.

 

Finding ourselves in educational quagmire

There are several reasons, but basically I shall limit mine to two; those coming from the institutions and those from employers.

Those coming from institutions

University Education supposed to provide quality products (i.e Teachers) of international standard, and because it is a citadel of learning it’s also provides competent human resources for societal development. But Prof. Oyewule Tomori said such novel status of Universities are often compromised by the irony of “Brown enveloped Saga”. Where the ‘giver’ and ‘taker’ are important members of Academic Community. Prof. Tomori said this much in a convocation lecture he delivered at University of Abuja, 2016. The Professor was pained by the rubbishing of all the efforts put in place by NUC for accreditation as a result of corruption from the leaders of such institution. When processes of courses accreditation are compromised, then invariably standard and of products are also compromised, hence the precarious situation were found ourselves.

On the other hand, I need not to bother you with how lecturers, administrative staff and students came together in a cult like manner and short changed teaching and learning processes. The result is always, the standard keep on falling.

Those coming from the employers

There is dignity in labour, if such labour is paid for as when due. Where teachers were denied salaries for several months, you hardly expect quality performance from such teachers and to certain extent – no performance at all. Good teaching helps learning and it happens when teachers are motivated by salaries been paid regularly and as at when due. June 2017, the President of Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) Comrade Micheal Alogba Olukoya issued a 30 days ultimatum to the 19 state Governors owing salaries of teachers in Public Primary and secondary schools to pay all outstanding salary arrears or face “an aggressingly driven indefinite and total strike action “the President said so at the end of the National Executive Council meeting of NUT held at Teachers’ House Oluyole, Ibadan Oyo State.

States like Benue and Kogi owed more than 10 months salaries. There are also states that pay teachers half salary for whatever reason, Plateau State had been paying teachers half salary since 2010 (7 years!) can you imagine? – and this is coming despite several bail outs from the Federal Government (1st and 2nd trance bail outs) and recently, the Paris Club Refund.

When you do not pay teacher salaries, you are going to have teachers absenteeism (and government lacks the moral ground to reprimand), high failure rate in examinations etc. But, Governor Nasiru El-Rufai of Kaduna State on assumption of Office 2015 said, that the problems of teachers indebtedness of salaries was that most Local Governments had too many redundant workers and ghost works in their employments that siphoned the little resources coming to the Local Governments.

Swimming to the Shore

Now, it is obvious from our discussion that Prof. Abdulrasheed’s desire of establishing Niger State University of Education for the purpose of addressing quantity and quality of teacher and other related matters is momentously put on hold. But there should be need, still to move ahead and address the issue at stake (i.e poor standard of education) we can do so by looking inward as follows:

(i)      To address the issue of compromise in the institutions we need to adhere strictly to the University basic Principles of Freedom for which Universities are known World Wide in the process of leadership selection. There is also the need to introduce and domesticate the “whistle blowing policy” in all of the institutions.

(ii)      There is need for the employers to address the welfare of teachers because it is a significant determinant of quality education. Since government is the largest employer of teachers, political will is needed to at least allocate the UNESCO’s requirement 26% of the National budget to Education. Nigeria’s 2017 budget for Economic Recovery and Growth is N7.4 trillion, but only N448.01 billion (comprises of N398.01 billion recurrent and N50 billion on capital projects) which is just 6% of the total budget that was allocated to Educational sector – a far cry from the UNCESCO’s bench mark of 26% suggested for the education of a developing country. If sufficient funds are allocated to education and with less corruption teachers would not be owed salaries.

(iii)     Sometimes in the month of may 2017 the Vice Chancellor of Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai Prof. Mohammadu Nasiru Maiturare said, ability of leadership to make the right decision (like paying workers wages on-time) even under a strenuous circumstance (during recession when resources are limited) improves the working environment positively and increases productivity and reduces stress. Professor Maiturare said so when delivering the lead paper titled “Work Ethics and Resources Management in Nigeria: Issues and challenges” at the 1st National conference of Niger State College of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU). The Professor under scored the importance of prompt payment of employee’s wages as a recipe for good performance. By extension Prof. Maiturare was saying that if teachers were paid their salaries as at when due, their working environment (i.e schools) shall be positively improved and productivity is going to be increased (i.e improved learning Process).

(iv)     Comrade Waheed Olojede is the Oyo State NUT Chairman, led over 500 teachers in Protest along major streets in Ibadan in June 2017. Their Protest was that teachers’ salaries and allowances are too much of burden to be shouldered by Local Government, citing the period 1990 – 1994 as the worst for teachers because their welfare was under the control of Local Governments. Comrade Olojede suggested that, teachers salaries payment should be with State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB). To buttress their positions, the protesting teachers carried placards showing their displeasure with inscriptions – “Nigerian Union of Teachers, Oyo State Wing says no to Local Government Autonomy”, “Foundation of Education in Nigeria is under threat again” etc.

Kwara State has 13,060 Primary and 6651 Secondary Teachers and were owed 5 months salaries and when some teachers were interviewed during this year’s May 29 workers’ day on their welfare – Many answered that the non-payment of their salaries made them habitual liars (…..but teachers supposed to be synagogue of integrity), insolvent and hide from their creditors. They also said that due to irregular salary payments teacher deployed to teach in villages do not go to school regularly, but had to adopt rotational method (if there is anything like that) to teach in the village schools.  

(v)      Funding. A University must institute a good Financial Management, this becomes evident with many Ministries and parastatals competing for resources from the government whose income are becoming fewer and fewer day by day due to economic recession. A good financial management policy should ensures that resources are always spent on strategic key activities that involves teaching and research and less on administrative and other Mundane issues. University Leadership should always think creatively out of box to come up with ways of raising funds to argument subventions from government such ways includes: establishing the friends of the University fund (Alumni and others); have an international advocacy for the University that helps sourced funds from international agencies; set up a foundation for the University that invests the generated/donated funds and used the net income (profit) in advancing teaching and learning activities.

Honestly, authorities must be strong on private schools that do not employ qualified hands (because they pay them peanuts) as this contributes in No Small measure to the falling standard of Education. Sustainable development Goal No. 4 pledges to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. Therefore, the authority must not falter in ensuring that SDG No. 4 is achieved. By now, we might have realized how tasking it was to establish a state University of Education, but we could still address the issue at stake ___ quantity and quality of teachers and other related matters. If Governments at various level could address the teachers’ welfare as at when due, have the widow’s mite of Paying Teachers’ Salary Scale (TSS) which guarantees 20% increase on Basic salary, making available at least 26% of the annual budget to the education sector and spending same purely on activities that directly involve teaching and learning.

But, suppose government was able to address the above, there is still this menace of school children kidnapping_ of recent was the Igbonla Model College in Epe Area of Lagos State. Six (6) students of the college namely, Peter Jonah, Isaq Rahmon, Adebayo George, Judah Agbamu, Pelum Philips and Farouq Yusuf were kidnapped. The kidnapers demanded for ransom money of one billion naira for the release of the students that were in their captivity since May 24th, 2017 (nearly two months).  Nigerian government needs to quickly tackle the issue head on, if at all we still need to get those more than 13 Million Children back to school – who knows whether these kidnappers ravaging the nooks and corners of the country are also part of the over 13 million children that Minister of education Adamu Adamu said were out of school…or is it the case of what goes round, comes around.

Farinwata writes from Minna and can be reached at 08065605945, slizor2011@gmail.com

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