Now, the academics in Nigeria’s public universities especially the federal universities have gotten a good deal from the federal government bordering on payment of outstanding allowances, injection of huge and phased funding in the development of necessary infrastructure in the universities. It is now time to settle down to the business of rebuilding our public universities especially re-instilling a learning culture which has long been transparently missing in our university system.
While it is true that the task of creating a better environment for learning can be done to a considerable degree through proper funding required for improvement of learning infrastructure, the importance of a learning ethos that should drive these universities is invaluable. Analysts of Nigeria’s universities are agreed that the motivation to learn has long been lost in our universities. This is as a result of factors drawing from the general devaluation of the value of learning in our society and the attitude of the university academics, administrators and students to the learning process in general.
Without appearing to be involved in glorifying the past(up to early 1980s) of university education in the country, the near absence of passionate, involved and committed academics that inspire students to take to academic excellence is a huge loss. The absence of proper monitoring and guidance of students provided by the structure that created academic advisers is also a huge loss.
What is most worrisome is the penchant for students to get grades they didn’t work for through a labyrinth of processes that include compromises allegedly permitted and instigated by academics and sometimes administrators. And also the common practice of students securing grades on research work not executed by them, but by proxy. In many cases, the absence of proper supervision by academics gives much room for this academic fraud.
No doubt, the increasing case of loss of true academics to overseas universities or loss of potential true academics to other sectors of the economy because of low motivation for academics in our clime is a leading cause of the lack luster learning and teaching culture in our universities. But we believe that with a strong learning ethos guiding academics, the existence of a self regulatory mechanism, and the maintenance of a realistic assessment process for academics the learning culture will improve considerably.
Related to reviving a learning culture in our universities is the need for the academia to reach out to practitioners in fields of endaevour and tap from their rich experiences for the sake of improving qualitatively the teaching curricula and empowering the students to acquire updated aptitude and skills. Against the background of a global concern that increasingly the products of tertiary institutions are deficient in the skills required by industry, such town-gown synergy is necessary and would create a broad platform for proper impartation of knowledge and skills.
To make this town-gown synergy a reality, academics in our universities must be ready and willing to rid themselves of any form of inhibitive ego, and accept to share notes with relevant practitioners in the ‘Town’. This is a best practice that has worked in many advanced societies.
We must point out that the now common involvement of Vice-Chancellors in politicking, grandstanding and other activities that are at variance to their proper functions in the university system is a disservice not only to the university system but to the larger society. Vice-chancellors, University governing councils and pro-Chancellors should all ensure that Nigeria’s universities properly become learning centres, and not havens for pseudo-academics, and the vaulting ambition of opportunists.