The Vice Chancellor of the Kaduna State University, Professor Williams Barnabas Qurix speaks with Hassan Ibrahim on his experiences as the vice chancellor, especially the challenges and other sundry issues. Excerpts :
How has it been administering this university?
Well, so far, so good. It is exactly two years now since I was appointed the vice chancellor of Kaduna State University. We came in at a time when there were numbers of issues to address; like accreditation of programmes as well as the commencement of teaching and learning at the Kafanchan campus of the university. Another issue that was on the front burner was the recruitment of appropriate teaching staff for the various disciplines in the university. I am happy to say that within a few months, we were able to commence teaching and learning at the Kafanchan campus, both at the remedial tier and the proper programmes. We have admitted a second batch of 100 level undergraduate students there; we also increased access to university education by increasing the number of faculties in the university from four to seven. The faculties of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Environmental Sciences and Agriculture were established. This has increased access to education to our citizens in Kaduna State.
Obviously, when you come to a place that is new, there will be a number of challenges from the communities and interest groups and this is to be expected. We were able to address all these because of the open door policy we had and constructive engagement of communities. We have been able to get stakeholders involved and buy into the KASU project and to ensure that we get maximum support. One of the things we realised and have to mention publicly is the unflinching support, which the state government has given us in the last two years. There is hardly any request we have made to the state government, which they have not honoured, this has kept us going and is responsible for the massive infrastructural development you see within the university. We have also received massive funding support from agencies like TETFUND, NDIC among others and this has helped us to build the capacity of our staff. We have been able to send some of our lecturers for training from the various departments in the university. These are some of the things we have been able to do in the last two years.
The institution is about eight years old now how has it faired? What are the challenges? How has it fared?
One of the main challenges is infrastructural development, which I have mentioned. You will agree with me that we have done a lot in this direction. We have built several classrooms and offices and have completed several ongoing projects, which I inherited from my predecessor. This has given us large latitude to have a proper learning environment. Secondly, is surmounting the problem of having correct and adequate staffing which is an issue every new university is facing. Last year, we received approval to recruit 240 staff. We have done that successfully and they have already commenced work. Clearly, this is an area we have been able to make some progress.
Another is in the area of ICT because, no university thrives now without ICT. We are working on an optic fibre networking of the university and this is 80 per cent completed. Our computer infrastructure is adequate enough and we have conducted computer-based testing for JAMB to show that we have what it takes as far as ICT is concerned.
Obviously, we have challenges. As you know, our medical students are supposed to be doing their clinical studies right now, which is their last stage of training, but we have not been able to achieve that.
However, I am happy to tell you that most of what we need to do have almost been completed. The Barau Dikko Specialist Hospital has been converted into a teaching hospital and this is going to be used for clinical teaching of our medical students. I have visited the place and discovered that renovation work is almost completed, except for the new projects that are ongoing. Any moment from now, the hospital will start operation and we will be in a position to invite the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria for proper accreditation.
For how many programmes, do you have accreditations?
We have 37 departments and 29 programmes, and all these programmes, apart from Mathematics, are fully accredited. Mathematics has interim accreditation, which means that we have to call back the NUC very soon to do a re-accreditation, while 13 of the programmes are due for re-accreditation this year. We are preparing hard, hoping that we will scale through the re-accreditation. Apart from that, we are fully accredited.
However, I cannot say right now off hand which of the programme are due, but some of them are in the sciences.
Last year, you said that KASU would introduce postgraduate programme before the end of the year, what is holding you back?
You know that we had a long period of strike, which lasted for six months. Normally, the last preparation is to invite the NUC to give us accreditation before we start. We were not able to do that within that six months because of the strike. We are now in a position to invite them to come and see. We have taken delivery of equipment and training chemicals in the various science departments because of the contracts that were awarded by the state government.
Sometimes last year, there was this allegation of lopsidedness in admission and recruitment of staff. Are you aware of this and how far has this been addressed?
There was an allegation and I am sure that you have not heard such an allegation recently. You know, the thing with admission is that every admission has its own guidelines and you follow the guidelines as much as possible. You know that as a state university, you will try to reflect a particular nature of the state. The university is an area of interest because every stakeholder has an interest and wants to know what is going on.
Sometimes, if you don’t have the facts from a distance, you will be quick to condemn and quick to lay an allegation, but once the facts are presented before you, you then realise that it is not exactly so. We had such allegations and once the facts were presented, everybody was satisfied. We have just recruited some staff and we have not heard such an allegation again because we have learnt to be open and tell people the exact figures and they know what we are doing and so, nobody is raising those allegations again.
It is believed that the poor performance of Nigerian universities in global rating is due to poor funding by the various arms of government. How best do you think this can be addressed?
The poor performance is per the scale you are using to assess the universities. There are various criteria for assessing any university. Most of the people the universities are concerned about the web presence of the universities, what materials you are able to deposit on the internet and how connected you are in respect to ICT. Most of the universities that are rated very high are very good in ICT and what they have been able to present. I don’t want to underrate any university, but in recent times, most Nigerian universities have been doing very well. Recently, there was a heart transplant in a Nigerian university and there was a kidney transplant also, and they were very effective as much as what you get in any other university anywhere in the world and so, we are doing well. We have to admit that because we are a developing country, we may not have all the necessary tools and equipment that are required to push the universities forward. In terms of funding, we are lucky as a state university because we are really well funded. Many other universities are not as lucky as we are. I must say that the government has been trying to fund the universities through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND). According to that system of funding, every public university is entitled to a large amount of money, which could be in excess of N600 million for training and capacity development. The older universities are very large and so, this amount of money does not matter to them, but those of us in the smaller universities see it as big money and take it with joy and we use it for development.
How do you rate the funding of KASU compared to other state universities?
Well, as far as other state universities are concerned, we seem to be the best-funded state university. In terms of infrastructural development, I don’t know if there is any state university in this part of the country that is better than us in terms of funding. I think we are second to none as far as infrastructural development is concerned. In fact, we are really doing very well. At the last convocation ceremony of the university, we graduated 14 first class students, including first class in Mathematics. We have what it takes to graduate them and our students are doing very well because we receive feedbacks from industries. Even those who have gone for postgraduate studies, we have received feedback that they are doing well. We believe that we are doing well academically that lecturers from other universities come here to work. This gives us some feelings that we are doing well.
In preparing for the postgraduate programmes, what areas are you looking at?
We have a large list and nobody will remember the courses on the list. Virtually every faculty in this place, apart from pharmaceutical sciences, medical and environmental sciences; Post graduate programme will cover the other four faculties of arts, science, social and management sciences and education at the level of post graduate diploma and masters.
How do you see KASU in the next 10 years?
I see us as a university that will be operating a full-fledged postgraduate school, excelling in applied sciences and sustainability studies, which is really our focus. I see us as a university that will have direct access to the community.
The primary objective of universities is academics; apart from this, what other fields are you into?
The universities are not just academics. We teach, conduct research and do community service. In fact, the researches we do are also aimed at touching the lives of the communities we find ourselves. At present, we are doing research on tropical cooking stove, which we are trying to adapt and see how we can save energy for our housewives. We have gone very far with that research. I think that is part of community service from the universities. We also run seminars and training workshops for civil servants and the private sector, trying to reach them with the latest technology.
Recently, we conducted training for local government staff. We are trying to establish some small-scale ventures because of the Entrepreneurial Centre that we have established. We also think that we will get to the point of running training on how to do entrepreneurship in collaboration with the private sector.