Our varsities must be reorganised to bring out the best in our brilliant students, instead of frustrating them
It is common for many Nigerian graduates who travel abroad for higher degrees to excell. However, the case of Ibukun Mofesola who graduated in the third class category from the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) is peculiar. He had confidence in himself and would not accept the verdict that he is a below average student.
That propelled him to enrol for another first degree course at Hertfordshire University, United Kingdom, where, 10 years after the OAU verdict, he bagged the first class honours degree in Computer Science, having obtained the earlier degree in Electrical/Electronic Engineering. His joy was palpable as he posted his experience on the microblogging site, twitter.
The fact that his post has gone so viral in Nigeria is an indication that many students and graduates of our universities could relate with the story. Many had fallen in the hands of cruel lecturers who marked them down, while the state of facilities cannot bring out the best in many. Libraries are poorly stocked, laboratories lack reagents, lecturers take unofficial vacation to teach in other institutions, thus starving their primary students, and the configuration of academic programmes is stultifying.
Everything is stacked against the students as 10 or more students share rooms meant for three or at most, four. Water is, most times, a rare commodity, while power supply is epileptic, thus hampering learning and studying. Lecture halls are so jam-packed that some have to sit on the windows, and those on the last row are usually unable to hear the teacher.
The general environment is frustrating as the calendar is unpredictable. While each student is allotted academic advisers, it will be cruel to expect that teachers who are already overburdened by classwork, tests, examinations and research would find enough time to interact with their official mentees. These hurdles are none existent or minimal in universities in developed countries. Hence, our students abroad end in flying colours.
This is one reason to understand lecturers who last year protested against the poor funding of tertiary institutions in Nigeria, calling for substantial money to be allocated for revitalisation of facilities. It takes commitment to keep to the agreement reached with the academic staff. It must also be complemented with a change of attitude across the board.
The tone of Mofesola’s tweet indicates he is still bitter against the OAU and its authorities. He said: “I’d have loved to tag OAU too so they can say their own congratulations. Not sure if they’re on twitter, but if you know their handle, help me tag them. Pastor said this year, my enemies must congratulate me.”
If the Nigerian economy is to improve, there is a need to pay attention to the quality of education, especially tertiary education. This year must be a turning point in the history of Nigeria. The government to succeed the Buhari administration should adhere to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO’s) specification that 26 per cent of national budgets be allocated to education. It is impossible to catch up with the developed countries if we continue to neglect tertiary education. There is so much to do in terms of encouraging innovation and technological development that the brilliant ones should be encouraged to blossom locally and be retained at home.
There are so many Ibukun Mofesolas in Nigeria and the system must be reorganised to identify them. Those voting with their feet out of the country now should be encouraged in practical terms to return, with assurance that the system will no longer be a talent killer.