World University Rankings And Nigeria

In most public and private schools in Nigeria, you find more than 50 to 100 pupils in a class, and most are sitting on floors to learn. They have no food, no school uniforms, and the failures of these primary and secondary schools reflect on what is going on in our universities.

By Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku

Last week, I attended a seminar organized by a recent graduate from the University of Benin, Ugbowo campus. The theme of the seminar was I NEED TO KNOW.
The young man who organized the seminar said that he was worried that every year, the nearly 150 universities in Nigeria churn out more than 1.8million unemployable graduates.
To this convener, about three quarters of graduates from Nigeria’s universities have not been prepared to ascertain the difference between a CV and a resume.
He told us the story of a graduate who applied to work as a personal assistant to a CEO but had no answer to this simple question: how many words can you type in a minute?
But the real reason that the convener said compelled him to convene the seminar was that of the 1.8million who graduate into the socio-economic currency of Nigeria, three quarters of this do not know that they will not get employment.
A little Math with those figures indicates that in five years, Nigeria would have as much as 10million young people who have uncertain destinies and who make no meaningful contribution to the economy.
I cannot say that the inability of these young people to make any meaningful contribution to the economy is entirely their fault. Whether or not Nigeria has the capacity to absorb a quarter of these graduates annually would depend on two factors: one is that the systems which groom them, groom them to become dependent on the system.
The other factor is that we are yet to realize that what we see today in the universities is a product of what we no longer see in our primary and secondary schools.
We pay too much attention to the university system rather than on the pre-preparatory educational systems that lead to tertiary education. This adumbration is not a product of whim: as part of my extra-curricular activities, I have often hobnobbed with teachers at the primary and secondary schools, only to find that many of the precepts that helped us to grow academically are no longer there.
Pupils and secondary school students no longer use Maths sets, preferring to do their drawings in Biology and Physics and Art in biro rather than with pin-sharp pencils.
Where have those values gone to? Why were they discarded? Why have we decided to dump the technical drawing sets normally used by budding engineers, for digital apps on android phones for our children?
Therefore, even though the issues at that seminar were relevant, some of us had issues with the target audience – recent or graduating students.
If indeed the scope and content is to stem the common drift in post-graduation among young graduates, that seminar should have been targeted at all first year students in Nigerian universities.
If the university cannot equip a student who has spent four years in a university to land a job, I have my doubts that a seminar of two hours would do so.
The hard facts that students in Nigerian universities must know is that many local and international companies are wary about employing the Nigerian graduate.
They recruit Nigerians studying key disciplines directly from schools abroad. The excuse is that our university graduates are either unemployable or that they are half-baked.
Some are said to be unable to construct a simple sentence, and do not know what a paragraph is. And this malaise is said to be across board irrespective of the area of specialization of the graduate.
Matters have gotten sorry for the Nigerian university graduate because of the recent ranking of world universities. Not a single Nigerian university except the University of Ibadan made it even to the lowest ranks.
In some of the reactions to this ranking, I have read some analyses ascribing responsibility for this low perception and ranking of our universities worldwide to university age and its budgeting acumen.
Some funding problems yes but the age of the university cannot be responsible for its poor ranking and perception. There are African Universities that are as old as Oxford and Massachusetts – schools like the Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone, founded in 1827 February, and now affiliated to the University of Sierra Leone.
It has alumni like Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Sam Mbakwe, and a Henry Carr Rawlingson. At that time it was known as the Athens of West Africa, and functioned as West Africa’s Oxford and MIT.
But it didn’t even make the cut on the World ranking like its old counterparts Harvard, Princeton. Take a look as well at the first state university in Nigeria, the old Bendel State University now Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma.
At inception in 1981, it paraded the best law faculty with its very first graduates many of whom are among the very best in Nigeria today.
What really became the problem with universities in Nigeria was that the military governments killed them. I recall as a boy hearing about one curious concept known as ‘brain drain.’
By definition, lecturers who expressed an opinion different from government were greatly intimidated and harassed and were not paid their salaries.
They went into exile to the US, Canada and Australia and were absorbed into a great many of the universities in these countries. I know two personal examples in Ogaga Ifowodo and Professor Mrs. Titi Ufomata.
After Ifowodo and my teacher, then Doctor Ufomata got to the US, the system absorbed and took from the Nigerian universities what their students should have benefitted in them in Nigeria.
I believe as always that we must restructure all of our universities, de-emphasize paper qualifications and properly fund, manage and promote primary and secondary education.
A certain UNESCO education for All Global Monitoring Report, March 2015, insists that at the primary levels, there should be no more than 20 pupils per teacher.
But this precept has never been followed. As a matter of fact, the report recommends that developing countries like Nigeria will need to spend 3.4% of their GDP on pre-primary, primary and lower secondary education.
In most public and private schools in Nigeria, you find more than 50 to 100 pupils in a class, and most are sitting on floors to learn. They have no food, no school uniforms, and the failures of these primary and secondary schools reflect on what is going on in our universities.
MajiriOghene Etemiku is communications manager with the Africa Network for Environment & Economic Justice, Benin City. @DsighRobert.