Governments at all levels have been called upon to give serious thought to the place of private universities as it is becoming increasingly evident that they will be a force to reckon with in tackling the issue of access to higher education on the African continent.

The pioneer Vice-Chancellor of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Emeritus Professor Olugbemiro Jegede stated this while delivering the 15th convocation lecture of Ajayi Crowther University, (ACU) Oyo on Tuesday.

Prof Jegede, lamented that although the majority of the private universities are for profit making, he however expressed hope that private universities will be part of the solutions if properly channelled and nurtured.

He put the blame of failure in the education sector on the government which has invariably affected other sectors like the economy, and health among others. He warned that if the challenges of the education sector were not seriously addressed, Nigeria would be like ‘Captain Moody’s jet with all its four engines out of action in mid-air and heading for disaster.’

“I call upon all governments of Africa to give serious thought to the place of private universities as it’s becoming increasingly evident that they will be a force to reckon with in tackling the issue of access to higher education on the continent. Although many of them are merely for profit and their quality is questionable, we cannot ignore that, if properly channelled and nurtured, private universities will be part of the solution rather than be scorned as the unwanted kid on the block in the street of higher education previously populated by government-funded institutions.” He stated.

He stressed that private universities are tremendously assisting the government by shouldering some of its responsibilities to the community and the teeming population seeking placement in universities.

“Records and experiences abound in various parts of the world showing that private universities can be as good if not better than government-funded ones. The experiences of Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Oxford and Cambridge are living witnesses. And closer home, Covenant University, Bell University, and Babcock University have demonstrated excellent signs of rising up to be one of such globally recognised quality private universities,” said the professor.

Prof Jegede reiterated that difficulties in identifying the beacon of light for national development and lack of focus in the effort to govern Nigeria as effectively and appropriately as expected impacted seriously on other sectors of the economy.

The professor of science education and digital learning complained that bad governance and chasing irrelevancies exert their effects on a country’s political, social, economic, healthcare and other sectors, stressing that, dffffunfortunately, the damages bad governance does to education only become visible after a number of years had passed, leaving everyone to wallow in ignorance and immeasurable decadence.

“Nigeria is no more reckoned with in education, as was our pride several decades ago when even our NCE graduates got admitted to pursue postgraduate programmes abroad. What is going on at the moment is that our country is serving as an educational raw material production site to feed the developed world with our potentials in knowledge and future skills development. Unfortunately, this is another self-inflicted high-level slavery of the 21st century! Graduates of our universities hardly
come out with limited, if any employable skills at all; they find communicating in English an uphill task, and those with master degrees cannot define what research is or means to a nation, let alone to themselves.

“Our educational system is driving in reverse full throttle without the use of the back or side mirrors. In the same vein, our secondary school graduates can best be described as half-baked illiterates who constitute a danger to the society and to themselves. Nigeria has regressed into a nation where mediocrity is the rule and being allowed to lead where we have intelligent people. I am told that faced with lack of gainful employment and other avenues to get education, our youth have taken to the five most popular careers they have created for themselves. Ask any child what they wish to become in the future, s/he says footballer, yahoo-yahoo person, kidnapper/bandit comedian, or a local government chairman – the easiest way out with illiteracy and make easy money in Nigeria!” The professor decried.

He reiterated that education remains the best legacy a nation can bequeath to its younger generations, but frowned at government’s attitude of playing politics with establishment of universities and with no concerted efforts to completely redraft from the scratch the national policy on education, adding that the one Nigeria is currently panel-beating has outlived its usefulness.

“It is like using 19th century tools to solve 21st century issues and concerns in nation building. To add insults to injury, the nation has driven our youth into the hands of ‘militancy/banditry’ and ‘Boko Haramism’ – two perfect examples of a rudderless nation ridden with bad governance, lack of incisive accountability and breeding illiteracy and lawlessness faster than the rate maggots reproduce.” He said.

Prof Jegede, whose lecture focused on the topic: “What’s In a Name”, advised the graduands to be good ambassadors of Ajayi Crowther University and never soil the name but make it more proud.

“In spite of the degree you are collecting today, (be it Bachelor, Master or even Doctorate), you need a lot more knowledge to deal with the larger society.

“More over in today’s world, a first degree now measures more like the West African School Certificate of some decades ago. You must make it a point of duty, even at great discomfort to yourself and family, to acquire more knowledge on a daily basis through several channels including the internet. Indeed, it is now compulsory in Nigeria for all seeking employment to acquire Digital Literacy Certification.”

The university don charge the graduands to walk with God in order to skillfully meander through the obstacles and challenges of life, adding this m this will go a long way to be their most guaranteed insurance against failure or disenchantment with the world.

Addressing journalists shortly after the convocation lecture, the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Prof Timothy Adebayo expressed his happiness over ACU’s 15th convocation and gave the graduation statistics.

According to the VC, the graduation statistics include 974 B.Sc/B.A, 564 He also said the University was able to produce 36 first-class graduates while four of them who are from the Accounting Department got chattered while pursuing their undergraduate programme.

“So today it is double honours for them. I’m highly elated, highly proud and I’m proud of the lecturers too.” The VC stated.

Prof Adebayo, while projecting into the future of the university, said there are plans in motion to take the institution to a better pedestal and make it stand tall above its peer in the next five years.

The highlight of the event was musical performance by the students of Music and Performing Arts department of the institution.

The theme of the 15th convocation lecture was “What’s in a Name?”