by Tolu Orekoya
In days of yore in this country, when things were still good, Nigerian graduates with 2:1 and above automatically got offered a graduate assistantship within by their university. After a couple of years at work, they got offered scholarships to attend some of the best schools in the world – MIT, UCLA, Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard. You name it, you found a Nigerian on a government scholarship there. Many of them returned to fulfill their employment bond with the government, only to be forced out of the academia by the upheaval in the country during the 1980s and 90s.
Fast forward to today, 60 percent of university lecturers don’t have a Ph.D. President Goodluck Jonathan dropped this bombshell of a statistic while launching the Presidential Committee on Award of Post-Graduate Scholarship to first class graduates at the council chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja. The president said:
“This idea is for our best brains to form the core of human tools that would drive the sustainable transition for this country. The information I got from the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC) is that about 60 percent of our academic staff in Nigerian universities don’t have Ph.D.s, that is quite embarrassing, that is not good enough.”
The committee has been mandated to select 100 of the brightest graduates in the country and send them to the top 25 universities in the world in the hopes that in five years, they would return, equipped with the knowledge and skills to give us a start in rebuilding our educational system. Whether or not that 100 would be enough to make an appreciable impact, or how many of the students would be willing to come back home after graduation to become and under-paid lecturer or researcher in a university, are questions that were not addressed at the time.
The committee has been mandated to reduce the 60 percent number down to 10 percent. There was also an emphasis that there would be no quota in awarding scholarships. This might be a serious blow to women in education, who traditionally do not get access to higher education opportunities as much as men do, and in the long run, may prove harmful to the education of women in general.
For officials of the Ministry of Education who may not be interested in the nation building “nonsense” espoused by the president, they must be excited about this part of the president’s speech:
“The ministry of education and this committee will have to travel to these universities to negotiate for positions in the top 25 universities in the world.”
Can anybody say estacode?