Nigerian Universities cannot be ranked among the best in the world says the Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Professor Ibrahim Garba.
Prof Garba stated this at a press conference ahead of the university’s 40th Convocation Ceremony coming up on Saturday.
While speaking on the prospects and challenges of ABU, he identified lack of adequate funding as a major challenge, like its counterparts across the country.
He said, if the Nigerian universities must produce graduates equal to those of Oxford, the government must be ready to fund it or be bold to ask students to pay.
According to him, “Our challenge in the university is there is not enough funding. No funding is enough but we are looking for adequacy in funding. For instance, this university spends N50 million monthly on power and government does not give us more than N120 million for overhead annually. This money cannot pay my power cost for three months.
“I have 50,000 students with half of them living on campus that I have to provide power and water for. An undergraduate student pays N20,000 as charges for the year and they want to take a degree that is equivalent to that of oxford. Is it realistic? And the government that tells them not to pay does not pay the balance.
“A degree is a product. How much does it take to produce a graduate? How much is the student paying? What is the balance and who pays the balance? If you don’t pay the balance, that person will get a degree that is equivalent to whatever available money is there. There is no miracle about it. That is why the standards are falling.
“Let us not deceive ourselves. There is a cost to everything. If you don’t bear the cost, you take less. We go for Chinese products but the Chinese products will only last for a certain number of years. But if you buy a superior product, it last longer. Let us not deceive ourselves. There is no funding in the Nigerian system.
“There are no funds to do research. The lecturers use their small salaries to do research in order to create knowledge to help the society. It is something that is challenging. In ABU, we have 2, 800 academic staff to carter for 50,000 students. If you do a simple arithmetic you will know the student-teacher ratio.
“Investment in education is not a matter of luxury. If you want you must invest. You give universities a pittance to produce the same graduate that you pay 12,000 pounds to train. The more we train, a substantial number of them drift away because if you train somebody, it is not even fair on the person to expect that he will come back and not have working tools. That guy will either leave the country or stay and waste. This is a big deal.
“The government must be bold to either fund or ask the students to pay. If you don’t do this, we will continue like this, nobody will come from the USA to intervene by paying the cost of university. And worse of all, you continue to open more universities when you have not funded the existing ones.
“If ABU is challenged with manpower, just imagine what other universities are facing. Even the money that we make we use it augment salaries. And we send our children abroad. We deceive ourselves that our universities are not ranking properly and I ask if you are to rank the National Assembly against other assemblies in the world, will they rank high? You cannot remove the university from the nation. The same rot we find in the society is also in the universities”, he said.