As Nigeria grapples with the challenges in its education sector, Mr. Martins Oloja advocated urgent, comprehensive actions, framing the education crisis as a public health concern with far-reaching consequences for the nation’s future.
Mr. Oloja, a renowned Editor and Managing Director of the Guardian Newspaper, made the call while delivering the 12th Convocation Lecture of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, Ondo State, titled, Internationalization of University Education for Global Relevance: Experiences, Barriers and Prospects.
The Guest Speaker emphasized the urgent need for concrete actions to address the deteriorating state of education in the country, saying that neglecting the crisis would perpetuate inferior education, leading to mass unemployment and a surge in social vices such as armed robbery, prostitution, and drug abuse.
He said, The government should get off the high horse and take concrete action towards resolving the crisis in the educational sector. Because without treating the crisis in education as a public health issue that requires serious attention, the youth would continue to receive inferior education. And they will continue to suffer mass unemployment and social vices, such as armed robbery, prostitution, peddling and consumption of illegal drugs could worsen.
Acknowledging the efforts of university staff unions and concerned stakeholders advocating for adequate funding rather than establishing new universities, Oloja urged leaders to invest robustly in education. He expressed concern over the “hollow rituals” of funding education without sincere commitment.
Oloja criticized the licensing of new private universities and the federal government’s focus on political projects such as establishing federal universities in all states. He called for a genuine emergency in education, urging a halt to priority projects in favour of substantial investments in education.
He said, Before it is too late, we must tell our leaders to invest robustly in education. Lets not be telling them to fund education, which they do haphazardly and quite often, it turns out to be like what Shakespeare calls a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing. Our representatives in government should halt the hollow rituals called licensing of new private universities and the federal governments obsession with political projects called federal universities in all the states of the federation.
The seasoned journalist stressed the need for a paradigm shift, recommending that Nigerian universities adapt to modern learning tools. He highlighted the importance of restructuring and equipping computer engineering and science schools to enhance learning beyond traditional classrooms.
He said, We need to disrupt even our thinking since we cant change the owners of the Universities today. We need to tell our owners that South African government, for instance, pay directly lecturers in South Africa whose articles are published in popular foreign journals. We need to tell managers of tertiary institutions too that they need to restructure and equip their computer engineering and science schools to enable even medical schools and other schools that the modern learning tools are setting up learning too outside the classrooms.
He lampooned the internationalisation models employed by Nigerian leaders, pointing out the disparities between their actions and the actual state of critical infrastructure like federal roads.
Mr. Oloja noted, Our leaders at all levels are enjoying. They have, for 24 years, left all our so-called federal roads impassable. They fly over them. When they dont fly, they have billions of naira worth of SUVs to drive on the roads they failed to construct.
They claim there is no money. But they can waste the little left out of our debt servicing ration to buy N160m per unit worth of SUVs at the Senate of 109 members and N130 million per unit worth of SUVs for 360 members of the House of Representatives members. They send all their children to schools abroad including Ghana, Benin Republic, Sudan, etc. That is their definition of Internationalisation.
Expressing scepticism about the proliferation of private universities, Oloja highlighted the consideration of 270 fresh applications for private universities by the Federal Government. He noted that this surge if approved, would bring the total number of universities to 528.
Oloja emphasized that without improving the education system and business environment, Nigeria’s global competitiveness and economic progress would remain stunted. He asserted that quality education and a favourable business environment were essential for economic growth, political stability, and global competitiveness.
He said, The geometric progression in the number of universities over the years has not rubbed off on education standards, and much for concerns among stakeholders.”
Mr. Oloja underscored the need for education to produce highly flexible individuals equipped to navigate the evolving labor markets, adapt to changing work and family environments, and continually upgrade their skills.
In his Opening Remarks, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Olugbenga Ige, had appreciated the Guest Speaker for accepting to deliver the lecture. He acknowledged the speaker’s wealth of experience, emphasizing that the insights shared would offer a distinctive perspective, undoubtedly enhancing the comprehension of the lecture’s theme.