BY TOYIN FALOLA
Similarly, the government, at all levels, can mandatorily sponsor the best students in various states in equal proportion to these private universities. Increased students breed increased revenues to private universities at almost the same expenditure. By so doing, the cost of tuition, when spread overall, students will automatically make for reduction per student. For example, if the cost of maintaining the resources being used by five persons is N1 million and as a result, each person is charged N200,000; the usage of the same resources with equal maintenance by 10 persons means a person would be charged N100,000. Thus, tuition is reduced, and affordability increased. Meanwhile, there will also be less pressure on public universities.
Government, as a matter of necessity, can encourage private establishments such as banks, firms, and industries around newly-established schools, some of which are in the middle of nowhere, to support private institutions. This would improve infrastructural development of not only the area around the schools, thereby lessening the financial burden on schools and also attract attention to them; it would also be multi-achieving as it means more industries are being developed and ‘barren’ or hitherto unutilised spaces in the country are being positively transformed.
The government, in consultation with public universities, should work out a formula for equipping them to create job opportunities for graduating students instead of just turning them loose and also to produce marketable items/ideas that generate revenue. Public universities can be equipped to be self-sustaining. The government, in consultation with the public and the private universities as well as other major stakeholders in the Nigerian education system, should, as a matter of necessity, develop and support small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) to ensure that the years spent within the walls of the universities do not go to waste for the students, their families, and the entire community. The SMEs, as we all know, have been the primary drivers of every economy for centuries.
In line with the above, the school curriculum must be remodelled to reflect the reality of the Nigerian job market and social environment. Even though the transnationality of persons, skills, and professionality provides an alternative job market, it is not certain that due to the intricacies of this global system, only a few have access to this opportunity. Hence, the curriculum must serve the increasing pool of the “Diaspora Nigerians” whose only hope of engaging their skills and using their degree certificates remains in their flight. There is an age-long link between a state economy and its educational system. If the SMEs are to be promoted, the economy needs to be reordered and the school curriculum reinvented.
This area is non-negotiable because of the age-long link between a state economy and its educational system. If the SMEs are to be promoted, the economy needs to be reordered and the school curriculum reinvented.
If a lack of government funding is the major challenge facing public schools, asking the government to fund private universities might be equated to confusing priorities directly. Tax breaks and breaks in other utility charges in exchange for reduced fees to accommodate more applicants may sound better to the ears of politicians. Supporting religious organisations to continue to promote their universities without minimising the rewards of secular knowledge, sciences, and technologies may bring rewards. Universities such as McPherson and Glorious Vision can tap into the extensive charitable giving of their church members.
The National Universities Commission thinks in terms of one national university system but establishes a grip on private universities in a way that they cannot be as creative as they want to be. And after the hold, they are denied access to funding, creating double jeopardy for those institutions. Education is a public social service. Hence, all government ministries, departments, and other agencies of education, such as the NUC and the examination boards, are for all the citizens, not only for the government-owned institutions to the exclusion of the Nigerian children and youths in the privately-owned institutions. Thus, a minister for education is not a minister for the public sector education, but the minister of education of both the public and private sectors. The aim should be to facilitate and increase capacity, not discourage in the guise of ensuring standard. Collaborations should be encouraged to cover deficit and increase capacity. Education in Nigeria needs every hand on deck! If you want to control the private sector institutions, at least realise that the students are Nigerians, entering the same labour market and contributing to our collective development. We cannot abandon these students and hope to turn them into patriotic citizens who will not seek the means to take the next flight to Canada, the United States, or anywhere else they find greener pastures.
None of my recommendations muwst be implemented by eroding the power and autonomy of private institutions to pursue their visions and missions. My fear is also that if the government can be so committed to the highlights mentioned above, from tax relief regime to scholarship, and from access to state resources by these private-owned universities to job creation, then not even the public institutions would be suffering under a known ailment without cure till date. The question that remains unanswered is how to get the government to see, appreciate and implement these suggestions; after all, our problem as a nation has never been due to a shortage of ideas, but implementation.
Our options are now exact: Develop the public universities to their maximum capacities, and develop the private universities to their full capabilities. The reality of my proposed solutions above is that they are easy to achieve, citizen-thinking, beneficial not only to private universities but also to the public universities and the whole country with increased educational opportunities. More than anything else, let us pursue a win-win situation for all. Anything less is a recipe for disaster!
Source: The Punch