Commission charges varsities to contribute to economy, technology

Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, Executive Secretary, National University Commission (NUC), says it’s high time tertiary education institutions in Nigeria make direct contributions to the nation’s economic and technological development.

Rasheed said this on Tuesday while delivering the 22nd Convocation lecture of the Lagos State University (LASU).

The title of the lecture is: Role of Tertiary Education in Promoting Social Cohesion and Peace: Opportunities and Challenges for Nigeria.

He said beyond human training, technologies that drive the country’s economy must come out from the tertiary institutions.

Why should Nigeria continue to spend huge sums in foreign exchange to build roads, for example? Why can’t our tertiary institutions develop the capacity to build our roads?

Why should our tertiary institutions continue to spend money on electricity bills rather than build their own dams to cater for their need?

Why must government continue to pay foreign companies to tackle gully erosion rather than our tertiary institutions addressing the issue,” he said.

According to him, until we interweave our tertiary institutions and our economic activities and produce the necessary spinoffs, we are likely to continue with the unrealistic economic development modules.

Such unrealistic economic modules could only rely the sale of a mono-economic product, he noted.

Rasheed said tertiary institutions must see their roles as business entities with huge potential for economic and commercial success and aggressively actualise the huge economic, commercial and technology potential that they possess.

The NUC boss said tertiary education in Nigeria needed strategic rebooting to provide relevance to the country’s development process as expected.

He said that there was need to reconnect to the fundamental goals and functions of tertiary education which was to promote peace and progress.

According to him, we must also develop a new vision based on curricular that are geared at solving practical socio-economic, political and technical problems.

If the truth must be told, our tertiary education system has failed woefully in two out of the three great missions identified by Ashby report.

No doubt, remarkable success has been achieved in the area of creating the manpower needed for development.

But the system has failed to give birth to national elite or serve as an instrument of unity and peace,’’ he said.

The Professor noted that the country’s disunity as a nation had become more pronounced rather than the language of peace and progress.

According to him, the nation’s so-called educated elite are screwing out noises of hate, secession and war.

Erstwhile, peaceful communities have become mini theatre of war. The largely peaceful Fulani herdsmen and their various host farmers, for example, have suddenly become engaged in seemingly perpetual conflict.

With attendant loss of lives and property to the extent that severe measure has been implemented in some areas to curtail the movement of herdsmen.

What bothers me, is the seeming quiet from the academia in terms of identifying the root causes, as well as preferring the ways of addressing them through workable solutions,” he said.

Rasheed submitted that there must be vast and ample opportunities for tertiary education institutions in the social and economic spheres of Nigeria, given that little practical research and development contributions have reflected in conflict resolution.

He said to promote social cohesion, the nation’s tertiary institutions must promote literacy and good governance aimed at alleviating poverty through job creation and research innovation that would impact positively.

According to him, the most ambitious and comprehensive attempt at making tertiary education an instrument of national unity, peace and social cohesion was by the regime of General Yakubu Gowon after the Nigeria Civil war of 1967 to 1970.

Education was perceived by the Gowon administration as one of the key instruments of nation building agenda; it was indeed considered to be pivotal to its implementation.

Mass expansion of higher institutions became one of the principles of Gowon’s educational policy, particularly against the background of agitation in the Northern States and other states.

The pursuit of unity, social cohesion and by implication, peaceful co-existence, was at the heart of establishment of the NYSC which aim was to detribalise the product of Nigeria tertiary institutions and create nascent national elite,” he said.

Rasheed, however, urged the tertiary institutions to work more closely with the government at all levels and engage in more practical and realistic research.

He called for more funding of the institutions by the government and urged the government to continue to give block grants as usual but with a little extra investment.

The NUC boss further called for more Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) regime in the tertiary institutions that allowed more flexibility, including some cost sharing mechanism. (NAN)