Maude Rabiu Gwadabe
Ibrahim Bello-Kano (IBK), a professor of English literature at Bayero University Kano (BUK) says Nigerian universities have degenerated into ‘Super Secondary Schools’ and there is no hope for recovery.
Mr Bello-Kano asserted this a roundtable program on reviving the culture of debate and critical thinking in the Nigerian university system.
The event was organized by the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) in Kano.
“Nigerian universities have declined irretrievably and will never be better than they are now”, said IBK.
The radical professor lamented that Nigerian lecturers have become mere civil servants with a teaching function rather than academics pursuing knowledge.
He recalled with nostalgia the intellectual ferment in Nigerian universities during the 70s and early 80s when inter-disciplinary scholarship was the norm.
Mr Bello-Kano attributed the decline in the quality of Nigerian universities to four factors.
These include poor quality of students entering the university, lack of diversity in the academic staff, poor quality of university administrators, as well as dubious processes of recruitment and promotion of lecturers.
According to him, these factors have combined to rob Nigerian universities of their former glories and will never allow them to recover.
He therefore argued that the university system is beyond recovery and all hope is now pinned on “spirited and committed intellectuals within the system” as well as independent research centres to produce cutting edge knowledge.
Overhaul basic education
In his submission, head of the MacArthur Foundation, Africa regional office, Kole Shettima urged for the total overhaul of Nigeria’s basic education system.
Mr Shettima, who has a PhD in Political Science said the universities cannot be revitalized without reforming primary and secondary education.
He argued that the current system does not allow children the chance to grow critical minds but is targeted at developing their capacity to pass examinations through memorization.
“My son who attends primary school in Canada is learning four subjects while his counterparts in Nigeria are grappling with 16,” he said.
In his remarks, chairman of the occasion, Ibrahim Mu’azzam of the department of Political Science, BUK cautioned the National Universities Commission (NUC) against its plan of transforming Nigerian universities based on a market model.
Mr Mu’azzam said treating students as clients is a sure recipe for the demise of Nigerian university system.
He added that Latin American countries have tried it in the past and have failed woefully.