If this claim by the former vice-chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt, Prof Nimi Briggs is authentic, it means what Nigerians are spending in two universities in another African nation is about a third of Federal Government's total allocation to the education sector in 2013.
Federal Government's allocation to the education sector this year is N426.53bn. This is about 8.5 per cent of the total budget. But one shouldn't be surprised at the turn of events.
When Nigeria is allocating less than nine per cent of its budget to education, its neighbour, Ghana has consistently allocated 31 per cent of its entire budget to education.
I'm told Ghana at a time in its history decided to focus on education and develop the sector. Now Nigerians are rushing to a country that had in the past seen Nigeria as the destination for quality education in Africa. A few years ago, one of the universities in Ghana allegedly pegged admission quota for Nigerian students at 700.
But rather than solve the challenges confronting the education sector, and inject enough funds to run the system, the Federal Government has continued to establish new universities. Nigeria has 124 universities.
Imagine a father who cannot adequately feed its 24 children going ahead to give birth to 20 extra children. Isn't this absurd? Yet this is what we are witnessing in Nigeria.
When there were less than 100 universities in the country, there was a shortfall of 30,000 academic staff in Nigerian universities. Without any consideration for adequate qualified lecturers, government has continued to establish universities to score cheap political goals. This is absurd.
Any serious minded person should know that universities are powered by academics. There is no point in establishing universities when there are no capable hands to do the job of teaching. Besides, where in the world can you establish a university with a mere N2bn?
Owners of private universities pump in more than that on their universities. I know more than N6bn was expended on Covenant University before its take-off, same goes for Elizade University. And owners of these universities are still investing in them.
At the last count, the new nine universities established by government in 2011 had less than 2,000 students. Some departments don't even have registered students. So in the true sense, how far have these new universities boost access to universities? Yet government keeps parroting need for access as reason for creating more universities. To start with, government is yet to realise that university education is not for everybody and in fact you don't have to be a university graduate to be successful in life. We are missing this point and that is why we are not developing our polytechnics and colleges of education.
If government wants to run education as a serious business, it should close down its new universities, fund and expand the existing ones to increase access and encourage research and development.
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