Professor Amidu Olalekan Sanni, Vice-Chancellor, Fountain University, Osogbo, has appealed to both the Federal Government of Nigeria and the striking members of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to find lasting solutions to the industrial actions involving the lecturers.
He also decried the ongoing ASUU strike in the country, noting that the action has adversely affected the global ranking of Nigerian universities.
Sanni, a Professor of African and Middle Eastern Studies, spoke while receiving the South West Group of Online Publishers at the University in Oke Osun, Osogbo, Osun State capital.
Listing the elements that distinguishes Fountain University among its peers to include quality education aided by global networking and reach, uninterrupted academic programme and thorough reformation of students with negative traits rather expelling them, the don said that it was unimaginable that public universities lecturers in Nigeria were on strike for six months.
He said that “It is unfortunate that the current ASUU leadership across board in Nigeria believe that education must be destroyed first before it is rebuilt. That is the problem. Otherwise, no sane labour society would allow its strike to last for six months. In those days, Third Class products of Universities of Ife, Ibadan and Unilag were admitted for Postgraduate studies in Oxford. People believed then that Nigerian products were fantastic.
“Now our ranking has fallen battered too badly. Even a first class graduate from the University of Ibadan would have to go through examination abroad. Now you go for six months strike in a session and come back and within three weeks, then you are done with academic activities. It is not possible. Even with machine, you have to programme it for it to give you good data.
“The current crop of ASUU leadership, unfortunately, believes that education must be destroyed first before it is rebuilt. It doesn’t work that way.”
Despite being among the private institutions with modest school fees, the VC said that the management of Fountain University ensured that quality was not compromised on the altar of affordable education.
“The idea of free education is not feasible anywhere. We should encourage a system that supports students’ loan so that you can have your degree and pay for the cost later. But, you can’t have free education. In Freetown, there is no free lunch.
“There is nowhere in the world where education is free. Somebody has to foot the bill. Now, the cost of producing a medical doctor is in millions of naira and government has not been sincere in finding answer to the question of who pays for education.”
Dwelling on what marks out his university, he said, “One of our hallmarks at Fountain University is that we don’t go on strike. You already know when you will graduate. We don’t waste your time if you don’t fail yourself. Lecturers don’t fail anybody; it is your work that can fail you. So, you know that by the 14th of January of your fourth or fifth year, you are already on your way out. We have stable calendar, no staff strike, no students strike, no cultism.
“Many parents are scared of cultism and Yahoo Yahoo. All our students here are resident so we monitor them very closely. We have now have four faculties – College of Basic Medical and Health Sciences which has the largest enrollment in the university. We also have College of Law. Our College of Law is going to be the best in Nigeria and I will tell you why. I have a lot of network across the world – in Europe, America and the Arab world. We have been able to harness our network to create greater platform for interactions across the world. That is another plus to our university.”
Explaining that apart from their areas of specialties, the university also helped the students to identify other inherent potentials in them, the VC said, “You may not eventually work with your degree. What you are doing in the university is to develop skills outside students’ fields of study. You may study Marketing and end up being a fantastic event planner. You may study Accountancy and become a very good entrepreneur. In Osogbo here, we have the Industrial Development Centre. They have skills in ceramic, fabrication, several things. You may be studying Law and be good at Creative Writing.
“We take care of people who have problems in areas of drugs and moral perversion. We have what we call the Academoral Centre. These children, because of peer pressure, are willing to try things that are novel like drugs, cultism, and Yahoo Yahoo (Internet fraudster. The greatest harm you can do to any young man is to dismiss him from the university (due to bad or negative influence). Don’t try to do that unless as the last result.
“What we do is try to reform. If we treat cultism, drug abuse and other ills as a disease like headache and stomach pain, the society would be better. You don’t cut off your head because you have headache. So we adopted that method and it has paid off for us.
“I have met General Buba Marwa, Chairman of the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency. He wants to make our university the South-West hub of Reform and Entrepreneurial Centre. The Country Representative, United Nations for Drugs Control has agreed to train our staff members. A member of our Board is the Director General of the Nigerian Medical Research Institute, Prof. Salako Makinde. What I am trying to say is that we don’t just take care of the good students only. If we don’t take care of the ones with moral issues too, they are the ones who would destroy the good ones. That is why we take them on and engage them.
“What we have at the university is not a regimented life as such, but our proprietors gave us free hand to run. Even if you are the son of the President of the Society and you are found wanting, the appropriate sanction would be applied. They know that the VC would not tolerate (bad behaviours). This has helped us a lot. When a child realizes that there is no one who would plead on his or her behalf, he won’t misbehave. That has kept them in check without anybody policing them. You can’t police students, no way.”
Despite being run by an Islamic body, he stated that religious stigmatization had no hold on the institution, stressing that “We don’t hide our religious identity; no apology for that. Your believe is your personal matter. You should be able to accommodate other people on the basis of what they can offer you.
“As I am talking, the head of our security here is a Christian. The Dean of our Post Graduate School is a Christian, the head of our Technical (Works) Department is also a Christian. He was a pioneer staff member of this university. We allow Christian students to go for church services of their choice on Sunday which we monitor anyway. You don’t tell us you are going to Redeem Church and you go to your boyfriend’s house. Once you are here, you are under our custody. We monitor where they go.”
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