GOVERNMENT’S DECISION TO ESTABLISH ICT UNIVERSITY: INCOMPARTIBLE WITH OBJECTIVES OF UNIVERSITY EDUCATION
"All encompassing educational experience is the hallmark of true and qualitative university education"
Sometimes ago, the Federal Government through the Honourable Minister for Communications announced its plan to establish an ICT University with a take off date of September 2017. To facilitate this the Minister set up a 31 Member Committee which was asked to draw up modalities for the establishment of the University. In advocating a need for the establishment of the University, the Minister was reported to have stated that as about 20 million youths and graduates in Nigeria were unemployed, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration would use ICT to leverage on job and wealth creation as a tool in diversifying the Nigerian economy. Explaining further he claimed that:
“We already have the Digital Bridge Institute, which is for short-term training programmes, in six locations across the country and we will transform this institute into the ICT University of Nigeria. This unique university would, by God’s grace, take off effectively in September 2017 and would be run as a public-private partnership with the best business and entrepreneurship models”
Without a doubt, the intentions of government to reduce unemployment are noble. However questions continue to be asked as to whether this plan to establish an ICT University is compartible with time honour objectives of University education to produce a total man. Some who are opposed to the idea as conceptualised point to the fact that ICT as a discipline is fast changing such that to approach plans for ICT education within the traditional educational framework as is being planned is counter productive. Speaking on the issue, a former President of Nigerian Internet Group, Mr. Adebayo Banjo, stated that
“ICT is the only discipline known to man where traditional experience is irrelevant. Everything changes in three to five years. To be useful in ICT you have to be updating yourself every month on the things that are completely new. Certain aspects of ICT cannot be taught within the old types of educational framework. The dynamics of technology generally is such that a person trained 20 years ago in ICT hardware must have to accept the fact that tapes, floppies and other things he was taught with in those days have all gone obsolete, hard disks will soon follow.
One of the reasons why I am opposed to the idea is the perennial problem of funding of University education in Nigeria. At the moment, University lecturers are on strike on issues related to funding. Many Universities lack the proper infrastructure and manpower to compete with their counterparts not only outside the continent of Africa, but also within it. I therefore wonder where the funding will come. Will it not be better to fund the existing Universities running ICT programmes with modern ICT infrastructure including interractive boards? To underscore the inadequacy of the funding of education in Nigeria, it is pertinent to note that the statutory budgetary allocation to education has always fallen far below the 21% prescribed by UNESCO. While countries such as Ghana, Cote d’viore and Uganda are on record as having surpassed this benchmark, Nigeria traditionally allocates far less than it.
The following shows the low budgetary allocation to education over the years by successive Nigerian Governments:
In 2012 Nigeria ranked 20th in a survey conducted by the World Bank of the budgetary allocation in twenty (20) countries. The full table is as follows:
|S/N||Country||% Budget Allocation to Education||Position|
|9.||United Arab Emirates||22.5||9th|
Please note that out of the twenty countries listed above, twelve (12) including Nigeria are African Countries. Thus if the survey had been limited to the 12 African countries alone, Nigeria would still have been rated lowest. Note also that with the exception of Norway, USA, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) all other countries on the survey including Nigeria can adequately be classified as belonging to the developing world. So yet again if the survey had been confined to countries in the developing world, Nigeria would have ranked last.
Consequent upon the above, I suggest that government should rethink this idea of an ICT University. If the objective as stated is to reduce unemployment, I believe that it can be achieved by properly funding existing universities and thereby ensuring that they produce quantitative graduates who can contribute to the economic growth of the country. Furthermore, if the objective also includes a need to diversify the economy by turning ICT into a veritable source of revenue generation, this also can be achieved by funding existing universities who already run programs in ICT. This way, already scarce resources that would have been directed to the proposed University would be allocated to the existing universities that are in need of urgent funding. In this respect, government must note that in 2016, the top ranked ICT programs in the world were those run by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Stanford University, Oxford University, Havard University and Cambridge University in that order. Yet none of these Universities were established as solely ICT Universities. By offering other programs including ICT they afforded their students the opportunity to get all encompassing educational experience by interaction with other courses and subjects which in my estimation is the hall mark of true and qualitative university education.
AARE AFE BABALOLA SAN, CON