HEEDING THE PRESIDENTIAL COUNSEL ON THE ADMINISTRATION OF NIGERIAN UNIVERSITIES
Last year's prolonged strike by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, threw up several issues relating to the sustained development of Nigerian public universities, especially in the areas of teaching, learning and research.
One of the positives of the lengthy strike action was the fact that the Jonathan administration increased the funding of infrastructural projects and academic programmes in the universities, with the aim of ensuring that the nation's public universities join the league of first grade universities globally.
The Federal Government committed to invest N1.
3trillion into the nation's public universities in the course of the next six years.
Already, the N200billion for 2013 has been pumped into the universities and majority of them have commenced their procurement processes.
Before the N200billion, the President had invested in the infrastructural development of universities through the High Impact TETFUND Intervention in selected universities, the massive training of academic staff nationally and internationally and the establishment of the re-introduction of a book fund of N2billion to improve the publication of books in universities by academic staff.
The President also established Academic Publishing Centres for 7 universities in the country.
He also established a Research fund of N3billion for academics.
President Goodluck Jonathan also kick-started a post-graduate scholarship scheme for all university graduates with a first class degree.
This is meant to tackle the death of qualified academic staff in the tertiary institutions.
The first set of 100 First Class brains are studying abroad in the best 25 universities of the world, while the second set is being selected by the Federal Government out of the numerous qualified candidates.
The Scheme known as Presidential Special Scholarship Scheme for Innovation and Development (PRESSID), is President Jonathan's personal inititive to address the challenges of quality fresh academic staff for Nigerian Public Universities.
Professor Oye Ibidapo-Obe, a vice chancellor of the Federal University in Ebonyi State who was a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos, the nation's university system has never witnessed the level of funding that it is getting under President Jonathan.
The senior academic administrator who spoke at the South-East Zonal meeting on TETFUND Interventions in Tertiary Institutions compared the funding he received as a Vice Chancellor at University of Lagos with the recent funding interventions he has received as Vice Chancellor of the new Federal University in Ebonyi State.
Flowing from the above key foundation laid by his administration to change the face of public universities in the country, President Jonathan believes that university administrators and staff must change their commitment level, especially their working habit to enhance the fortunes of these citadels of learning.
Delivering a convocation address at the 43rd Convocation of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka on Saturday, President Jonathan said: 'You will agree with me that the development we desire can only take place in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility'.
President Jonathan believes that for Nigerians university administrators to run 21st century institutions they must holistically address poor work ethics amongst staff members.
He advised Nigerian education administrators to address the challenges of poor work ethics and prolonged industrial actions.
The President who was represented at the 43rd Convocation of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka by the Supervising Minister of Education, Barr.
Ezenwo Nyesom Wike noted that inadequate funding was not the only challenge facing tertiary institutions in the country.
He called on alumni of universities to work with his administration to fund developmental projects in respective universities, stressing that the Federal Government alone cannot fund the revival of infrastructure in public institutions.
It is said that to whom much is given, much is expected.
The infrastructural and academic frameworks have been laid by President Jonathan for the sustained growth of the nation's public universities.
Effectively, academics and administrators in our public universities have the responsibility of improving their work ethics in line with the Presidential Advice.
The era of excuses is gone.
The stage is fully set for all academics and university administrators to change the fortunes of their respective institutions.
There is no reason why results should be released behind schedule or lecturers denying their students the approved contact hours in class.
Indeed, there is no reason why it should take months for graduates to access their transcripts when they seek to present same to other institutions of higher learning.
The implication of the Presidential Advice is that university workers must change their attitude of perpetually expecting from the Federal Government without making any deliberate effort to improve the quality of service they render to the system.
Very seriously, improving on the work ethic for academics of the nation's public universities could be in the area of writing proposal to attract grants for research.
Today, the poor proposal writing skills of most academic staff in our public universities have made it impossible for them to access funds from N3billion Research Grant domiciled at TETFUND.
Out of N3billion, only N266million have been accessed.
Only recently, the Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission, NUC, blamed the loss of reseach grant opportunities to issues of capacity amongst the academic staff.
Millions of dollars are lying fallow in the World Bank and other international donor agencies for competent academics to access.
Thankfully, the National President of the Academic Staff of Union of Universities, ASUU, Dr Isa Fagge at the Town Hall meeting on TETFUND Interventions in Makurdi announced that the association will hold its version of the Education Summit to address the numerous challenges associated with service delivery and the improvement of the nation's universities.
It is hoped that this summit will frontally tackle the issue of poor work ethic amongst academic staff of universities and chart a way forward for the desired change.
The truth is that for any meaningful development to take place in our universities, there must be a change in the work ethic of academic and non academic staff.
There has been a fundamental change in the areas of funding and infrastructural development.
This must be complemented for our universities to evolve.
Written By Simeon Nwakaudu