By NBF News

The Federal government has promised to assist University of Nigeria to develop coal-powered and solar turbines for use of the university and its environs. President Goodluck Jonathan made the promise at the 50th Anniversary celebration and Founders' Day lecture, Thursday October 7, at the Nsukka campus of the university. Jonathan, who was represented by Vice President Namadi Sambo, said the Federal Government is committed to ensuring the provision of the enabling environment for Nigerian universities to contribute optimally to defining and shaping our societies.

He said the relevant ministers of Education, Science and Technology as well as Power and Mines and Steel would work with the University of Nigeria to develop coal-powered or solar turbines for use of the university and its host community as a pioneer project. President Jonathan believes the project would also offer practical research and learning experience to the faculty and students in the course of its execution.

The President noted that there are several challenges in the Nigerian universities system in the next half century, which requires concerted action by all stakeholders of the educational system. Among these are how to make Nigerian universities attain world-class status through the development of relevant curricula and enabling learning environment.

Jonathan said the universities must play a central role in rebuilding Nigeria's economy and in meeting society's most crucial needs. He identified these as 'an educated citizenry and a competent workforce', which according to him, are necessary in order to strengthen our young democracy and our ability to compete in a global economy.

Sounding upbeat, the President said at this defining moment of the 50th anniversary of the nation and the University of Nigeria, 'We will draw from what previous generations of Nigerians have done, and unleash the resolve of our people, unlock the potential of our country through its education system, and make sure that Nigeria remains a symbol of hope, of opportunity, and prosperity for all the world'.

President Jonathan added, 'The University of Nigeria is a critical component of this change process and I am delighted to share this very memorable occasion with you. I believe that together, we will be able to truly reflect the motto of this university, 'To Restore the Dignity of Man' in every aspect of our education system and national framework'.

The University of Nigeria marked its 50th year on October 7, 2010, following its establishment in 1960 as the first autonomous degree awarding institution in Nigeria. The first set of 220 students enrolled in the university on October 7, 1960, a few days after celebration of Nigeria's independence.

Vice President Namadi Sambo also commissioned on behalf of President Jonathan the N3.8b ICT Infrastructure programme of the University of Nigeria. Lead-sponsored by Google Inc under its Africa University Access Programme, the project features collaboration and partnership of several ICT firms including MTN Nigeria, Main One Limited, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft Corporation, BCX Networks, Wavion Inc, and Xirrus Limited of Israel. According to Vice Chancellor Prof Bartho Okolo the project would enable the institution provide always-on wireless Internet access to all four campuses of the institution as well as enable it replace blackboards with electronic learning whiteboards under its Global Classroom project.

President Jonathan said the Federal Government would empower universities in Nigeria through various policy measures including allowing them to bid for the research component of public-sector jobs to assist them earn revenue as well as offer practical experience to students and faculty. Jonathan asked the Bureau of Public Procurement to work out the modalities to ensure that the universities are enabled to bid for such jobs.

The President said the Federal Government was concerned about the various vexing issues in the education sector including the poor performance nationwide of students in various examinations. He announced the establishment of the Presidential Commission on Education and Knowledge Economy to examine the various issues in the education sector in the light of local and global developments in the knowledge economy.

According to President Jonathan, ''We would be setting up the Presidential Commission for the Study of Issues in Education and the Knowledge Economy to examine critically the issues, causes, and requisite frameworks for ensuring better competitiveness of Nigerian Education including the much-neglected Technical and Vocational Education'.

Jonathan said the Presidential Commission on Education & Knowledge Economy would have a broad-based representation and membership from the public and private sectors, as well as across disciplines.

Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the University of Nigeria continues for one year, according to Vice Chancellor Prof Bartho Okolo and the Chairman of the National Organising Committee UNN at 50 Dr. G.T.G. Toby. Toby, a former deputy governor of Rivers State, is a member of the foundation class of the university.

The 50-year old University of Nigeria runs diverse programmes in arts and sciences featuring 15 faculties, 105 departments, a college of medicine, postgraduate school, and 11 institutes/centres. It has a student body of 40, 000 in four campuses of Nsukka, Enugu, Ituku Ozalla, and Aba.

The main campus in Nsukka houses programmes in agriculture, basic and biological sciences, engineering, arts, and social sciences while the Enugu campus houses professional courses in management, architecture, law, and environmental sciences.

The College of Medicine, with a teaching and referral hospital, is located at Ituku-Ozalla, on the outskirts of the Enugu state capital, while the School of Languages is located at Aba, in Abia State.

Under the leadership of Prof Bartho Okolo, its 12th vice chancellor, the management of the University has outlined a vision of internationalizing the university by turning it into a world-class institution with the enabling environment of infrastructure, faculty and learning environment, funding and international linkages.