WHY UNIVERSITY EDUCATION SHOULD BE HANDLED BY PRIVATE OPERATORS, BY IBE
To get Nigeria back on the winning ways again, the nation has to be focused on science and technological education with emphasis on 'reversed engineering' while the university system has to been overhauled, with the federal and state universities handed over to private operators. These and many more were the prognosis disclosed by Dr. Gregory Ikechukwu Charles Ibe in a chat with ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA. Ibe, as part of his social responsibilities lectures at Abia State University, Uturu and Tansi University, Oba. Ibe, is the executive chairman of Hamitle Engineering (Nig) Limited and managing director of Skill 'G' Group Nigeria Limited, among others. He is also a UN Consultant on Human Capital Development, an industrialist, community developer and cultural activist. Excerpts:
THE study of science and technology is the basis of development, and this, Nigeria lacks
THERE is lack of study of science and technological education, skills are no more put as priority in Nigeria educational system. So, I feel that the only thing that can make this country move technologically, either at the level of reverse engineering or not, is our ability to study science.
Nigeria can still make up for everything by joining the world order at this stage. Because the world order is falling back to subsistence, subsistence farming to manufacturing.
When you have excess glut in your production you go into manufacturing and from manufacturing you go into technology. That how is people function and now the whole world is collapsing to going back to their resources, developing their own local resources towards manufacturing.
Nigeria should do a lot so that we can go back to the basis. But how do we go back? When our electrical and electronics engineers can not build a street light.
Where would you be when nobody has produced from any polytechnics or university in Nigeria a made in Nigeria air conditioner or refrigerator? What does it takes to produce it? It is science.
Nigeria universities are graduating people only on arts and humanities and you think that Nigeria can move forward technologically.
We only become import dependent. The best way to develop a nation is to have a critical mass of science based people so that they can do reverse engineering. What I mean by reverse engineering is that you buy a full car, you dismantle it and start afresh.
No one country build a complete car, once you have the computer design of your car, you look at the manufacturers of the engine block and you order engine block, you look for someone that does piston and you order piston.
Of course, you know that Japan closed all manufacturing system, what they are selling to the world is chips. The money that they make in selling chips to China and the whole of the world is more than money what they make in running the factories of JVC, so they've closed all of them down.
So those parts are ordered from different countries and manufacturers then you now do the assemblage. Why can't we do all these things? You can only do it by science.
This is the problem that we have and it is a big problem. Politicians say education is a low budget vote catching area and so they ran away from it and allow it to rot.
Private universities should be the nation's saviour
The private universities would probably be the most saving grace for the educational sector of Nigeria. And if it has to be the most saving grace then all state universities should be handed over under Private - Public Partnership (PPP) to people that think the way we think.
Because without education no country will succeed. We have so much incurred the wreath of God by not developing our educational system and that is why the only industry today is politics.
The skill is politics, the business is politics, the robbery is politics, everything is politics, just name it, it is only politics. Nobody is talking about skill, just like we abandoned our skills and went to okada driving.
And as soon as they start closing okada driving for the evils it brought to different cities in Nigeria today politics has taken over and as soon as they win elections the streets would be taken over by different people terrorising everybody because education has be neglected.
Even those that came out from the schools there are no jobs for them. There are no welfare packages for the people of Nigeria. So people are ready to do youth service three times provided you pay them N10, 000 monthly.
So why not develop a welfare package and give every Nigerian that is fully documented N10, 000 if he has no job and then give him skill as a buffer.
They opened micro finance banks and they said that they were going to receive funding from state, local and federal governments so that they could use it to develop private businesses and support the poor people of Nigeria but no micro finance bank has received a kobo from anybody yet.
Will the local government give you when the government of the day has seized the money meant for the local government. And even if it reaches the local government will it ever give it to the finance bank?
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is not talking about that. Most micro finance banks today go to commercial banks to lend money at 28 per cent and they would in turn lend to poor people at 35 per cent, which is discouraging and nobody wants to say anything about this development.
The ability to calculate your gross Domestic Product (GDP) or the per capita income, is the ability for you to save one kobo. But how many Nigerians have savings? If you want to calculate GDP you will look at the productive growth of every Nigerian.
How many per cent of Nigerians are going to the farms or factories to work? Our job is politics; money comes from Abuja it is shared from federal to state and state to local government. Including at home because when the father earns salary the daughter comes and 'say papa give me.'
It is a matter of sharing and no one wants to go with the father to the farm to work. So, the nation is a sharing nation.
Now when we hand over university education to the private sector as you are suggesting how would people afford the school fees and sundry charges?
Now you have entered into the area of my research work. What is the average money families pay today from kindergarten to secondary school because of the failure of the public school system?
Every family before their daughter or son leaves secondary school they are paying an average of N150, 000 per child. How much do you pay in kindergarten? About N60, 000 and once he gets to secondary school you pay N150, 000.
Ironically, this your son that you have given high preparation up to secondary school takes JAMB, he gets a state university and the school fees is about N45, 000 to N50, 000.
This is your son that you have paid so much for at the secondary school level. If you see my chart on my research it goes up - ascending (gestures) and suddenly it goes down (gestures).
The same fees you paid at kindergarten or nursery is what you are now paying at the university level whether at federal or state government owned university. So, tell me why wouldn't the level of your son drop? Once his brain has collapsed to the level of the prevailing poverty in the school system the next option left is for him will be to join cultism.
Lecturers that are poorly paid will not give anything in return. He sells handouts and say I can't give back what nobody gave to me. Now you have only succeeded at crashing the system of our son that was once a high flier.
We have succeeded in crashing almost all our children because of seeking for cheap school fees at state and federal universities.
In the US you stopped at secondary school, if you don't have money to go further, you go and work and whenever you can afford it you can then go to the university.
Stop at secondary school level and create middle skilled manpower
Break this system of education at the level of secondary, if you don't have money be empowered with skills, provide jobs, middle manpower and people would be working.
Then once you make money go to the university then make these universities to become nursery schools. Any child that you train in that N150, 000 secondary school the day he finishes there that is the only thing that he knows.
The kindergarten he goes called university where they pay N50, 000 can't help your child.
Is that the core of the problem in eastern states universities?
Eastern universities! Of course, over population is there because that is the only opportunity that everybody has to go to school to pick paper certificate and they pay N50, 000.
The state can't claim that they can't pay the lecturers, so the lecturer is not receiving enough and he is not impacting any knowledge because he does not have the sense of duty or fulfilment.
Of course, we are in a dilemma, we (state universities) are closed up, until they hand over or they change school fees rating and drop a lot of people from the system and give them skill and some micro credit. A kind of cash and carry type of system and let them go to work.
Create a farm settlement, push them there and put a lot of incentives and sew uniforms for them, kit them and give them a bus and give them what we call dignity in labour.
If somebody is a night soil man and you sew him nice uniform and put him in an air conditioned bus to do the job, everybody becomes night soil man. No matter whether he got the money in cleaning sewage, does money smell?
Whatever money you get is meant to solve your manifest needs. Government needs to make each job dignified and once each job has dignity most people would follow it.
Is it that the 6 - 3 - 3 – 4 educational policy was meant to create?
Nigeria educational policy is right, you can't question it but where are the implementing tools? When you say 6 - 3 -3 -4 education system when I was still in primary school we go to technical centre in Owerri to do carpentry work once in a week.
You were meant to have a particular skill before you leave secondary school but are those tools in the schools? The policy is right but the implementing tools to achieve that are not available.
Why Gregory University Uturu?
I always said to myself that if I have money and I have been preaching qualitative educational system that I will start it. So when it was time my Foundation (Gregory Iyke Foundation) decided to set up an institution that should be able to put quality first.
Once you pass through our system (GUU) you will be very skilful, be knowledgeable and have the experience to be able to meet with the developmental need of youself, your family and the nation at large.
What should be the primary area of focus of GUU?
First of all, sciences will and then entrepreneurship will be very important. We want to get the ideas from people and the change of attitude is now and shouldn't be later.
On meeting the requirements of the National University Commission
The National University Commission (NUC) would be here soon and finish all the tear points that are required then we believe that in September we should be admitting students within our master plan and our academic brief.
This process started last year and we were committed to it that is why we didn't want to make any noise about it or ask questions. We took what NUC required and we went straight to building the structures.
NUC says about 100 hectares of land but of course, it is not easy to find those lands. And I wouldn't have gone to Abuja to do it where I would suffer and die.
I have a community and I have to show that I am from here so I have to acquire land, we have more than 200 hectares that I acquired but we are building on about 120, which is the first phase.
The issue of funding comes from one man – God and that is the man that does the funding. The Foundation is very strong and we keep our funding to ourselves because even the church would not tell you where they are getting their money.
Look, let me tell you something, some of the members of my Foundation are Americans and so what I have done is to reach out to the Black Caucuses in America who have retired but they are not tired.
Fifty - five, sixty years old people, blacks who have attained the highest point of America career and they are now feeling empty and want to contribute to the black race and most of them are coming here to lecture.
Also, I have been to Harvard University asking them to give me accreditation for business and law for my university. I want to talk to all the black universities that even if they can't accredit me let them allow me their professors for three months here in Uturu where I have all the facilities that they required so that they can stay here and help nurture the future generation of Nigerians that should provide the right leadership and development for the country.
So any person that is coming here as lecturer we have criteria to measure with.