By NBF News

•Students at a graduation ceremony
The President/Chairman of council, Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM), Dr Sally Nkem Adukwu-Bolujoko, has expressed concern on the poor ranking of Nigerian universities, in ethics and morality. She said the culture of impunity has sneaked into universities, enthroning authoritarianism, corruption, greed and flamboyant elitist lifestyle in the system.

Speaking at the third annual lecture of the Registry of the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) Ondo State, Dr Adukwu-Bolujoko accused some university chief executives of perfecting authoritarian practices while lecturers and heads of departments instill fear in their subordinates, including students.

In her 31-page paper entitled, 'Ethics and Values in the University System: The Registry as an Instrument of Change and Innovation', Dr Adukwu-Bolujoko said universities risk losing their mandate of providing qualitative education if the progressive decline in ethics is allowed unchecked.

'We had thought that education being an instrument of social engineering could sustain a nation and keep it on the path of a good life. We are wrong because as we know; our schools and colleges have become poor learning centres; doing more damage than good.  Schools have become the place where children shed the values learnt from good  homes in exchange for quick-fixes such as spending money with no thought of making it, getting a certificate without working for it, passing examinations without reading for it, enrolling in schools without attending classes, yet expecting certification and driving cars they cannot maintain,' she observed.

Reciting the litanies of woes that have befallen the university system, Adukwu pointed out the condemnable acts of some families who resort to purchasing examination questions for their children, and lobbying for admissions into choice courses in universities.

'The working class and the professionals, caught in the eroding economic web try to manipulate an existence, while the urban and rural poor having resigned to fate resort to cutting corners. Distinguished Nigerians, this is a euphemistic way of presenting a corrupt society to you – one crafted systematically and deliberately by you and me - Leaders of Nigeria,' she lamented.

According to her, the university, which is Nigeria's citadel of learning - centre of academic excellence, has joined the maddening crowd to shed its core values.  'A comparison between the universities of the 1960s and 1970s with those of the past two decades will show wide disparity in terms of the quality of both the inputs and the outputs,' she pointed out.

Some of the unethical practises, according to her, include: fake O'Level certificate, impersonation in Unified Tertiary Institution Matriculation Examination, sexual harassment, admission syndicate, irregular admission by some HODs, impersonation in internal exams, 'sorting' by students in collaboration with depraved lecturers, cultism by students/staff patrons, extortion, late commencement of lectures/non-completion of course outlines, tough exam questions, commercialization of intellectual property of others/plagiarism, textbooks/handouts, among others.

She frowned at the tradition in many universities where students are under compulsion to buy handouts from lecturers who would not give them pass grades if they failed to buy their handouts. She noted that where this prohibiting practice had been banned by the university administration, some academic staff promptly changed their methods by converting the reading materials into 'text books' which they sell to students at exorbitant prices. Sadder still, is the fact that these materials are largely lifted from seasoned textbooks with scant acknowledgement or improper citation. It is unethical to force students to buy such textbooks, she said.

Comparing the present university education with the past, she said university residents in the 50s to 70s coveted decency and dignity instead of affluence and flamboyancy associated with politicians and the rich in the society at the time. 'Universities were inhabited by intellectuals whose lifestyle and idiosyncrasies were accepted and recognised as different from those of the rest of the society,' she recounted. 'The intellectuals applied themselves to knowledge and research, questioning issues of public policy and offering solution to societal problems unsolicited. Students challenged policies that were not people-centred, providing through knowledge, solutions to national socio-political and economic needs. There were an unfettered reign of logic, the pursuit of truth, originality in teaching and research and a commitment to merit. These characteristics clearly distinguished the university from the rest of the society.'

Adukwu-Bolujoko argued that the erosion of ethics and values in the university system has remained at the centre of the problems and challenges that face our universities in the country. 'When an individual, institute or a nation loses value, it loses focus, consequently standards become compromised. Lack of focus leads inevitably to a blurred vision,' she warned.

While lamenting the dilapidated state of some universities in the country, she argued that the establishment of new universities and colleges without a commensurate political will to commit adequate fund to make them excellent learning institutions, or transform existing ones to render effective educational service, has remained counter-productive.

The NIM boss urged all principal officers of universities, deans, directors, heads of departments and units to live out their responsibility of inspiring their team to the place of increased self-esteem. 'Empowerment comes through increased visibility and communication with workers,' she advised. 'Communication clarifies the vision and the core values of the establishment. Effective communication connects with the team members and produces action. Poor communication is like delivering information, which is the same as passing on facts; whereas effective communication passes on knowledge and adds value to the recipients.  It invariably results to effective action.'

She further explained that in the university system, the ultimate leader is the Vice Chancellor. Therefore, the Registrar will not achieve very much in reversing ethical value recession until the VC buys into the idea. It is up to the university registrar to maximize his/her influence trait as the university's chief scribe and custodian of University rules and regulations, ethics and values to involve all the principal officers and all management staff of the university in this quest for value re-orientation in the University.

To salvage the image of universities, the NIM President stressed on the need for honesty, integrity and team work among university administrators, as well as a reinvigoration of acceptable values and ethics in the system.  The concern for values and ethics should be expressed in classes, tutorials, seminars, laboratories, and at every forum of the university life as much as practicable, she said. Dr Adukwu-Bolujoko urged members of the university community to live on the values of mutual understanding and cultivate respect for positive attitude towards one another.

In a similar development, Olukayode Olatunji, a Lagos-based legal practitioner and Law lecturer at the Lagos State University (LASU) has raised an alarm on the state of education, warning that public tertiary institutions face the danger of possible extinction due to poor attention from the government.

'Education is the bedrock, the base, the fundamental pillar that holds all the process of development together.  This why we should protect and guide it jealously,' he observed in an interview with Daily Sun. 'But look at what is happening now, parents that can afford it are sending their children abroad, some are sending their wards to our neighboring countries including Togo, Benin and Ghana. This is rather unfortunate and a sad commentary on the state of our education today.  It is even more painful when you realize that the certificates being issued by our universities are no longer trusted such that when they are employed, they had to train and retrain the holders. It is very unfortunate because most of the nation's resources are being diverted to politics.'

Olatunji who attributed the frequent strikes by lecturers to the sorry state of affairs in public tertiary institutions, noted that 'no lecturer is happy going on strike. Frustration with the unacceptable working environment is a major factor.  Like in other sector, we always neglect the root of the problem while attempting to deal with its manifestations.  Rather, than restore our system evaluation and fund research programmes and retraining of the lecturers, the new policy now is PHD (Pull Him Down) as if that would address the fundamental problems of under-funding and the decaying infrastructure in our tertiary institutions.'

Citing example with himself, he said: 'Take a look at this office; I have a number of facilities that I cannot use because of the problem of electric power supply.  I have to make use of my laptop and carry a lot of my work home. But that certainly is not the way it should be.  Under normal situation, I should be able to come here and work anytime of the day uninterrupted. The infrastructure to make academic environment conducive and perform at optimal level should be put in place.  That is what the lecturers have been clamoring for.

When they are asking for improved emoluments, it not unreasonable especially, when you consider the multiplying effect of the spiral inflation in the country.  They should be able to compete comparatively with their colleagues in Africa, not to talk of developed countries.'

Stating his view on the prevailing low ethical/moral problem in Nigerian universities raised by Adukwu-Bolujoko, the NIM boss, Olatunji said: 'I never expected I would end up being a lecturer.  In those days, lecturers were like tin gods.  You could not just approach your lecturers anyhow.  But today students are so brazen that they can walk up to a lecturer and offer a bribe of any kind.  Some of the female students are ready to dress anyhow to go for the kill, so the lecturers need to be constant in spirit and be prayerful to escape the desperate ones among them.  Unfortunately, everybody is looking the other way.  It is very sad and most unfortunate.

'Secondly, the population of students in those days was quite manageable compared to what we have now.  And of course, the learning environment was more conducive; something very close to the ideal. Education sector holds the key to our development and if it collapses, you can imagine what will happen to other sectors.'

While Olatunji welcomes the idea of establishing new federal universities among the geopolitical zones, he is however not happy with the Federal government's neglect of the existing ones. 'I have no problem with the establishment of the universities,' he said. 'But my concern is, where are the resources that will be used to develop these new institutions when the existing ones are suffering from the acute shortage of infrastructure?