President of Academic Staff Union of Universities( ASUU), Prof Biodun Ogunyemi has described the recent approval of provisional licenses by the Federal Government to 20 new private universities to operate as a charade and mockery of university education in the country.
He said this at weekend in an exclusive interview with Tribune Online when asked to share his thought and perception about the approval and the huge number of schools involved, particularly in the face of the current unrest in the nation’s public universities.
He said it was neither that he nor ASUU as a body has a problem with the establishment of new private universities in the country, but the motive behind government granting them operational licenses is self-centered and not for the public interest.
He said the federal government is promoting the establishment of private universities to collapse completely the public university education in the country just as it had done according to him to primary and secondary public education.
Prof Ogunyemi, a lecturer at Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago Iwoye, Ogun State, said only about three to four out of the existing 79 private universities in the country are thriving while the others exist merely on papers.
According to him, many private universities in the country have less than 100 students’ population despite their long years of establishment.
Making reference to statistics, he said the share of all private universities in the entire university students’ population in the country is only about five per cent while the rest 95 per cent are in public universities.
This simple arithmetic, he stressed, has clearly shown how crucial the public university education is to Nigeria and its people.
But it is very unfortunate, according to him, that our political leaders in successive governments have no political will to make public universities work properly in Nigeria, rather establish or sponsor one private university or the other.
He said many of them even believe that establishing more private universities in the country is the best alternative way to address workers’ strikes in public universities
He said but the issue of high tuition fees being charged by private universities among other factors would continue to drive many qualified potential students away from enrollment with them.
According to him, more than 70 per cent of Nigerians are living in abject poverty and could not afford two square meal per day because they earn less than $2 dollar per day let alone have the financial capability to enrol with high tuition private schools.
He said in addition to this challenge is that many of the universities are also not having quality manpower to deliver quality service expected of a good university.
He said majority of them depend largely on poaching manpower on part-time basis particularly lecturers and professors from public universities and at the end would not be able to snatch and retain them as permanent members of staff.
He said what should have been the major concern of Nigeria and the political leaders in particular at both federal and state government levels is to focus on the development of public universities by properly funding them rather than neglecting them to promote the proliferation of private universities that won’t be able to reserve national interest.
He said this is because even if Nigeria has up to 1,000 private universities, they would still not make significant impacts as their high tuition and low-quality services would continue to drive people away from enrolling with them.
© Tribune Online