Nigerian Students lament approval of new private universities

With the recent approval of 12 new private universities by the federal executive council (FEC), Within Nigeria spoke to students across the federation to know their opinion about this development and how this affects them as Nigerian students studying in public universities.

 32 private universities approved in 2 years

 In 2021, The Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the establishment of 20 new private universities in Nigeria. The approval followed a memo presented by the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, during the weekly meeting of the Council on Wednesday, Feb 3, 2021. The meeting was presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.

 Adamu Adamu gave the names of the approved institutions as Topfaith University, Mkpatak, Akwa Ibom State; Thomas Adewumi University, Oko-Irese, Kwara State; Maranathan University, Mgbidi, Imo State; Ave Maria University, Piyanko, Nasarawa State, and Al-Istiqama University, Sumaila, Kano State.

 Others are Mudiame University, Irrua, Edo State; Havilla University, Nde-Ikom, Cross River State; Claretian University of Nigeria, Nekede, Imo State; NOK University, Kachia, Kaduna State and Karl-Kumm University, Vom, Plateau State.

 Also approved are James Hope University, Lagos, Lagos State; Maryam Abacha American University of Nigeria, Kano, Kano State; Capital City University, Kano, Kano State; Ahman Pategi University, Pategi, Kwara State, and the University of Offa, Offa, Kwara State.

 Others are Mewar University, Masaka, Nasarawa State, Edusoko University, Bida, Niger State; Philomath University, Kuje, Abuja; Khadija University, Majia, Jigawa State and Anan University, Kwall, Plateau State.

 On April 6, 2022, the  Federal Government said it had approved the establishment of 12 new private universities.

 The proposed private universities are PEN Resource University, Gombe, Gombe State, to be mentored by the Modibbo Adamawa University of Technology, Yola; Al-Ansar University, Maiduguri, Borno State, to be mentored by the University of Maiduguri.

 Margaret Lawrence University, Calilee, Delta State, to be mentored by Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State; Khalifa Isiyaku Rabiu University, Kano, Kano State, to be mentored by Bayero University Kano, Kano State.

 Others are, Sports University, Idumuje, Ugboko, Delta State, to be mentored by the University of Benin, Edo State; Baba Ahmed University, Kano, Kano State, Bayero University Kano; SAISA University of Medical Sciences and Technology, Sokoto, Usmanu Danfodio Sokoto, and Nigerian British University, Asa, Abia State, to be mentored by University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

 Also given approval are the Peter University, Achina-Onneh, Anambra State, to be mentored by Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka; Newgate University, Minna, Niger State, Federal University Minna, Niger State.

 European University of Nigeria, Duboyi, Abuja, FCT, to be mentored by the University of Abuja, FCT, and Northwest University, Sokoto, Sokoto State, to be mentored by Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto.

 This increases the number of private universities in Nigeria from 99 to 111.

Nigeria goes against international standards on Education

 In 2019, The Executive Secretary of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETfund), Suleiman Bogoro, said that 94 percent of Nigerian students attend public tertiary institutions. He said the majority of students in Nigerian universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education are in public tertiary institutions.

 A 2019 record by Statista shows that In 2019, there were over 1.8 million full-time undergraduate university students in Nigeria. 1,206,825 students attend federal universities, 544,936 attend state universities and 102,500 attend private universities.

 Nigeria has not been able to meet international standards regarding budgetary provisions for education and even has been doing far less than some of her neighbouring countries. In six years, Nigeria budgeted N3.6 trillion out of N55.3 trillion for education.

 Thirty-one years after the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, recommended that developing nations give up to 25 percent of their annual budget to public education, Nigeria’s allocation to the sector is still less than 10 percent.

 The period covers the year 2016 to 2021. In 2016, out of the total budget of N6.06 trn, the sum of N369.6 billion or 6.7% of the budget was allocated to public education. In 2017, N550 bn or 7.38% was allocated to education out of the N7.29 trn budget, while in 2018, N605.8 bn or 7.04 % was given to education out of the N9.2 trn budget.

 In 2019, N620 bn or 7.05% was allocated to education out of the budget of N8.92 trn, while in 2020, N671.07 bn or 6.7% was given to education out of the N10.33 trn budget. In 2021, N742.5 bn or 5.6% was allocated to education out of a budget of N13.6 trn.

Students kicks…

 Students in public universities have lamented the approval of new private universities in the face of the ongoing ASUU strike.

 Iniobong Antia, a student at the University of Uyo (Uniuyo) said private universities are not needed because the poor masses cannot afford them.

 “We don’t need private universities now, not just because of the economic situation but because the poor masses can’t afford this and other universities around most of them aren’t functioning well, they should rather improve the other ones we have first,” she said

 Babatunde Adebayo, a 200 level student of  Literature-in-English at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) said that the federal government should relieve the burden on both parents and students by trying to manage the institution we have presently.

 “ Well, let me start by saying that the action of the Federal Government is being gratuitous in nature because currently in Nigeria we have a lot of federal and state universities and they can’t manage this well. Now, settling in another 12 private universities at this point in time is totally gratuitous because how many parents can avoid the fees of 1 million-plus with the current economic situation of this country? I’ll only advise the federal government to try and relieve the burden on both parents and students by trying to manage the institution we have presently.” he said

 Oshinaike Oluwafunmilola, a 200 level student of English language at the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU) said that the government should improve existing tertiary institutions and bring solutions to the problems rocking the education sector

 “ Approving more private universities is not necessary. At least the ones we have on ground are more than enough. Rather than having more universities why not channel that energy into working on improving the ones already in existence and also make sure there are no issues concerning the education system as a whole. What do I mean, providing money for research work, improving the infrastructural facilities in the various tertiary institutions, and provision of employment for graduating students.” she said

 Boluwatife Ojo, a 500 level law student at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), who spoke to Within Nigeria, supported the approval of the universities and said the establishment of the new 12 private universities will contribute to the economic growth of the country and create employment opportunities and competition among public varsity.

 “ As a youth in society who is so passionate about building and serving as a catalyst to an unprecedented society, I feel the same emotion public university students are facing. I am of strong support and see it as highly commendable for the establishment of private by this eminent individual, although there are other things these persons would have invested their money in, but felt the need to help and sustain the dysfunctional educational system in their country,”

 “I am convinced that the establishment of the new 12 private universities will contribute to the economic growth of the country and create employment opportunities and competition among public varsity. In a developing nation like ours, the economic situation of the country should not be allowed to undermine the development of the country in educational sectors rather government should see educational institutions as a veritable way to boost economic sustainability for the country”

 “This also serves as a platform for competition among universities, especially private universities, in creating modern, well-informed opportunities for their students. It is a trite law that where there is competition in a particular sector definitely there will be a reduction in prices. The same goes for the private university, once there are options for student to leverage a lesser university where he will get the necessary knowledge which he would have gotten in an expensive university, such a student will definitely opt for a cheaper university.” he said

Jimoh Abdullahi, a 400 level student of English Language at the University of Ilorin said he’s disappointed at the approval of the new private universities and expressed concerns over the inability of parents to afford these universities.

“ The private owners are conscious of the appalling condition of the public tertiary schools so, they see that as an avenue for their business. I am highly disappointed at the action of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) who gave them a nod of approval. The ramification of this is nothing but to add pepper to the open wound of ASUU. The prognosis is, if it continues like this, the children of the rich only will have access to qualitative education while the children of the impoverished parents may not be able to afford the cost of private Universities when the bedridden public tertiary institutions of learning have later and finally rundown.” he said

Oluwapelumi Olajiga, a final year student at the Ekiti State University (EKSU) said the federal government needs to work towards having better public universities, especially in the face of the present economic situation.

“What we need now is not more private Universities, we need better universities.

There is no greatness in having more private universities and we are still dealing with a dysfunctional education system. Nigeria should work towards having better universities than having more universities with this economic situation.” she said

Another student of  Ekiti State University (EKSU), Salako Emmanuel said the approval of new private universities is a misplaced priority. He said the government should be focused on improving and revitalizing public universities.

“I will not condemn the action of the Federal Government by approving new private universities in Nigeria. However, I think the action just described the level of urgency towards raising public universities to a standard that would ease learning and put an end to the incessant strike that happens almost every year.”

“So, I would say, it’s a misplacement of priority because, for now, all plans should evolve how to improve and revitalize public universities; make it a conducive learning environment while they work towards meeting the demands of ASUU.”

Having approved 12 new private universities in this dysfunctional educational system is really not what it is next, and I don’t think we need more private universities for now. There are records of graduated students that are currently looking around for job opportunities but could not find one after having paid a huge amount of money throughout their sojourn in the university. “

So, tell me, will less privileged parents still be motivated to ‘hustle’ and send their wards to private universities knowing fully well that it doesn’t guarantee a well-paying job after school? Well, if this system of government is true democracy and patriotic as it claims to be, then the interest of the people should come first; not what they think would add to the list of their achievements.” he said

Tejumoluwa Adebisi of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) said the Federal Government should focus on the necessities of the Nation and stop playing blind to them.

“Apparently, we need no such thing in Nigeria. Nigeria is confronted with lots of challenges, building and approving schools shouldn’t be a topic to delegate on now but, here we are.

It’s just another way of extorting people because private university students pay an exuberant amount just to be educated. Anyways, people in my class can only attend a government school. I feel the Federal Government should rather focus on the necessities of the Nation and stop playing blind to them.” she said

Lack of funding fuels ASUU strike

Since the return of democracy in 1999, The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has embarked on various strike actions against the government. Findings have revealed that the just-announced 4 weeks warning strike will make it the 16th time the union has embarked on industrial action.

In 1999, the union embarked on an industrial action that lasted for five months Few months after the Obasanjo-Atiku administration was sworn in, which ended up disrupting academic activities. Two years later, ASUU declared another strike over the reinstatement of 49 lecturers sacked at the University of Ilorin. The strike was called off after 3 months.

Having had an agreement with the Federal Government during the 2001 strike, the union was forced to embark on another industrial action on Sunday, December 29, 2002, which lasted for two weeks.

In 2003, Nigerian university undergraduates had to stay at home again for six months as ASUU embarked on another industrial action due to the non-implementation of previous agreements, which covered poor university funding and disparity in salary and retirement age.

ASUU resumed industrial action in 2005 and ended in 2 weeks. In April 2006 academic activities were paralyzed in all public universities across the country when ASUU declared a 3-day warning strike which eventually lasted for one week. The 2006 industrial action was followed by another on March 26, 2007, which lasted for three months.

ASUU went on another strike for one week in 2008. Their demands included an improved salary scheme and reinstatement of 49 lecturers who were dismissed at the University of Ilorin. In 2009, lecturers in public universities across the country embarked on an industrial action that lasted for four months. The strike which started in June was called off in October.

Another industrial action by ASUU commenced on 22 July 2010 and was called off in January 2011.

In December 2011, ASUU commenced another industrial action following the failure of the FG to fund universities in the country and implement the 70-year retirement age limit for ASUU members. The strike lasted for 59 days and was called off in 2012.

Again in 2013,  the government’s failure to review the retirement age for professors from 65 to 70; approve funding to revitalize the university system; increase the budgetary allocations to the education sector by 26% among other demands led to another industrial action. The strike commenced on July 1, 2013, and was called off on Tuesday, December 17, 2013. It lasted for five months, 15 days.

4 years later, ASUU embarked on another industrial action on the 17th of August, 2017. It was called off in September. In 2018, the union declared an indefinite nationwide strike on Sunday, November 4, 2018, after their National Executive Council meeting held at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State.

Nigeria students suffered more after ASUU embarked on another strike in march 2020 over the non-payment of salaries of ASUU members who failed to enroll in the federal government’s IPPIS, a payroll software mandated for all public officials, and some unmet agreements between ASUU and successive administrations. This strike lasted for 10 months, the longest in the history of union strike actions. It was eventually called off on December 23, 2020, when the Memorandum of Action (MoA) was signed by the Federal Government.

After serious deliberations by the National Executive Council, NEC, of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, On Feb, 14, 2022, declared a one-month warning strike following the failure of the Federal Government to implement the famous 7th February 2019 Memorandum of Action (MoA), which contained important highlights of the 2009 ASUU-FGN agreement and aggregated the cardinal arguments of the 2012 and 2013 MoUs and the 2017 MoA. It also blamed the government for failing to implement the December 2020 MoA which concluded the longest strike in the history of our nation. The industrial action have lasted for 57 days.

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