Oyewole Ajifolokun, a veterinarian and professor of biology, has worked, among others, as a clinical veterinarian, professor of Biology and Extension Veterinarian (Small Animal Health), University of Illinois Extension, Chicago, United States of America, and Chair, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) team, University of Illinois Extension.
His foundation, Adedoyin Ajifolokun Memorial Foundation (AAMF), is an education-focused charity organisation set up to provide supports to educational institutions (with the view to providing grants to indigent students) and offer financial assistance to young, brilliant but indigent students.
He was recently conferred with a distinguished alumni award by the Association of Veterinary Medical Students of the University of Ibadan. He spoke with LAOLU HAROLDS on issues in Nigeria’s education sector.
Access is still a very big problem for Nigeria in the tertiary education sector. The increasing numbers of private institutions don’t seem to be helping much. What do you think is wrong or should be done differently?
In my own opinion, access is no longer a problem in the tertiary education in Nigeria. The major issue is the quality of graduates that these tertiary institutions are producing. If a student cannot gain admission into any of the federal universities, he/she will have opportunity of gaining admission into private universities and we have lots of them out there now! The private colleges/universities might be more expensive than the state or federal-owned, but at least no serious students should complain of inability to gain admission into tertiary institutions. Based on the population of Nigeria as of today, I do not believe we have too many universities. The caution, however, is that we should not neglect the vocational training schools. Vocational trainings will give room for self-employment through the establishment of small-scale businesses such as welding, electrical installations, among others.
In terms of quality assurance, are we ‘over-regulating’ our institutions? For instance, many people see the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) as an unnecessary obstacle frustrating candidates’ admission. Is there a body like JAMB in the U.S.?
We are not over-regulating our institutions, but I feel that JAMB has out-lived its usefulness and existence. So, it’s no longer relevant in terms of what its role should be in regulating the admission of students into tertiary institutions in Nigeria. JAMB has turned itself into a money-making venture to the Federal Government instead of focusing and directing its statutorily granted energy into regulating admissions into colleges and universities. I was reading a report recently where someone was praising JAMB for remitting so much money into the federal purse than the previous years. This is absurd! I do agree with you that JAMB is an obstacle and has always and continue to frustrate candidates’ admission because the body is a monopolist and as we all know, monopolistic ventures tend to be all-powerful albeit inefficiently. Individual university or states should be allowed to conduct and control their admission process.
There is no such body like JAMB in the United States. Each state designs its own educational standard and policy. Even though there is standardised examination a student must pass before gaining admission into the university, such examination is not under a federally controlled body like JAMB, and each university determines its admission process.
Regarding the National Universities Commission (NUC) and other professional bodies, I believe the two bodies should work harmoniously together in the regulation and accreditation of university programmes.
In the United States, the department of education oversees the accreditation of courses with inputs from the professional bodies. However, we should know that the key role of those professional bodies is to ensure that their members are continuously trained and active in their professions. For instance, if you are a doctor or a nurse and you have not practised for over a year, you need to be recertified before you can be allowed to practise which is not so in Nigeria. Therefore, while the NUC continues to regulate and accredit courses in the colleges and universities (with suggestions and recommendations from the professional bodies), the professional bodies should focus more on re-training of their members through continuous educational programmes and short duration courses.
How is teacher education handled in the U.S.? Who can and cannot teach? How is quality assurance maintained?
In the United States, before you are employed as a teacher after your degree or certificate in education, you must pass a prescribed and standardised examination conducted by the professional bodies that regulate the profession. And you must also attend at least one professional development programme every year to maintain your teaching certificate. Hence, there is a system in place to ensure quality education-which is lacking in Nigeria.
Compared to what obtains in Nigeria, how is education funding handled in the U.S. and what can we do differently here?
Education funding at all levels in Nigeria is appalling and abysmally low! Parents can no longer send their children to public primary schools due to lack of quality teachers and poor infrastructure. The same situations go for secondary and tertiary institutions. All the three arms of government, including communities and individuals, should be involved in funding of education. This is what operates in the United States. The federal and state governments provide funds, while the counties (local government) also supplement whatever funds come from the federal and the state governments.
In addition to this, communities, corporations and individuals also assist in funding through donations. For instance, a very wealthy family or individual can will a larger party of their money to a local school after their death or establish a foundation through which they provide educational assistance in form of scholarships or infrastructure. Big companies also pay educational tax to help fund education. Therefore, education funding requires holistic approach involving not only the government, but all other agencies, corporations, communities and individuals.
Personally, in the last three or fours years, I have donated two buildings to two different schools in my local government, Oriade Local Government in Osun State
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