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Don condemns design, curriculum, others in varsity system

As the curtains were lowered on this year’s edition of the Professor Ogundipe Innovative Challenge (POIC) at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), the design, curriculum and length of academic programmes offered by Nigerian tertiary institutions, have been criticised. The innovative and creative challenge, which was instituted in 2020 and open to university students in the Faculty of Science, and which entered its second edition this year, is an initiative of Professor Ogundipe Innovation and Science Foundation (POISF).

It was instituted and named after Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, the immediate past and 12th substantive Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG). Since the challenge opened in 2020, no fewer than 947 applicants had registered in 199 teams with 50 proposals. In his paper with the theme: “Empowering Tomorrow: Unleashing the Potentials of Gen Z for Disruptive Innovation,” the Acting Director of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) IT Hub (NITHub) at the University of Lagos, Dr Victor Odumuyiwa, however, condemned the Nigeria’s education system, lamenting that what takes place on campuses is merely the offering of courses and not proper learning. Against this background, he sought its ‘disruption’ to align with the goals and not just the processes, saying innovation is paramount for Nigeria’s economic growth, global competitiveness, national security, and resource efficiency. He interrogated how and who decided to make some degrees fiveyear or four-year courses in the nation’s university system, recalling that at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), what is important is to take a certain number of courses, and brilliant students could decide to finish in three years the course that is designed for five years, and they are awarded their certificates. “What happens in our institutions is no longer learning, but just offering courses. We need to disrupt the processes to allow innovations and creativities which this generation is known for,” he stated.

According to Odumuyiwa, the Generation Z, who are described as those who were born between the years 1997 and 2010, are characterised as inventors, artists, and entrepreneurs, and so do not have the patience to focus on theories but practicals. Therefore, the don advised the participants, particularly the young innovators, to prioritise patience, strategic partnerships and collaboration, and should identify platforms for opportunities, as enablers of growth. At the end of the contest, Team Neptune from UNILAG emerged the winner with a project on Bioengineering, and won N1 million cash prize and free training from Opolo Global Innovation, a hub for talent promotion. Also, Team Horizon from the Lagos State University (LASU) came second with an idea on Technology for Farmers, and also won N750,000 and free training from Opolo Global Innovation Hub. Similarly, Team Ilucens from UNILAG, and Tfree from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), emerged third and fourth position, respectively, with their ideas on Food Processing and Health Technology, and received N500,000 and N100,000 with free training from Opolo Global Innovation Hub, respectively. The Dean of the Faculty of Science in UNILAG and Chairman of POISF, Prof Elijah Oyeyemi, stated that the competition provides a platform for students to develop hands-on skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). “The goals and target of the competition are to build students to be problem solvers and job creators,” he noted, even as the organisers explained that of the 947 applicants that registered in 199 teams with 50 proposals, 10 semi-finalists qualified from the total applicants and five of them made it to the final round. Ogundipe, a researcher and Professor of Botany, who said the competition was the creation of the students and a select staff of the Faculty of Science, where he once served as the Dean, also said he was only approached to provide support, and that he never imagined that the initiative would germinate so quickly. “The programme started in 2019 and from what I have seen, this project will be taken far beyond what it has become today. So, we are not here to celebrate Ogundipe, but the students of the Faculty of Science, who in their wisdom, and with the guidance of their lecturers came up with this idea. They even went on to register a Foundation as a platform to nurture the idea,” he added.

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