New Telegraph

December 10, 2023

Issues in higher education development in Nigeria

The book is divided into eight sections as follows: Section One: Introduction and Tributes; Section Two: Crosscutting Themes; Section Three: Peter Okebukola and the Nigerian Higher Education System in Perspective; Section Four: Sustainable Development and the Future of Higher Education in the Post-COVID-19 Era; Section Five: Quality Issues in Higher Education; Section Six: Gender, Access and Equity; Section Seven: Specialised and Private Universities and Higher Education Development in Nigeria; and Section Eight: Leadership, Governance and Funding.

I will proceed to interrogate the sections in turn. Section One, titled ‘Tributes’ presents personal views of the honouree by some of his associates, professional colleagues and contemporaries. The four essays in this section provide a glimpse into the personality of Professor Peter Okebukola from different perspectives including his leadership and mentoring skills.

Section Two, Crosscutting Themes, comprises three chapters which examine issues in higher education from multidimensional perspectives. The first article addresses critical issues relating to the concept, goals and operation of higher education policymaking and implementation specifically in Nigeria; it highlights the lack of symphony in the existing notions and activities of agencies statutorily vested with authorities to regulate and supervise the higher educational institutions. These have resulted in policy contradictions and hollowness in some instances.

It equally interrogates the vexed issue of university autonomy and its manifestation in the contemporary issue of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). A second paper demonstrates that for authentic learning to take place, the student or recipient of new knowledge must make themselves vulnerable by being willing to change the sense they make of the world to a new way of thinking. It postulates the criticalness of understanding that education or science education research is situated within and by sociocultural contextual mitigating factors (CMFs).

The paper further contends that a bulk of scientific research takes place within controlled contexts, which neither accounts for making the life experiences of each subject explicit, nor help to create new transformative images for teaching and learning. The third paper has traced the developmental milestones of a concept that has revolutionalised the teaching and learning processes around the world, which was developed by Peter Okebukola.

This is the Culturo-Techno-Contextual (CTC) Approach. This method connects the learner to the foundations of his or her learning origin which is the cultural background from where the learner acquires the first language and basic learning skills from the community where the foundations of life skills may have been first laid and acquired.

In Section Three, Peter Okebukola and the Nigerian Higher Education System in Perspective, which comprises eight chapters, the contributors examine various aspects of Professor Okebukola’s contribution to higher education development in Nigeria and beyond. Authors here engage with his innovative efforts that revolutionized the higher education system in Nigeria particularly in relation to quality assurance as well as his efforts at improving and increasing accessibility for the underrepresented groups.

The first chapter has chronicled the life and career of the honoree as a seasoned university academic, a renowned science educationist, an excellent university administrator and a world acclaimed universities’ regulator and policy maker. The second chapter outlines the research efforts of the honoree.

His research exploits have five central themes namely higher education, computer in education and e-learning, co-operative learning, metacognitive strategies in science education, environmental education, and eco-cultural influences on the learning of science concepts. Needless to add that he has distinguished himself in all these sub-disciplines.

The third essay in this Section describes authoritatively the contribution of the Strategy Advisory Committee (STRADVCOM) empanelled by the current leadership of the National Universities Commission (NUC) of which Prof Peter Okebukola is Chairman. It also includes a framework for enhanced academia-industry-government partnership. The fourth essay highlights the synergy between academic leadership and higher education administration, and in the process demonstrating that Okebukola’s works transcend the narrow confines of individual subject matter or issue compartments. Professor Peter Okebukola’s efforts in fighting academic and financial corruption in Nigeria’s ivory tower are highlighted in the fifth chapter. In the sixth chapter, his efforts in empowering women and girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and their effects in Africa’s development are discussed.

The next chapter has outlined the activities of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board Equal Opportunity Group (JEOG) under the leadership of Peter Okebukola in intervening in the life of candidates at the margins of society namely the physically challenged, the visually impaired as well as prison inmates. This was an attempt to equalise educational opportunities for those affected, such that they can advance educationally and access tertiary education. The closing chapter in this section examines the current status of the initiatives of Peter Okebukola as Executive Secretary of the NUC, the fate of these initiatives as well as ideas for promoting sustainability of the initiatives in Nigeria’s higher educational institutions.

There are seven articles in Section Four and these address the COVID-19 pandemic, e-learning in a Post-COVID-19 new normal, the conceptual and theoretical ramifications as well as the relevance, prospects, structural and functional dimensions of lifelong learning, sustainable development and the changing role of higher education in a Post COVID-19 era. Section Five, which is on the theme: Quality education imperatives in Higher Education in Africa, comprises five chapters. The critical indices of quality in education have been appraised, by considering the interplay of the input, process and product variables, as well as the Key Performance Indicators of Quality.

The need to de-colonise school curriculum has been underscored in order to achieve the goals of sustainable education for sustainable development. One of the essays focusses on how to quality assure the education system with the instrumentality of promoting the reading culture, while emphasizing the need to ensure synergy between reading culture, quality assurance and teacher preparation.

The place of education in socioeconomic development is emphasized as well as a template for the integration of STEM skills with 21st century employability skills. Section Six which comprises three chapters has the theme Gender, Access and Equity.

One of the contributors asks the rhetorical question and buttressed by available data from the NUC as to why there is a gender gap in the STEM disciplines. The second author presented the use of bottleneck analysis (BNA) as a strategic planning diagnostic tool for management of university education in Nigeria while the third author has proposed open distance education in addressing the issue of access.

Section Seven focuses on Specialised and Private Universities and the Challenges of Higher Education Development in Nigeria. Two of the four chapters here engage with the critical role of private universities in expanding access to higher education in Nigeria and the challenges of their sustainability.

Critical to their continued relevance to the growth of the higher education sector in Nigeria is tackling successfully their funding challenges and what role the Government regulatory agency can play in the process. The Section also features two chapters with a discussion of the place of specialised universities of Technology, Agriculture, Education, Petroleum Resources, Medical and Maritime. The theme of Section Eight is Leadership, Governance and Funding. One of the essays demonstrates the usefulness of deploying Information and Communication Technology in improving service delivery in a tertiary institution. Two of the chapters in this section address the issue of governance challenges, with special emphasis on the role of the Vice-Chancellor as the chief academic, chief financial and chief administrative officer.

Two other chapters have outlined the funding challenges with an authoritative claim that Nigerian universities are retrogressing in real terms. There are very few typographical errors that I identified. The book has been written in a very lucid manner without using too many technical jargons. The reader should find it easy to follow.

There are some 43 contributors to this book, including about a dozen who have had experience as Pro- Chancellors or Vice-Chancellors and another dozen or so authors who have served as Chief Operating Officers/Executive Management level as Provosts, Deans, Directors and Heads of Departments, as well as many other scholars and administrators for whom issues relating to higher education management are a familiar terrain. We thus have before us a very rich menu, which I humbly rate as deserving five stars, which scholars and policy formulators in the higher education industry would find most profound, insightful, and invaluable.

Prof. Olayinka is former Vice- Chancellor, University of Ibadan

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