At present Nigeria has about 124 universities both state and private ones.
These institutions were founded, primarily to provide access to the teeming number of Nigerians seeking higher education.
Right now this number is growing fast bringing new challenge to accommodate all students and provide quality knowledge to all of them. According to the report to the Federal Executive Council on November 1, 2012, over 1,000 students now get packed in lecture halls that were meant for less than 150 students in a number of universities in the country. Moreover “Students cannot get accommodation, where they get, they are packed like sardines in tiny rooms”.
Efforts to reach the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Julius Okojie, proved abortive as questionnaires sent to him through the Public Affairs department of the commission were not returned even after several follow-ups.
In this report, Collins Edomaruse examined several federal universities across the country claiming that the education sector needs desperate, honest and patriotic action of all stakeholders to address.
The first university examined within the report is the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU). Unfortunately, today this university, like many others in the country, is going through trying moments as a result of the crisis in the education sector of Nigeria, as well as dwindling government funding and increasing population.
Although ABU has very solid, beautiful structures at its campus, its greatest challenges are congestion in the classrooms, lack of laboratory equipment, outdated books, and poor hostel accommodation for the about 50,000 students of the institution. Most of the classrooms were designed to accommodate 30 students, but today between 200 and 250 are squeezed into such classes to receive lectures.
The same situation is with the hostels which now accommodate between six and ten students in the room instead of one-two. The hostels are in a terrible condition. Some parts of the hostel are swampy to the extent that when it rains, it becomes difficult to access them.
Thus the main problem facing students in ABU now is congestion in classrooms, dilapidated hostels and lack of modern laboratory equipment.
Many students have to stand near the windows or sit on the bare floor to receive lectures. During the raining season some classrooms leak. Moreover, the books in the libraries are outdated, same goes for the equipment in the labs.
Overall the university has a population of about 50,000 students but only about 13,000 of them have hostel accommodation, meaning about 75 per cent of the students stay outside the campus and facing more problems.
The university`s Director of Public Affairs, Dr. Isma`ila Shehu, attributed the challenges of the institution to poor funding by the federal government.
Another university visited in frame of the project was University of Benin (UNIBEN).
UNIBEN, one of the best universities of the nation, is yet another example of a university in a dire need of attention from the governments at all levels.
According to the ASUU leader: “For instance, if you go to Faculty of Engineering, when we got there during the visit of the NEEDS assessment committee, we were told that those equipment were supplied in 1975 or thereabouts when the faculty was established. Since then, nothing new was added. Even at that, a number of the equipment have broken down. The university cannot repair or rehabilitate them. Now, it is all theory and nothing to demonstrate to the students.
“Then if you go to chemistry department, you meet an empty laboratory filled up with empty bottles. In my secondary school days if you go to the laboratory, you see bottles filled with chemicals. But the chemistry department in University of Benin is all empty bottles. There is even no Bunsen burner. What they use is kerosene stove to heat up chemical when they are conducting experiments. In the same department, there is equipment used in processing uranium for nuclear called centrifuge. I was even surprised that the university has such equipment. But today it no longer functions and has been turned to a refuse dump. “At the physics laboratory, there is nothing on the table. It is only electric bulbs, rulers and so on. Nothing else!” “In the Faculty of Social Sciences, what you have is overcrowded classrooms and broken down chairs and tables, dilapidated board, etc. The situation is so bad that sometimes if examination enters into the night, the students will be forced to light candles or make use of the torchlight from their handsets.
It was also noted that in Covenant University on the contrary some sophisticated teaching methods are being used: audio visual equipment to teach their students, large television screen. Thus a lecturer can be in the office and be teaching students in the classroom, i.e. without being physically present in the class. Unfortunately no public university can afford such teaching aid because of poor funding.
The next university visited was University of Ibadan (UI). Here as well the hostel infrastructure also showed glaring effects of overcrowding. It was further gathered that the over population in the hostels coupled with the visible poor maintenance of the facilities made the halls largely over-stretched – the taps no longer run, while the sanitation facilities are in a terrible shape.
Electricity is also a challenge at the institution, the hostels and offices do not enjoy uninterrupted power supply and the power generating sets do not work round the clock. Electricity was identified as a major challenge in the laboratories, which prevents students from completing their work in most cases.
A Ph.D scholar, who was seen carrying out his research, told that the challenges students encounter in the labs include shortage of basic facilities like Bunsen burner, gas, electricity, outdated equipment and shortage of chemicals. He said some laboratories use kerosene stoves, instead of gas and that Ph.D scholars buy the chemicals they use for their research, as there is no provision for that by their respective departments.
Explaining the cause of the problem, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said all institutions are not at the same level of decay, adding that the institution`s vision is different from the visions of the others. He said the university`s major challenge has to do with its age, adding that the federal government does not fund them based on needs.
He also affirms that the government should decrease the tuition fees in higher institutions and award scholarships to indigent students.
Another university examined – University of Ilorin (Unilorin) – is one of the second generation universities in the country. It was established in 1975, and initially affiliated to the University of Ibadan.
It turned out that unlike several other similar institutions in the country, projects embarked upon by Unilorin are never abandoned. The new ring roads, laboratories, sports centre, new Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences building, the new Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and the new multi-purpose hall, among others, are some that were initiated by the school`s leadership and equally completed to the delight of all, including the students.
The university`s Deputy Director of Corporate Affairs, Mr. Kunle Akogun, said: “Having gone round the campus, you can testify that there is no single abandoned project at the University of Ilorin”.
According to him, “This is not a coincidence but the product of a deliberate policy of zero tolerance for abandoned projects”.
He said: “As a policy, the University of Ilorin would rather not embark on a project than abandon it mid-way. We often emphasise to our contractors that we do not condone any project delay or abandonment. That is why we ensure adequate mobilisation for any awarded contract and we pay promptly on job delivery”. Akogun added: “No facility here is rotting away. We have a policy of maintenance culture such that all our buildings are well maintained”.
The other univerisites visited within the project appeared to be suffering from the same problems, like cramped classrooms, lack of appropriate modern education instruments and poor housing conditions.