Don’t Generalise On Employability Of Nigerian Varsity Graduates – Dr. Brown | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Don’t Generalise On Employability Of Nigerian Varsity Graduates – Dr. Brown

Posted: Jun 17, 2015 at 12:19 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

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Dr. Aniekan Brown is the Vice-Dean of Student Affairs and Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Uyo chapter. In this interview with SAMUEL OTU-ITA, he speaks on the controversy over quality of graduates produced by Nigerian Universities among other topical issues. Excerpts

What are the major challenges ASUU-UNIYO chapter and how are you engaging these issues?

Essentially, ASUU, UNIUYO is not on its own. It is an affiliate of the national body and so we subscribe to the principles and virtues of our national body and so whatever challenges the national ASUU had will also challenge us.

That suggests that the very essence of our union is built on a life of struggle. Struggle for better welfare, better University education in Nigeria and better Nigeria will by extension encapsulate the challenges that we have.

Power supply within the main campus has been very bad and detrimental to what is expected in a university. The issue of light challenge is peculiar to UNIUYO. Our take is that it is bad. The Union keeps engaging management on some fora. But it boils down to the fact that public power supply is inadequate. And then looking at internally generated power, because of cost, the authority tries to ration which is still not good enough. And so ours as a union is to keep engaging, querying and probing for better electricity supply in the University.

 

It has been alleged that your members in this institution earn lesser than their counterparts in other federal Universities.

Well, the point is that ASUU officially operates in the context of the FG-ASUU agreement of 2009 and beyond some of those allowances that are yet to come. It is not as if we’re being paid less, but you know there are variations in terms of final take home pay. In terms of taxes what people pay varies from one state to another, particularly the volume of income that comes from non- NUC programmes. Our university may not really have the infrastructural capacity to engage very many students in the non- NUC programmes. But for me when I probed into the matter, I realized that certain allowances are internally generated revenue induced. But in terms of FG-ASUU Agreement of 2009, we are in line with other universities, but I acknowledged that there are certain allowances that haven’t yet been paid. That is beyond the individual Universities.

 

As a union leader, what are your expectations of President Muhammadu Buhari?

The position of the Union does not have to do with who is the president. Ours is to press for good governance that is responsible and responsive to the needs of the people and appreciate the realities of the rule of law and make sure we push for government to be responsive and responsible.

The government would have to inherit the assets and liabilities of the previous administration. Some tranches of the 2009 agreement are still outstanding. Ours is to expect that the new administration will attend to all these.

ASUU is a responsible Union and we know there have been series of correspondence with the immediate past FG. Certain structures were put in place to ensure the implementation of the 2009 Agreement and the Union has been engaging those structures. We believe in pushing it to some conclusion and if there is still room upstairs, we go the whole hog. If that still didn’t work, then some other things like strike could happen.

 

Incessant strikes had been the bane of the Nigerian university system and had been blamed for the educational tourism by Nigerians in other lands. What is your take on this?

Well, the know-how will have to be the responsibility of the government because on our part we make recommendations and it will just be one of those. It would not be very true that parents in Nigeria have chosen to send their wards abroad because of incessant strikes.

To my mind that would be unpatriotic. Those who send their children abroad are those who can afford to do so. The percentage of those who sincerely make the money to send their children abroad are very few. I also would know that having regard to the limited number of Universities in Nigeria, we have limited enrolment opportunities.

Many of those who go abroad to read are those who couldn’t make JAMB here after several attempts. In some of those Universities, there is nothing like UTME. There, if you produce your WASC, you are enlisted. That’s how you know.

The real problem is that Nigeria is suffering from certification. If in Nigeria we want to give a Ph.D. holder preference over a first degree holder, then that preference could push Nigerians to wanting to be certificated. Then you have a big influx of people wanting to go into the Universities many of whom may not necessarily be University materials.

Now if other structures of education were in place and the economy has been so jumpstarted to the point that all you need would be some experience, some professional accreditation to get certain job placements in some sectors, then you would appreciate that we may not need more Universities.

But in the face and of millions wanting opportunities available for a few thousands, then the stakes will continue to be high in terms of qualification. The alternative will continue to be for those desperate to get admission to seek opportunities outside the country where they are begging for students to come.

 

It is now fashionable among employers of labour in the country to tag varsity graduates as unemployable – not well groomed to suit the demands of the local labour market. What is the problem?

I may not also agree that it is all about every graduate of Nigerian Universities. I don’t believe that Universities elsewhere would better prepare Nigerians for the Nigerian economy.

Rather, it is Universities in Nigeria that are better placed to train quality people for the Nigerian economy. Again, are we really talking about those who graduated or those their parents aided to get employment? Quality institutions come away with aptitude tests and quality interviews and then they take those that are qualified. It is not about some big man somewhere reserving a space for his relation and immediately the person shows up with his certificate of whatever value, then you appoint the person. I cannot accept that graduates elsewhere would be better.

You can also have junk graduates elsewhere. Even in those days, which you could refer to as the glory days of Nigerian education, I believe there were those who came out with third class, but they were not preferred to those who made First Class or Second Class Upper.

In UNIUYO and in some other universities, we have entrepreneurial and general studies whereby every student undergoes the course. These are attempts at preparing students for the job market in Nigeria but where you have millions churned out in a year, in all fairness; you don’t expect all to be employed at the same time.

Rather, what I would challenge organisations is; rather than generalize that graduates of Nigerian Universities are not employable, let them set up their recruitment structures to screen those who will work for them. Then they will appreciate that we are producing quality manpower from our Universities.

 

Are you satisfied with the level of support the private sector is giving Nigerian universities for research and synergy for development?

Very sincerely I’m not. The gown is really far from the town. The town has allowed the University to be a microcosm of the society with little or no interaction.

As we speak, I don’t know how many companies in Nigeria set aside a percentage of their income to promote research in the Universities. How many of them even have research outfits? Now it is when they do so that they can sit back and expect the outcome of such researches for the betterment of their companies.

A situation where everyone is sitting back and looking up to the government, then if government is weak or poor, every other person suffers is not good enough.