Home OPINION EDITORIAL Atiku Abubakar Takes A Swipe On Current Leaders That Insist On Siting...

Atiku Abubakar Takes A Swipe On Current Leaders That Insist On Siting Universities In Their Villages, Says It Kills Education

Atiku Abubakar
Atiku Abubakar

Former Nigerian Vice President, Atiku Abubakar has deplored the present set of leaders who insist on siting universities in their villages for pure selfish reasons and personal agrandisement.
This, he said, is contrary to what happened in the past where universities were built by the regional governments largely from their resources and “not one of the leaders who conceived of and built these universities, namely Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Chief Obafemi Awolowo,  seriously considered locating them in their villages. Rather, they chose places where they thought would be best suited for such ivory towers and the work done in them and the role they play in the society.”
Atiku, who delivered a keynote address yesterday at the rescheduled 2013 16th Annual Conference of the African Council for Communication Education (ACCE), hosted by the Department of Mass Communication of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, regretted that today, Nigeria is having what he termed, severely weakened states nearly totally dependent on fiscal allocations from Abuja, saying: “I have not come across a serious country that has developed in that way.”
The title of Atiku’s paper was: “Media, Youth and Nigeria’s Development Challenges.”
He further regretted that today, Nigeria has federal ownership of universities and other institutions and that there are clamour for even more federal takeover of more establishments.
“Today we have people, including intellectuals, insisting that the leaders of universities and even the lecturers must come from the states where they are located. This is the kind of negative messaging that we have been exposing our youth to in recent times. And it must stop if we are to be taken seriously in the comity of nations and in the world’s intellectual circles. “Universities ought to be international centres of excellence rather than mediocre enclaves of local champions.”
Atiku insisted that the solution to reversing the backward trend in education is for the system to allow the federating units in Nigeria’s federal system to take autonomous control in its development of education.
“We cannot significantly improve education in this country if we continue with the current overly centralized system with suffocating federal control. Federal schools should be handed over to the states in which they are located and the budgetary resources hitherto expended on them transferred to those state governments.
“The federal government should focus on setting up regulatory standards and enforcing those standards. It will be easier for authorities at the UNN to show the officials in Enugu what life at UNN is really like than officials in Abuja. And it will be easier for those officials at Enugu to hold the leaders of UNN accountable. It will also be easier for the students and the UNN community to demand accountability from their school leaders as they too can easily reach the officials at Enugu.”
Atiku said that the country’s education curriculum needs to be diversified and retooled to make it more adaptive to the country’s current economic challenges, like unemployment and lack of manufacturing capacity.
“In addition to decentralization and geographical diversification, we must also diversify our curriculum and educational programmes. The current one-size-fits-all approach will not help us,” Atiku said.
He stressed that is is critical for the nation’s educational system to have a healthy mix of academic and vocational training to cater for the diverse needs of the youth and the emerging economy.
“I will even go further and say that key industry players should have an input into curriculum design so that there will be more synergy between what our schools produce and the human resource needs of our key employers. This could be in the form of the establishment of specialized schools, with financial and other support from those key and interested private sector players.”
Atiku said that as it is with universities and education, so it is with countries, saying that if Nigerians want to build world class country, they should learn to to do things differently with the media having a critical role to play in that regard.
“What should such a role be? What should be the role of the media in national development; in the empowerment of our youth and children? What kind of messaging from the media can help accomplish those?
“Put differently, how can the media help to advance the interests of our youth and children in the effort at national rebirth or transformation? How can they help our youth to help themselves and our nation?  How can the media help us build an economy for the future that empowers and protects our youth? How can the youth take advantage of opportunities and help transform themselves and the country?”
The former number two man confessed that he is not an expert on media and youth but that he knew a thing or two about how media can help young people to learn and put what they learn to work.
“I am sure that this conference will deliberate a great deal on the role of the media in our society, especially its role in the lives of our youth and children.
“The role of the media in communications, in entertainment, in education and in mobilization carries with it enormous responsibilities. The mass media do not just communicate content, they create content as well. The media often set the agenda for debate, structure the discourse and set the tone (sometimes with help from politicians, of course). This is an enormous amount of power that must be exercised responsibly, especially in a young and emerging democracy such as ours.
We often charge the mass media with promoting national development and national unity, and with protecting our youth.  “That is fine, but as a nation and a people, we need some understanding of and consensus around what must be done to improve the country and the youth before we can realistically charge the media with promoting them.”

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