Education

OAU’s renewed strides to reposition varsity

Pro-Chancellor: Council to nurture seed of learning, academic

 

ANNIVERSARY

As the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) last week flagged off activities to mark the Diamond anniversary of the institution, to the authorities the celebration would open a new vista for redirection and repositioning of the ivory tower

 

˜Alumni flay poor infrastructure, municipal utilities on campus

˜VC: Despite challenges, varsity’ll sustain quality, standard

 

Against all odds and challenges confronting university education in the country in recent times, the authorities of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, have restated determination to reposition the 60-year-old university to deliver and sustain high academic standards.

 

This is as the university, formerly known as the “University of Ife,” which is 60 years old, this year, has rolled out the drums to celebrate the Diamond anniversary of its establishment and for keeping faith with the dream and aspirations of the founding fathers.

 

Established by the Western Region Government, led by the Premier, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo on June 8, 1961, the institution commenced academic activities in October 1962.

 

The ivory tower, which has as vision and mission “to nurture a teaching and learning community; advance the frontiers of knowledge; engender a sense of selfless public service; and add value to African culture through production of quality graduates for the development of the country, opened its doors to the 244 pioneer students and 64 members of academic staff, comprising 15 senior administrative and technical staff in five faculties.

 

Located on 2,020 hectares (5,000 acres) of land, the university was later renamed “Obafemi Awolowo University” in honour of one of the founding fathers and first Premier of the Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo on May 12, 1987.

 

Flagging off the Diamond anniversary, which will be climaxed with the 45th convocation of the institution in December this year, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede, while addressing during a press conference organised to flag off the anniversary, said the university presently has over 25,000 students and more than 4,000 members of staff, comprising academic and non-academic staffers.

 

With its motto: “For Learning and Culture,” the Vice-Chancellor, however, said that the university till present, despite the challenges, had continued to sustain quality standards in the area of     delivery of qualitative university education as one of the leading universities, and the most sought after for admission seekers.

 

But, to consistently sustain the vision of its founding fathers, he said: “The university would continue to strive for excellence and keep faith with its core mandate in line with its mission and strategic objectives. We are very confident that OAU will continue to move rapidly to higher levels, particularly with the support from highly experienced and accomplished professionals.”

 

According to the Vice-Chancellor, the research profile or accomplishments, as well as the global positioning of the university alumni, had continued to serve as veritable confirmation of the eminent placement of OAU as a leading university.

 

But, stakeholders are not too happy with the performance of OAU on the Webometric Ranking and other international ranking organs, lamenting that for the university not to rank among the best in Africa and the world is something that will continue to raise questions.

 

Meanwhile, the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Governing Council, Owelle Oscar Udoji, while basking in the euphoria of the accomplishments so far recorded by the university, insisted that the university had every cause to celebrate the impeccable growth and giant strides, as well as the valiant contribution to the universe of knowledge.

 

He described the Diamond anniversary and 60 years of the existence of OAU as “sixty lofty steps with incredible generational footprints; sixty years of sublime legacies; sixty years of innovative leadership and excellent scholarship.”

 

Udoji, who insisted that the anniversary is to renew, re-invigorate and re-dedicate the Council’s commitment towards nurturing the seed of learning and culture that the  university embodies. He, however, assured stakeholders and members of the university community that the Council would leave no stone unturned in working with and supporting the university administration to attain its loftier heights.

 

“We are more than determined to contribute to uplifting this institution from greatness to more greatness,” Udoji stressed, even as he paid special tribute to the foresight and dedication of the founding fathers of the university for birthing what he described as “a truly world class university (Great Ife).”

 

He, however, noted that the vision of the founding fathers of the university has continued to reproduce catalysts and change agents that are transforming the society in various fields.

 

Though regretting that the public university system in the country is at a major crossroads, the Pro-Chancellor pledged the readiness of the Council to foster a better public university system; the type that is well-positioned to train world-class manpower for the country through cutting-edge teaching and learning.

 

“We would want a public university system that is at the forefront of responding to and tackling the myriad challenges of national development,” Udoji added, saying that achieving this is a responsibility of the government and also that of every stakeholder in the university project.

 

According to him, the challenge of revamping the Nigerian University System (NUS) in order to make it responsive to the changing imperatives of the 21st Century is too important to be left to the government, and certainly too dangerous to be left in private hands unregulated.

 

He, therefore, called on all stakeholders, government and citizens to rise up to the task of pulling the universities back from the brink, noting specifically that the alumni of the university have a critical role to play in this direction.

 

Tracing the university’s trajectory in the past 60 years, the Vice-Chancellor said that the university had continued to showcase greatness in terms of provision of state-of-the-art infrastructure, physical development and meaningful contribution to the education sector over the years.

 

To him, this is also evident in the quality of graduates, including the Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, among other numerous eminent alumni produced in various fields of life by the university.

 

According to Ogunbodede (the 11th substantive Vice-Chancellor of the institution), OAU was the first university to commence the Faculty of Pharmacy in West Africa, as well as the Department of Chemical Engineering, Technology Production and Development Unit and the first campus with Intranet/Internet facility in the country.

 

The Vice-Chancellor, who vowed that OAU would sustain its leading position, however, said the university has continued to contribute to the academics in its two colleges, 13 faculties and 94 academic programmes, institutes and centres.

 

This include the Centre for Distance Learning; Centre for Gender and Social Policy Studies; Institute for Entrepreneurship and Development Studies; Institute of Cultural Studies; Institute of Ecology and Environmental Studies; Institute of Education; Institute of Public Health; African Institute of Science, Policy and Innovation and the World Bank assisted African Centre of Excellence in Software Engineering.

 

Thus, in the area of linkage and academic collaborations, OAU which is also host to a number of national and international collaborations such as the Centre for Energy Research and Development (CERD); National Centre for Technology Management (NACETEM); Regional Centre for Training in Aerospace Surveys (RECTAS); and Institute of Agricultural Research and  Training (AR&T), Moor Plantation in Ibadan.

 

As part of a commitment to reposition the university to be more relevant to the 21st Century challenges in terms of quality tuition and cutting-edge research, no fewer than five newly developed undergraduate programmes had successfully passed the stages of National Universities Commission (NUC) Resource Verification and Accreditation.

 

The courses are BSc. Entrepreneurial Studies; B.Ed Adult & Lifelong Learning; B.Ed Educational Management; Bachelor of Science in Surveying and Geoinformatics; Bachelor of Science in Business Management, and the Bachelor of Library and Information Science. Ogunbodede listed the seven other courses awaiting resource verification of the agency to include B.Tech in Aeronautical Engineering; B.Sc Mass Communication; B.Sc in Broadcast Journalism; B.Sc in Film Production: B.Sc in Information Science and Media Studies and B.Sc in Human Nutrition and Dietetics.

 

To further push the frontiers of knowledge, OAU, according to the Vice-Chancellor, currently has over 250 agreements/Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with institutions and organisations within and outside the country.

 

Also worthy of note, according to Ogunbodede, is the fact that the university has produced about twothird of all Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs); the first African Nobel Laureate and six Nigerian National Merit Award winners in its 60 years of quality training and production of highly mobile graduates.

 

Under the research profile, Ogunbodede recalled that the university pioneered kidney transplant in 2002 in Nigeria; and the first Renal Transplantation to be undertaken by a team of indigenous surgeons in any public institution in the country, while the first Siamese twins separation in sub-Saharan Africa was carried out at OAUTH, a feat which has been successfully repeated by the university.

 

Also, the institution has repeatedly carried out successful Cochlear implantation in the Otorhinolaryngology Unit of the university, through medical research facilities embodied in the sprawling Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospitals Complex, comprising Ife State Hospital, the Wesley Guild Hospital, Ilesha, and Comprehensive Health Centres, as well as the Multi-disciplinary Laboratories at the main university campus, while Departmental laboratories are also wellequipped for cutting-edge research.

 

Meanwhile, the Vice-Chancellor noted that members of staff have continued to attract research grants to bolster the university’s profile for cutting-edgeresearchandinnovations.

 

Some of the research grants attracted for equipment and research materials through the university’s partnership, include the African Private Business Enterprise, and the Future Leaders African Independent Research (FLAIR) Fellowship run by the African Academy Sciences (AAS) in partnership with the Royal Society, and supported by the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund.

 

 

Between 2010 and 2020, the university, the university revealed, won several external research grants in four categories, which are 20 grants amounting to $12.583.291.54; 13 grants amounting for 383,381.05 Pounds; seven grants amounting to €576,515.48 and another 18 research grants in the sum of N815,526,741, while the university is collaborating with various international partner institutions in Europe, USA, Canada and Germany.

 

Ogunbodede also noted that the university has about 24 significant inventions and patents obtained by the university researchers from 2016 till date, and other laudable physical development such as the ongoing construction of an airstrip, which is capable of serving as a training ground for the newly established Aeronautic Engineering programme. Most recently, the global competition of the COVID-19 African Rapid Grant fund of the National Research Foundation (NRF) and Research and Innovation Support and Advancement (RISA) for 2020 higher institutions was awarded to three academic staff of the university.

 

Despite the laudable achievements recorded by the university in the last 60 years, there are numerous challenges facing the institution, which in no small measure, have continued to hinder its performance and progress. Major in these challenges, according to the Vice-Chancellor, are inadequate funding of the university, as well as erratic electricity supply and poor water supply, which the students said had assumed serious issues facing them in their hostels.

 

But, piqued by the challenge of poor electricity supply, the Vice- Chancellor, however, disclosed that efforts were ongoing to solve the problem, saying: “The Rural Electrification Agency (REA) 8.03MW power project for the supply of electricity to the university is ongoing and almost completed.”

 

He added: “This will enable OAU to generate its own electricity. The university has processed and obtained from the Transmission Corporation of Nigeria the marketing license as an electricity distributor, as the first Nigerian university to enjoy the privilege.

 

The aim is to reduce the economic burden of high tariffs and ensure regular electricity supply to enhance its various academic and research activities.” He lamented that the university is paying over N80 million monthly for electricity and additional over N2 million monthly on diesel to power the generators.

 

As part of efforts to address the challenges, Ogunbodede noted that the rehabilitation and upgrading of the Opa Dam, which provides the university’s water needs is progressing, saying the project has been supported by the contract awarded by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources in 2019.

 

Similarly, on staff welfare, he noted that the university had embarked on a Staff Housing Scheme as part of its effort to improve staff welfare, saying that the project, as being proposed, would be on 124.407 hectares (305 acres) of land which had already been acquired.

 

To tackle the challenge of shortage of student hostels confronting the university,

 

Ogunbodede said that “construction of hostels under Phase 3 of the Students’ Village Project is progressing,” while the construction of seven public toilets for male and female students is also ongoing. In spite of the fact of the modest achievements recorded, the Vice- Chancellor insisted that funding has been a major challenge facing the university, as the Federal Government subvention has been grossly inadequate for running the university.

 

Towards this end, he said the university had been able to sustain its research activities essentially through foreign grants, which according to him, has helped in a long way in advancing the research culture of the university. He said: “The irregular and insufficient financial allocation to the university by the Federal Government has affected service delivery and capability in teaching, research and community social responsibility.

 

There has been a persistent shortfall in personnel costs. The declining government’s subvention and the pressure of expansion, coupled with the unwillingness of students to pay commensurate tuition fees, worsened by the ageing infrastructure, and this has necessitated the need to explore alternative funding sources.”

 

On his part, the President, Great Ife Alumni Association Worldwide, Wale Olaleye, also flayed the poor state of facilities and municipal utilities on campus, recalling that “when we were there, electricity was good, water was good, but things have changed negatively now.”

 

Against the backdrop of these challenges, he commended the university management saying that “they have done tremendously well and that they have fulfilled the mission of the founding fathers, as the university has continued to provide manpower, not only in Nigeria, but all over the world.”

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