Education is said to be the bedrock of any society, it plays a very crucial role in human development. That is why countries like Canada are educationally on top with 56.275 followed by Japan with about 50.50% among others while Chad is the least educated country in the world according to Google with only about 22.31% of its population able to read and write as at 2016. In Nigeria, about 60% of the young population have secondary education as of 2020 while only 17% have achieved post-secondary education.
Even though in Nigeria, as at January 25, 2022 according to UNICEF, there were about 18.5 million out of school children but for Bayelsa according to UNESCO, the state has about 62% literacy level courtesy of the efforts of the likes of the former governor, Henry Seriake Dickson. He established some universities and other institutions of higher learning. One of them is the University of Africa Toru Orua, the Bayelsa Medical University and the Bayelsa Polytechnic, Alaebiri among others.
Wide range of degree programmes
Impressively in less than five years, the university is already enjoying approval for a wide range of degree programmes, including business administration,, educational management, engineering, health sciences, agriculture, accounting, banking and finance, biochemistry, biology, chemistry, computer science, economics, English language, fisheries and aquaculture, guidance and counselling, history and international studies, hotel management and tourism, industrial relations and personnel management, linguistic and Nigerian languages, mass communication, mathematics, microbiology, physics, political science, public administration and theatre arts. For the University of Africa, Toru Orua, established in 2017 by Dickson, it has been a slow but steady journey as the university has already matriculated the fifth set of entrants which took place on July 13, 2022 at the university’s multipurpose hall. To prepare fully for the fifth matriculation ceremony, it had organised a public lecture the week before with the theme: ‘Utilizing untapped research funding opportunities, an imperative for innovative research in the university system.” Bayelsa State Governor Douye Diri used to the occasion to urged federal agencies such as the Tertiary Education Tax Fund (TETFUND) and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) to support the state in the funding of research projects by its tertiary institutions.
Stepping up research
Represented by his Deputy, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo at the event, the governor also charged the state-owned institutions of higher learning to redouble their efforts to tap research funds lying idle at the NCDMB and other public-spirited corporate bodies. The governor had emphasised the importance of research in tertiary education and the overall development of society, noting that what makes an educational institution to stand out is the quality of its research works. The Bayelsa governor also called on the state-owned universities to spread their nets wide enough to explore opportunities like endowments and exchange programmes with other institutions to enable them raise funds for meaningful research projects.
Pouring encomiums on his predecessor Henry Seriake Dickson, Diri commended him for his vision in establishing the university which he noted has started contributing to the educational advancement of the state. Giving the lecture, Ambassador Godknows Boladei Igali, explained that the progressive march of knowledge in all fields of learning had been made possible by research pointing out that research was the most important component and goal of the university system.
He advocated a paradigm shift to fund the universities, especially in the area of research calling on the universities, in the face of dwindling funding from government, to explore such options as educational endowments, alumni associations, partnership with industries and linkages with other universities within and outside the country, to raise funds for research. Earlier in his remarks, the Vice Chancellor of UAT, Professor Kingston Nyamapfene, applauded the Faculty of Basic and Applied Sciences for organising the public lecture, noting that the public lecture was a clarion call on all stakeholders, especially government, to invest more resources in research and development to meet the manpower needs of the university system and society at large. And at the matriculation proper where more three hundred students matriculated for the 2021/2022 academic session, Professor Nyamapfene had advised them that they should improve themselves not only by knowledge but by the way they relate to people. Reading his creed to the students he said it was an opportunity for people with new ideas and new ways of doing things to come into the community and hopefully enrich it intellectually and in other ways.
Appeal to fresh students
He continued: “Of course, our hope is that those also represent an important milestone in the lives of the young people who, today, shall be affirming their commitment to join the global community of scholars and by its rules, tenets and principles. “It therefore, should be a moment for celebration and reflection as you chart a path to your own futures. That moment of reflection is also a moment for me and others to briefly share with you some tips and bits of advice on how to achieve your objectives and realise your dreams.
“You are here to learn by way of knowledge, we hope you will gain from your classes; to learn how to live and work with others, to learn to respect and value your total environment and to respect others and become worthy of the respect of others. “Learning should make you understand yourself, your environment and even develop the ability to imagine environments you have never seen before. It should make you a better person, not only by way of knowledge but the way you relate to the rest of humanity.
It should equip you with values that highlight our individual responsibilities, to each other, to our families and communities and to the rest of humanity. “I hope your final goal goes beyond walking out of here with a piece of paper that says you now have a degree, but that you will have become a truly educated person, who has acquired a greater sense of humanity and humility, as well as an understanding of your selected subject matter in a way that will enable you to have an unending thirst for knowledge, truth and integrity.
“If you really know how to learn, you will listen to what is taught to you in class and ask yourself if you understand it. If not, then ask for clarification; seek ways to get familiar with what you are being taught or being expected to know. Compared to education just 30 years ago, you now have an incredibly easy way to gain knowledge, to learn new things and to understand what you are not clear about.
“You all spend a great deal of time online, but how much of that do you use to educate yourselves, not just about the subjects for your degree, but about what’s going on in the world in general, current affairs, in science, in business, in politics. Unless you expose yourselves to that broad wealth of information and imbibe it with interest, you will leave the university with a degree but no education.
“Do not wait until you complete your studies to start thinking about what you will do with your education. You should think about that every day, because that will make it a habit for you to think and learn new things almost every day and to take advantage of your current environment as a place from which you can tap so much knowledge that, by the time you leave, you have become competent to apply different kinds of knowledge to new situations. “I am challenging you as young Africans to ask yourself to what extent our continent is a contributor to these forms of knowledge and for you to think of your education as a bridge to take you to that new world where we can rely on our own intellectual capital to solve problems that are of a peculiarly African nature. Let us not be consumers only, but strive to become creators of knowledge, inventors and discoverers.
“It’s not impossible, all around the world, we have scientists, engineers and mathematicians who are doing leading work in those hi-tech environments. We need to also bring that home and have people in our universities who are filled with the desire and equipped with the skills to significantly contribute to the improvement of the human condition.
“I see students only beginning to worry about their GPA or the classification of their degree as they approach their final year and yet, your final CGPA (as the name implies) is cumulative, meaning you build it up from day one and everything you do along the way will affect it. So, why do you want to wait until near the end, to start trying to strive for success or perfection? Your journey will be much easier, if you start now and take everything in your stride, as you go along.”
Banking on a bright future
Speaking to New telegraph, one of the matriculating students, Destiny Onyibe said “I feel nice. It was awesome. The whole thing was short. Everybody that spoke went straight to the point and I learnt a lot. It was really interesting. “In the next four years, I’m expecting to be a graduate with my Bachelor of Science degree with a CGP of 5 or 4.5.” Also, Godwin Nelson Onyeka, of the Faculty of Basic and Applied Science, said: “I feel good and alright because today is just my day. I have been admitted to this school. In the next four years, I’m expecting to come out with first class.”