After the elections in 2011, I was invited to Kano State by Governor Kwankwaso to share my ideas with him regarding postgraduate education and how to save cost while sending students abroad. Here’s what I told him: “I came to Kano to give a lecture to individuals. But when I was told that the governor wanted to see me, I said even better. Now, instead of individuals, the government can send hundreds of students abroad.”
One of the first things the governor did was to send 500 students abroad for master’s degrees. Of course, I’m not that immodest to claim credit; the governor might have had that idea long before I visited, but it’s comforting to know that we contributed to, or validated whatever opinions or ideas the governor must have had prior to our conversation.
It is hoped that there are Kwankwasos among the new governors in the north; those who have big ideas concerning education in their states. It is a fact that our schools are overcrowded and our education ideas are archaic and if we want any reasonable expansion in our schools at all levels, we must educate our people en mass at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. And since our local universities are rather hemmed in, we should look towards getting yan Arewa good education abroad.
Towards that end, one of the best news I’ve received this year was sent to me by a friend, Dr. Ibrahim Abdulaziz, who teaches in one of the universities in Malaysia: “Dr. Dooba, my university is currently offering discounts on tuition fees for masters and doctorates for a 3-semester and 5-semester period respectively. At a cost of USD2,000 for masters and USD4,000 for PhD – this is the total amount payable for the entire duration of the above mentioned semesters. I feel it is my chance to reach out to my people to use this opportunity.”
What to do?
Only one thing – they should jump on their executive desks right now and shout alhamdulillah or hallelujah – whichever applies. For I feel this is a life-time opportunity they should grab to educate our people. USD2,000 for a master’s degree on campus, is an offer they wouldn’t get anywhere else. They may get that offer in Nigeria, but the quality of postgraduate education in Nigeria is at best bunk and at worst a waste of time.
Therefore, this is the most affordable offer – for whatever product – that I’ve seen in my life. For N40 million, they can send 100 students to this university – a former PDP governor, I was informed, spent that much on two trips to Abuja.
If you include air fare of about N250,000 return ticket (you’re likely to get volume discount from the airlines) and about N20, 000 monthly upkeep (to cover accommodation, feeding and laundry) for the students, it still isn’t too much.
Some individuals may beg to disagree about sending students abroad, especially now that governments at all levels are short of coins. Whether we allow it or not, whatever we do, we can rely on some people to take the ungenerous view.
However, sponsoring our students overseas for education merits attention. Many who know agree, unanimously, that the prevailing understanding of scholarship (subjecting students to suffering divorced from learning) in our universities (wherever Nigeria got it from) has run its course. Other people do not do that. Even here, it appears the night is yielding its hold and darkness is beginning to scatter on that wicked thinking, due mainly to a crop of scholars who travelled abroad for their postgraduate education. But we need more.
During an interview in Malaysia, a former vice chancellor of the famous Putra University told me that in the 1970s and 1980s, Malaysia fashioned a deliberate policy to send its citizens abroad. “At a point,” he said, “Malaysia had the largest foreign student body in the US.” That’s not all, many of them were also in Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Now we can see the effect of that human capital investment: infrastructure that compares with the best in the world, an economy that keeps growing at over 5 percent for four decades, a tourism sector that attracts 20 million tourists to a nation of 28 million people and an expansive education system that draws students from Africa, Asia and even Europe.
We want the same in Arewa. Say we target 10,000 graduate degrees in four years?
What about quality?
My friend Dr. Wushishi, who recently travelled to the U.S for postdoctoral research, called me to say: “What Malaysians are doing is impressive. The Americans were surprised that I could already use the equipment they were trying to teach me.” That’s enough said. But this particular university although eight years old, has millions of ringgit in research grant, this, when converted to naira could easily turn to billions. Give me one Nigerian university, public or private, which spends that much on research.
The fact that this is a federal university alone is enough guarantee of quality. The cost is this cheap because the university is pushing for postgraduate students’ population of 7,000. And they want that number because they need to increase their research achievements and be global and regional leaders in a number of areas – they need postgraduate students to achieve those.
Where is the job?
This column has answered this question many times. The economics of human capital holds that you can’t have well-educated individuals who are jobless. Remember the story the VC told of how Malaysia expanded on account of its investment in education?
There are still more questions to answer, therefore this column will be concluded next week. Email me your questions, and I will try to answer them too.
Culled from Daily trust Column
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