Ayeleru: Within the next nine years, the United Nations (UN) expects the fulfilment of its Vision 2030 on promotion of sustainable development. It identifies 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) and arranged them in a manner that is suggestive of their importance in the human society. The vision includes quality education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.
However, Director-General/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Nigeria French Language Village (NFLV) Ajara-Badagry, Lagos State, Prof Babatunde Ayeleru, has identified the number four goal, which is ‘quality education’ as the mother of the rest of the goals.
He made the observation in a paper, entitled: ‘Repositioning Nigeria Universities Towards Sustainable National Growth and Development,’ organised by the Global Alumni Association of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State, to commemorate the 60th Founder’s Day Anniversary of the institution, held on the campus of OAU recently.
According to him, “On a careful examination of all identified goals, (quality) education naturally presents itself as the most central to the existence and relevance of the other goals. I also feel that, of all layers of education, the university level remains the most responsive to the fourth UN-decreed goal. It is important, therefore, for this discourse to focus on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).
“In the main, ESD seeks to promote development of the knowledge, skills, understanding, values and actions required in entrenching a sustainable world, which will ensure environmental protection and conservation, promote social equity and encourage economic sustainability.”
Ayeleru, particularly x-rayed the contributions of the Nigerian universities to the sustainable national growth and development of the country. He identified some factors militating against the universities from living up to their expectations. He concluded that the university system must be repositioned if the ivory towers would be at the centre of national growth and development. He mentioned corruption, outdated library-holding, lack of funding, and inadequate human resources as major banes of quality assurance and accreditation, capable of repositioning the universities and other Higher Education institutions (HEIs) in Nigeria.
According to him, “A repositioned university is ready and competent to turn around the fortune of a nation. The world is changing fast now, and this dynamism is premised on socio-economic, political, and technological advancement. If our universities are properly positioned, it will become easy for them to boost the expected national sustainable growth.”
He stated that for the Nigerian universities to enhance national sustainable development, there is need for a regular and consistent repositioning of the country’s HEIs. Ayeleru noted that the fundamental tools required for the repositioning include quality assurance, which encompasses programmatic and institutional accreditation, external examination system, students’ support programmes, as well as staff and students’ discipline. “There should be an automated system in place to motivate all vices militating against sustainable development: corruption, academic fraud, examination malpractices, oppression, harassment in any form, caucus-inclined system of governance, tribalism, favouritism, and self-centredness. “Heads of HEIs must always remember that the positions of Vice Chancellor, and Director -CEO of universities and inter-university centres respectively, are held in trust and must be seen as a call to national service. As professors, selected from a pool of equally very qualified professors, we should recognise that we have been given the grace to represent, not only our colleagues, but the entire constituency and the education family. “I recognise the danger often poses by sycophants and the ‘friends-of-the-office’, we must arrive at all times to rise above their antics to be able to harness the avalanche and quantum of human and material resources at our disposal for the sustainable development of our universities.”
Ayeleru stated further that the government has been seen to be doing its best, saying “there is always room for improvement. The United Nations’ recommendation of allocation of 26 per cent of the annual budget to education is attainable and doable. I appeal to governments at all levels to prioritise the education sector to erase the task of the sector’s repositioning for excellence and national development.
“I must commend the Federal Ministry of Education and it’s regulatory agencies for their persistent quest for standard and quality assurance by way of regular training, facilitation of funding, among others.
“The universities’ Governing Council, in addition to their statutory functions of the highest decision making, maintenance of discipline, control of assets, and expenditure of the universities, they should also use their cast influence, ‘affluence’ and experience to source funds for the institutions to enable them perform optimally in national development. The government that owns these universities, I believe, has carefully put the council together in order to perform these onerous assignments for our beloved country.”
Universities, he said further, should begin to aggressively re-interrogate the issues of the environment and the need to create an eco-friendly university system. He added that digitization is a determining factor in the sustainable development process, saying it is central to the operation of the 17 United Nations’ sustainable development goals because all innovations’ drive rests on Information Communication Technology (ICT).
“The staff and indeed the trade unions must contribute collectively to the repositioning and development of the universities for national sustainability. Unions must begin to put the survival and development of the universities in the prime position. The student body has a very big role to play in repositioning our universities for sustainable national development. Parents’ roles in the smooth running and sustenance of the universities cannot be overemphasized. The alumni association must further intensify its culture of giving back to the alma mater.
“Universities must live by example and tower above all sectors of human endeavours. The Ivory Tower must truly tower above all in the process of our national rebirth, political emancipation and cultural decolonization. Nigerian universities must refuse to be tools of national mismanagement in the hands of the politicians. If we must achieve this, we must win back the lost glory of the Ivory Tower.”