Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja recently attracted eggheads in the academia and business sector. The conference whose theme was on “The State of Higher Education in Nigeria” and organized by Dakota Weslyan University and the Centre for Leadership Studies of Nigeria’s Defence Academy, provided a forum for serious discuss on how well domestic institutions of higher learning are preparing students and graduates for a 21st century economy with its attendant global implications.
As Nigeria’s educational sector grapples with a rapidly growing population of university* bound students, many questions that have given university administrators sleepless nights over the past several years still persist. The million dollar question has remained how to expand capacity without compromising quality, and how to provide access to all prospective students with proper credentials.
The keynote speakers and panelists at the educational conference all agree that a nation-state’s capacity to develop and sustain its development trajectory depends on a well-educated citizenry with a workforce sufficiently equipped with relevant and in-demand skills. But the acquisition of skills is highly dependent on a country’s willingness to devote significant resources in educating its students and creating infrastructures conducive to human-capital development.
Since the early 1980s, Nigeria’s public institutions of higher learning have grown exponentially in number but even the said growth is far below what is needed to accommodate a steadily rising demand, thus making it necessary for many to seek university education in droves outside the country. The equally impressive growth rate of private universities in the country has not slowed the exodus of Nigerian students to foreign universities. Academic experts, professors, students, policy-makers and administrators at the conference stressed the need for a more holistic assessment of Nigeria’s education sector especially in the area of access, and effectiveness of constituent institutions in delivering transformative and responsive education to students.
Some other speakers at the conference pointed out the need for attracting foreign investment in the education sector in the form of partnerships with established foreign universities with advanced educational technologies, and resources that would enhance capacity for domestic universities. The conference took place against the background of many viewing Nigeria as being on cross-roads and in dire need of being a leader in the 21st century willing to prudently investing in human capital development as is the case some other African countries such as Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and Morocco. Most of the identified countries have consistently made higher education a priority, and have seen the benefits in the form of robust economies, and attendant socio-political benefits.
At the conclusion of the conference, Nigerians in the audience applauded Dakota Wesleyan University for hosting the conference, and had a standing ovation for the welcome address which Dr. Novak’s delivered live-streamed from Mitchell, South Dakota, USA.
The conference was graced by a rich audience that included Nigeria’s one time Ambassador to the United Nations, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, Pro-Chancellor of Bayero University, Dr. Amy Novak, President of Dakota Wesleyan University, Professor Ochefu, Secretary-General, Association of Nigerian Vice–Chancellors, Dr. Ekpedeme Udom, Former Nigeria Minister of Prisons, Professor Jennifer Lofkrantz, American University, Nigeria, Professor John O. Ifediora, Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Wisconsin, USA, and many more distinguished speakers. This was in addition to invited panelists that included eminent personalities such as Dr. Kalu I Kalu, Former Minister of Finance, and Professor Chinwe Obaji, Former Minister of Education.