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Home arrow General arrow Return A-levels to secondary schools –Prof. Osuntokun
Return A-levels to secondary schools –Prof. Osuntokun PDF Print E-mail
Written by MOTUNRAYO JOEL   
Aug 11, 2013 at 03:41 AM

Prof. Jide Osuntokun
Member, Presidential Advisory Council on International Relations, Prof. Akinjide Osuntokun, expresses concern about the quality of candidates admitted into Nigerian universities in this interview

Recently, the Federal  University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, suspended two professors over plagiarism; how best can we stop illegal use of other people’s work in our educational system?

 Plagiarism is a global phenomenon. Even a global figure, columnist and Cable News Network presenter,Fareed Zakaria, in his latest book was accused of plagiarism for which he had to apologise. It is however the worst offence any university lecturer can commit and if found guilty, they should be sacked or demoted. There are many examples of plagiarism in Nigerian universities and one only hopes that they are being dealt with. One of the ways to stop the act is to publish the names of culprits so that public shame and odium can be visited on them.

Some educationists have said that the education standard in Nigeria is being lowered by various interests in private and public universities. Is this true?

This is not true because private and public universities cannot deliberately lower the standard either of admission or graduation. What is however worrisome is that the quality of candidates admitted into the universities is low. It is sometimes so bad that some students cannot write correct sentences in English language even though they speak the language well. The number of people graduating with first class certificates in some private universities is sometimes staggering. I believe first class certificates should be awarded with caution so that the degrees can be worthy of the respect they deserve. But I do not believe that there is any deliberate policy to lower standards, apart from the fact that the standards of primary and secondary schools in Nigeria is abysmal.

What is your view on the distance learning model?

I believe that distance learning should be encouraged. The number of students who can benefit from a university education in Nigeria is probably 10 times the size of those who are in tertiary institutions, so those who can benefit from distance learning system should be encouraged. This is why the Open University System has come into being as well as the Distance Learning Units of some universities. But like everything in this country, it has to be monitored in order to avoid abuse.

As a professor of history, how relevant is the study of history in Nigeria today?

Development all over the world is about people. Development includes knowledge of the past and the present so that you can formulate policies for the future. Any discontinuity in the three stages of development will render development faulty, if not totally useless. History is about the past as it informs the present and helps to shape the future.

Any society that does not know its own history will be operating in a void and in the dark. This is why we study history. It is a pity that history is not being properly studied or not studied at all in primary and secondary schools and this may be the reason why our country has no focus and vision and why there is little morality in our public life. We seem to live for today without sense of monuments and legacies for the future.

You cannot be a citizen in the US, Canada or in any of the Western democracies without going through the rudiments of history. This does not only apply to new citizens but is part of the growing up process even in these countries. In many countries in the West, history is the foundation of diplomacy, law, journalism and so on.

But why do candidates prefer to make it a second choice when filling university admission forms?

Candidates make the study of history as second choice in Nigeria because there is a deliberate policy by education planners, who are mostly driven by enthusiasm than by wisdom, to relegate history into the background. There have been attempts to review this ignorant policy and one hopes this would be done soon so that good students who would help shape the future of this country and give it confidence, personality and development would choose to study history.

What loopholes have you noticed in our education system now, which weren’t there during your university days?

Significant changes need to be made to our educational system especially at the primary and secondary levels so that the quality of intakes into the tertiary institutions can be vastly improved. The Higher School Certificate programme or Advanced Level programme should be returned to our secondary schools so that by the time students enter into the university, they are mature and ready to learn.

The current situation where 15-year-old candidates enter into universities is making it difficult for young people to have correct perspective of what higher education is all about. In my generation, when I entered the University of Ibadan, I was already 21 and left at 24. I was already mature and by the time I was 28, I already had a PhD and could compete with anybody in the world and hold my own. But what do we have today, our students graduate sometimes at 19 or 20 and anyone who graduates at 24 will be referred to as Methuselah nowadays.

Our certificates were respected all over the world and people with Second Class Upper Honours certificate like myself who went abroad were registered straight for PhD without having to take Master’s degree. But today, our certificates are almost worthless because of the constant strikes by the Academic Staff Union of Universities. They are disregarded by postgraduate schools and employers abroad and possibly at home. Yet in a globalised world, we should be educating people for the global market and not just the Nigerian market. This is why I insist in Redeemer’s University that students in my Department of History and International Relations must speak and write French because when they graduate, I want them to be able to take jobs in the United Nations system.

If you could have a one on one talk with the Minister of Education, what would be your advice to her?

The revival of the educational system in Nigeria must be total, from primary, secondary to the tertiary level. It will not be a matter of money, but of change in attitude. Money will be required in order to provide the right infrastructure. I am personally ashamed to see the physical structure of primary schools in Nigeria. Our people should go to Southern Africa to see primary schools whose buildings would put to shame some of our so-called universities. If I had to advise the Federal Ministry of Education, I would ask the ministry to call an education summit so that we can have a blueprint and programme of action to review our curriculum as well as our infrastructure and how to build a school system for the 21st century in which classrooms will have to be wired or IT-driven, something that is taken for granted abroad.

On a personal level, what are your latest achievements?

I believe I was one of the first academics to see the importance of biographies in historical understanding in Nigeria. Scholars abroad like A.J.P. Taylor and Alan Bullock, distinguished Professors of History in England who are now dead, have written great books on biographies. It is also a common tradition in England for distinguished politicians to write biographies of themselves, which we call autobiographies and not hagiographies written by hack writers to celebrate people without distinctions.

I have been involved in writing several biographies since I ventured into this line. These will include the late S.L. Akintola, Sir Kasheem Ibrahim, Oba Jimoh Oyewunmi (Ajagungbade III, the Soun of Ogbomoso) and recently a book on Augustus Bandele Oyediran, a foremost educationist and the first African Principal of Methodist Boys High School, the first Nigerian High Commissioner to Sierra Leone and the first Nigerian Students Officer of Nigeria in London and the man who opened the Nigerian Mission in Washington DC. He also happened to be the father of Professor Kayode Oyediran, a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan. I have also contributed a chapter to a book celebrating the Centenary of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and I am involved with Professor Biola Omolewa and others in celebrating the life of Professor J.F. Ade Ajayi, a foremost and distinguished historian by writing a book that will be published next year. I am also on the lecture circuit and giving convocation lectures as well as lectures under the auspices of Nigerian Society of International Affairs. I gave the last annual lecture entitled “A Hegemon in a Peripheral Region: The Future of Nigerian Foreign Policy,” which was well acclaimed and has been published as a booklet. In spite of my age, I am an exceptionally busy man and a man the French would call “L’Homme Engage.” As supposed, with age comes ripeness, experience and maturity, this is why people seek my views and invite me to give public lectures and to God be the glory.

What is the current ranking of RUN in Nigeria and Africa?

Redeemer’s University is ranked fourth best among private universities in the country and 25th overall among the universities in the country. We should be moving to our permanent site within the next one year and it is our aim and ambition to be the best university in this country and one of the best, not only in Africa but in the world; that is our mission and vision.

Our graduates have no problems getting into postgraduate schools abroad and getting their masters after 12 months without having to pass through the humiliation of a make-up year that graduates of Nigerian public universities are subjected to.

What research breakthroughs are coming from professors at various departments and faculties in Redeemer’s University, where you also lecture?

 As for research breakthroughs in Redeemer’s University, we are still at a young stage in our history; we are only eight years old and we are still grappling with building a first class institution permanently located in Ede rather than our current temporary site in the Redeemed Christian Church of God Camp. For now, our lecturers are primarily involved in teaching and imparting knowledge to the young charges that come under us. Researches that are going on are mostly researches that the lecturers brought from their various universities into RUN. The research fund that we have here is quite generous, but unfortunately like in many Nigerian universities, few people are accessing it because of over-work, classroom teaching and supervision of projects. There are some breakthroughs in the Physical and Chemical Sciences as well as in our Biological Sciences and we are particularly strong in the area of Virology and Physics. We have collaboration with offshore universities, including Harvard University in the US.


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Last Updated ( Aug 11, 2013 at 03:52 AM )
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