by Niyi Akinnaso
When I applied for admission to the university in the 1960s, I knew nobody. There was no godfather or godmother. Neither my parents nor my older siblings could assist me, because they were all stark illiterates. As the first person in the entire Akinnaso lineage to ever go to school, I was virtually on my own. Without any guidance whatsoever, I applied for direct entry admission to the University of Ibadan and the University of Ife, after passing the required General Certificate of Education (Advanced Level) papers at the end of my first year of the Higher School Certificate class. I was admitted by both institutions, each one acting independently and without recourse to a superior authority. Ife, then, was a regional university, while Ibadan was federal. I chose to go to Ife to read English. The rest is history.
I told my admission story to a senior female civil servant, who approached me last year for assistance in getting her daughter admitted to study law at the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko. She listened attentively to my story and replied: “That was then, sir. The country has changed. You have to know somebody who knows somebody in order to get things done.” I’m sure she did not like my next statement: “It’s people like you, who beg around, that caused the country to change”. She was not done: “No sir, it’s the system”.
There really is plenty of blame to go round, just as there are many sharers of the blame, including the students and their parents; the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board; the universities; the Federal Government; and the society at large. But my focus today is the government, which is now like that wild elephant, reported in the media recently, which killed an admirer who wanted to take a selfie with it.
The Federal Government has been known to be the enemy of quality tertiary education in this country. It has earned that status by (1) over-centralising the institutions, procedures and regulations governing the activities of the universities and then starving them of the resources needed to carry out those activities. Even where some resources are available, such as the tertiary education funds, the procedures for accessing them are again over-centralised.
In a distinguished lecture, titled ‘Education sector in crisis’, given by Professor Ladipo Adamolekun at the Joseph Ayo Babaloa University in 2012, over-centralisation was one of the three major causes of the crisis in the education sector, the other two being implementation failure – due largely to inadequate funding – and the de-emphasis of the value of education, including quality decline in the teaching profession.