Prof. Toyin Falola of the University of Texas, Austin, United States, has expressed sadness over the enrolment of children of professors at the University of Ibadan, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and others in private universities.
He said the incessant strike by staff unions in public universities is killing education, adding that a system will reform itself if you don’t reform it and that is what the proliferation of private universities is doing now.
According to the historian, public universities have to consciously reform themselves or they will lose the high ground to schools that are efficient.
Speaking during an event held at the UI on Monday to mark his 65th birthday, Falola urged the Academic Staff Union of Universities to look inward and fight corruption and other crimes perpetrated by its members across Nigeria.
He noted that the public university system in Nigeria was facing some challenges and the void created in the process was being filled by private universities.
Warning that private universities could be the future of university education in Nigeria, if ASUU failed to take the necessary step to reform public universities, he said, “It is either the ASUU is on strike or Non-Academic Staff Union is on strike. A system will reform itself if you don’t reform it and that is what the proliferation of of private universities is doing now. We have them everywhere now.
“If the public universities are not careful, the future of the university system will be determined by private universities. The public universities have to consciously reform themselves or they will lose the high ground to schools that are efficient. Even professors at the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University send their children to private universities now.
“This is how human beings respond to challenges. I was part of ASUU when the Ibrahim Babangida military administration threw me into detention. ASUU is good, all the TETfund projects you see on campuses are the products of its agitations. Those of us who left Nigeria in the 1980s, our salaries could only buy a car tyre. ASUU made the salaries to be reviewed.
“What I want ASUU to do now is to reform the public universities from the inside. ASUU is not doing enough against corrupt lecturers, sex for marks by lecturers and so on. ASUU has to deal with the inside and reform the schools from the inside. I appeal to ASUU and all the unions. We cannot turn a four-year degree programme to a seven-year programme.”
While making the clarification that the private universities could not replace public institutions, Falola noted that ASUU remained important because it served as a check on government excesses.
“ASUU can strike but they should not close schools all the time. We cannot do without ASUU so that the government does not act arbitrarily. Private universities cannot replace the public schools because of cost. People talk about high tuition in those schools, but they have to pay for so many things that the public schools get from the government through subvention,” he added.