Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Private universities in Nigeria: Where are the ‘big’ men? - A Rejoinder on the Moral Element


I originally published this on NigeriansTalk.
A rejoinder is necessary
I have not written for NigeriansTalk in quite a while but after reading Salisu Suleiman’s piece titled Private universities in Nigeria: Where are the ‘big’ men? I could not resist the need to comment on a particular part of his article.
By the time I finished writing my comment, I realised I might well have broken an unwritten rule of concision and brevity required of comments that I decided it was best published as a rejoinder-blog to the original article as appears below.
Dear Salisu,
I very well agree with the main drift of this article which is the need to establish more universities, hopefully of academic excellence and qualitative progressive education with far-reaching benefits or endow existing ones to spread opportunity and access in Nigeria.
However, when I got to the part I highlight below, I do have misgivings I must voice.
Also, many families have found to their cost that sending children to schools abroad may not necessarily produce the better students in terms of qualification or moral development – many students sent abroad ended up victims of alcoholism or drug addiction. Having private universities here will help parents monitor their children’s development in person, not through vague progress reports from foreign schools.
This is a generalisation too expressive in stereotype that needs to be challenged. The issue of moral development when put in the context of being at home or abroad is simplistic at best. One had to take exception to this characterisation of foreign academic pursuits that suggests waste, loss and reckless abandon.
Much as many students including Nigerians can be given to social vices abroad, it smacks of cant if that is not juxtaposed with even more serious issues of cultism, abuse of females especially, the shirking of responsibility by academia in terms of incessant strikes, the absence of accountability of authorities for overreach and much else in Nigeria - you castigate serious students abroad too harshly.
The other issue of moral development you allude to in monitoring students is exemplified in the egregious abuse of authority and megalomaniac atrocity accompanied with reprehensible punishments as meted out most publicly by Covenant University and others in that ilk.
These private universities, rather than stimulate development of the mind and the person, tend to diminish the personality and esteem of young adults, creating a glorified secondary school atmosphere of non-inquisitive, non-questioning pliant drones of rote-learning and cloned attitudes of closed-minded conformity.
I say, let universities be mainly institutions of learning, expression and progressive development but leave the moral upbringing to parenthood, community and society at large - the downward trend of converting private universities into fiefdoms and pseudo-borstal homes of presumed innocence in pursuit of academic achievable should be not be encouraged.
It is of the utmost importance that we properly define the purpose of universities and the role of society at large without conflating issues; good moral conduct is generally expected of people in university but morality, no matter how broadly defined and presumed to be essential to our sometimes myopic outlook to life should not suddenly become part of the credit-scoring system of academic attainment.

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