AUDA-NEPAD canvasses inclusion of ‘genome editing’ in Nigerian university curriculum

Sat, Dec 9, 2023
By editor


THE African Union Centre of Excellence in Science, Technology and Innovation under the aegis of African Union Development Agency-NEPAD (AUDA-NEPAD) is promoting the inclusion of genome editing into the curriculum of Nigerian universities.

AUDA-NEPAD, in collaboration with the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), made submissions at a two-day on workshop on Genome Editing in Abuja.

Genome is all the genetic information of an organism; genome editing is a method for making specific changes to the DNA of a cell or organism; it can be used to add, remove or alter DNA in the genome.

The workshop was organised to strengthen institutional capacity in genome editing and biotechnology through strategic alliances with Nigerian universities and agricultural research institutions.

Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, Director General of the NADBA, said the workshop marked a pivotal moment in the collective efforts to propel Nigeria’s agricultural sector towards sustainable growth and innovation.

He said genome editing and biotechnology were at the forefront 0f scientific advancements, offering unprecedented opportunities to revolutionalise agriculture.

Mustapha said bringing together the brightest minds from the academia, research institutions and key stakeholders was a pointer that were being positioned to harness the full potential of the technology in the agricultural sector.

Prof. Olalekan Akinbo, Supervisor at the Centre of Excellence in Science, Technology and Innovation, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), explained that genome editing was one of the projects under the Centre.

Akinbo said that despite its huge benefits in the agriculture sector, students knew little or nothing about the technology of genome editing.

He said having genome editing as a course of study would greatly impact students to have a first-hand scientific knowledge as a course and equip them practically to become gainfully employed in that area of discipline.

The supervisor said that when students were taught the genome editing as a course in schools, they would be fully equipped and fortified with a certificate to back up their learning and training.

He said rather than learning on the job, it was important for students to be trained in order to stimulate their interest to understand that the course was relevant for a smart evolving environment.

Akinbo argued that such learning and training would help them acquire the skill before venturing into the job market, which would automatically be ready for them.

He  said sustaining an important, emerging technology such as genome editing required an enhanced knowledge base.

According to him, many students are not aware of such technology because it is not in the curriculum of Nigerian universities.

“So, we brought these vice chancellors, these deans and heads of departments in agriculture, to discuss on the need to bring the science of genome editing into classrooms.

“This means that they have a curriculum that specifies the use of the technology, and it is being offered as one of their courses, which is a conventional way of teaching.

“It is important for them to hear from us; so, that the process can begin which would enable students to become proficient in the science, with certificates to back up their knowledge.’’

He said though universities were under the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC), being autonomous, the vice chancellors and others formed the core group with the power to change the curriculum and make recommendations to the NUC.

Akinbo said the meeting was also to strengthen collaborations between research institutions and universities, which would enable researchers working in research institutions to upgrade their qualifications and rise.

“That is the overarching goal–to improve on collaboration within the country;  to strengthen capacity within universities and research institutions.

“Also, to align the curriculum for them to have a programme that teaches genome editing as a course in their universities and get the approval process.

“`You can see among the participants is NUC; so that it will be part of accreditation at the universities,’’ he said.

Dr Shakirat Ajenifujah-Solebo, acting Director, Genetics, Genomics and Bioinformatics Department of the NABDA, and the focal person for the AUDA-NEPAD Genome Editing initiative in Nigeria, told NAN that the technology was innovative and apt.

“The technology is so precise that it can actually speed up the rate at which products can come out from research and teaching.

“The reason why we are bringing this together is because we know that with the system we operate; the knowledge comes from the universities and the applications are done at the research level.

“But as it is now, the research seems to be running faster than the education because some of these things are new and in other climes, the technology is already being practiced and bringing out products.

“So, we really need to catch up quickly and ensure that Nigeria does not miss out of this technology,’’ Solebo said.

She added that the meeting was also to foster collaboration between universities and research institutions, as genome editing was connected to biotechnology.

Prof. Lawal Bilbis, Vice Chancellor, Uthman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto, and Prof. Julian Osuji, Director, Regional Centre for Biotechnology and Bioresources Research, also spoke at the event.(NAN)


-December 09, 2023 @ 14:44 GMT|