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Still Crawling Two Years After

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The newly established federal universities in the nine states of the federation are having take-off problems two years after they were established because of inadequate funding and poor infrastructure

| By Augustine Adah | Dec. 2, 2012 @ 01:00 GMT

WHEN President Goodluck Jonathan, established nine new federal universities in February 2011, to give opportunities to the young school leavers who could not gain admission into the existing universities, it was a cheering news to many of them. But nearly two years after, many of the universities are yet to commence academic session due to poor funding. The universities were established without existing structures that could facilitate their early take-off.

The universities are located in Keffi, Nasarawa State, Wukari in Taraba State, Otuoke, in Bayelsa State, Oye, in Ekiti State. Others are Dutse, in Jigawa State, Lokoja, in Kogi State, Kashere, in Gombe State, and Ndufu-Alike Ikwu, in Ebonyi State. For example, the Federal University, Lokoja, has shifted it resumption date more than two times and from every indication, the university may not start its academic programme this year. When RealNews visited the temporary campus of the institution located at the former Government Science Secondary School, behind Specialist Hospital, Lokoja, contractors were seen renovating some structures which would serve as lecture halls and hostels. Most of the structures were inherited from the school.

Last July, when Ruqquayat Rufai, minister of education, visited the school, Abdulmumini Rafindadi, professor of medicine and the vice- chancellor, enumerated some problems facing the school. They included lack of capital vote, what to do with private residential houses located within the premises of the school and insufficient structures. Although Rafindadi was happy for the money got from Educational Trust Fund, ETF, which enabled the institution to commence renovations of some buildings in the school, he urged the government to consider the school for more funds in view of the enormous work to be done. The vice- chancellor promised at that time that the institution would commence academic session last September. But when RealNews visited the institution last September, there was no date fixed for the resumption of the school. All efforts to get the vice- chancellor to speak on the matter failed because he insisted that he would only speak on appointment.

As at last August, structures were still being renovated at Taraba State Polytechnic, Wukari, which would serve as the temporary campus of the Federal University, Wukari. Geofrey Okogbaa, vice-chancellor of the university, did not mince words when he told Rufai that lack of enough resources would cripple the operation of the school. He therefore solicited the intervention of the ministry of education in the area of provision of classroom furniture, library equipment and also funding of the master plan of the university. Most of the structures presently in the school were donated by the state government.

?Although the new university in Ekiti State was not exempted from funding problem, dispute over where the university should be sited, has delayed the commencement of academic session severally. The federal government sited the university at Oye-Ekiti, but that decision does not go down well with the people of Ikole, who felt that the institution should have been located in the city. The disagreement went on for a long time until the federal government intervened by making Oye the main campus while Ikole was granted permission to run some courses.

The Federal University, Otuoke, the home town of President Jonathan, was slated to take-off on October 6, after several postponements. It is the only one among the nine universities that can boast of good structures to give the pioneer students some little comfort.?The university, through the collaborative efforts of indigenes of the state, organised a N3billion educational appeal fund for the take-off of the new institution.

This, perhaps, has buttressed the fear of many Nigerians that the new universities may not enjoy the needed facilities that may qualify them as federal universities because of the challenge of releasing enough money for their proper take-off.

While the schools are struggling to live to up their billing as citadels of learning, some parents have also vowed that no matter the problem they may encounter, getting admission for their wards in the older universities is the best way to go. They vowed not to send their children to any of the new universities which they described as the fourth generation. One of such parents is Timothy Akande, an indigene of Osun State. He said no amount of frustration would make him send his first daughter, who would be graduating from secondary school next year, to any of the new universities. I cannot send my children or wards to any of those universities that were established on political ground without adequate financial provisions, he said. Similarly, David Agada, a business man in Lagos, is of the view that it would take the next 10 years before the new universities would have facilities befitting a federal university.

But Rufai has allayed the fear of Nigerians over the new universities explaining that gradually the schools would overcome the teething problems usually associated with new institutions.

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