Rejection of Nigerian trained graduates: Why government should worry


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Apart from the disturbing challenges of insecurity, unemployment, double digit inflation and graduate unemployment among others, the government should pay attention to the quality of graduates produced by Nigerian universities. Surely, the solution to the nation’s numerous challenges cannot be solved by granting approval for the establishment of more universities.

By Anthony Isibor.

THERE is an urgent need to salvage the Nigerian educational system and bring back the long lost glory of the past. The challenges facing the universities should be addressed and fixed. Apart from the concerns over the large number of graduates churned out of the universities yearly and into the labour market, another issue that calls for more concern is the quality of graduates produced by these tertiary institutions.

The problem of education in Nigeria is not merely the absence of universities or the lack of an educated workforce. It is rather the lack of quality. Although Nigerians are very intelligent people, the problem is with the system that has failed to produce graduates that will be relevant and meet the demands of the labour market. And this explains why many employers, especially in the private sector prefer to engage graduates from foreign universities.

Statistics show that Nigerian students overseas come out with high grades which they could have if they studied in Nigerian universities. The education and employability report noted that the collaboration between employers and tertiary institutions in curriculum design and graduate recruitment processes appeared to be inadequate. It revealed that “While graduates view qualification as the most important requirement for getting a job, employers rate skills and attitude as the imperatives,” the report said.

Another issue is that the payment for marks system obtainable in Nigerian universities is a major de-motivation for students willing to study.

Johnson Tunde, a 300 level student in a Nigerian university wonders why he has to stress himself when he can afford to pay for any grade he desires. “In our school today, it is very difficult to find a lecturer who is not involved in accepting payment for grades. Different prize is fixed for different grades. And I am sure it is the same in many other universities,” he said.

Mr. Dele Togunde, a former Registrar and Chief Executive Officer, Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria, ICSAN, said that the weak values system in the country has affected the overall performance of personnel and that the educational standard in other countries encouraged learning. According to him, the nonchalant attitude of students to acquiring knowledge and the pursuit of money rather than excellence in service delivery are common among Nigerians.

“I used to argue that what has affected Nigeria is our value system where we have monetised most things. Nigerians, who are trained in this country, when they get to these foreign countries, they dictate things. The enabling environment over there makes them do well. Our environment is affecting our training and output.

“People want educational qualification, but they don’t want the process of acquiring it. Some of us who are involved in training have discovered that some of them just want to get the certificate without actually acquiring the knowledge,” he said.

However, despite the weak value system, if the present curriculum is followed logically with relevant training in the country, dedicated Nigerians can still acquire relevant knowledge.

“I don’t see any reason why a Nigerian will obtain his or her first degree abroad if we organise ourselves here. The issue is that if people obey the dictates of the curriculum and submit themselves for training, I am telling you that Nigerians will excel.

”The idea of preference for foreign institutions’ graduates against our graduates is born out of the fact that our own environment is tinted with corruption of many sorts. The environment where the graduates from other countries are coming from will not allow students to cheat or practice nepotism.

“Is it not the same society that produced the likes of Prof. Wole Soyinka? Is it not this same society that produced Chinua Achebe and late Mrs. Dora Akunyili of blessed memory?

“We need to re-orientate ourselves, Nigerians should seek knowledge and every other thing will be added to them,“ he said.

With the rate of “sorting” in our universities one would wonder if lecturers are not paid enough. But the issue of payment for grades goes beyond remuneration.

The BBC reports of an investigation on sex for grades proved that it is a prevalent practice in Nigerian universities. A good number of lecturers have been dismissed for accepting sex from female students in exchange for grades too.

While this practice discourages many brilliant students from working hard, it presents the worst students as the best, and makes education even more expensive than it is now.

Another issue is the insufficient number of tertiary institutions that can take the number of students seeking admission into these institutions annually. According to a weekly bulletin of the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board, JAMB, more than 1,223,962 candidates have been registered for the 2021 UTME registration, while 63,586 candidates have been registered for  Direct Entry as of May 23, 2021.

The National University Commission reports that there are about 44 federal universities, 47 state universities, and 75 privately owned universities in Nigeria. There are also 28 federal polytechnics, 48 state owned polytechnics, and 55 privately owned polytechnics all accredited and approved by the National Board for Technical Education in Nigeria, and an additional 22 federal colleges of education, 47 state colleges of education, and 20 private owned colleges of education.

With the National Assembly still debating on the creation of additional institutions of higher learning, Nigeria currently has over 380 institutions of higher learning. Nigeria may boast of having over 380 accredited tertiary institutions in the country, however, this may not be enough to cater for the teeming secondary school leavers admitted yearly into these universities.

Every year, these institutions roll out a large chunk of fresh graduates into the workforce, sometimes with a very high rate of first class, most of which are considered unemployable by employers of labour.

Another factor to consider is the absence of up to date facilities, regular interruption of the academic calendar by industrial actions, and the use of outdated curriculum. The undergraduates are not exposed to the necessary skills required to survive the competitive labour market.

A blogger, Henry Nwachukwu, says that there are indications that companies will continue to prefer foreign certified employees and managers than the indigenous ones. Human resources professionals have shown that graduates with Bachelor’s degree certificate, Master’s degree certificate or professional certificates from foreign universities are more sought after than their counterparts with the same certificates obtained in the country. This has been confirmed by a recent survey conducted by Phillips Consulting, which revealed that “Most employers believe that foreign universities produce graduates with better employable skills than those produced by tertiary institutions in Nigeria. As such, employers in oil and gas and consulting sectors prefer them to graduates from Nigerian universities.

 They noted that this inclination stemmed from the ability of foreign certified graduates to display innovative methods of executing tasks, as a result of what they had been exposed to. In addition, their eloquence and dedication to work are some of the employable skills employers want.”

Neye Enigma, President of Human Capital Association of Nigeria, admitted that the performance of a company is related to the strength of its human capital and that graduates from Nigerian tertiary institutions have not been able to outperform graduates from foreign institutions.

“In terms of quality, we cannot match the foreign graduates. Companies are looking for the best because they know that what they are looking for is human capital, it is not machinery, and it is not finance. I have been in the corporate world and I know. What makes the difference is the human capital.

“An organisation can have equipment and machinery, but if they don’t have the right people to drive them, they will not achieve the right results. Companies, especially multinationals are looking for the best human capital to help them achieve results. The human factor is very vital, therefore anywhere employers can get it, they go for it,” he said in an interview.

“The world has become a global village and they can get the right people anywhere. Like companies in Nigeria, if they compare graduates from foreign universities, especially an American or European university with their Nigerian counterparts, they experience a world of difference,” he added.

He expressed displeasure with the nation’s educational system presently being bedeviled by industrial action, hindering it from producing the best in terms of human capital. He also flayed the poor infrastructure in the country that frustrate educational pursuit and that outdated curriculum, inadequate teaching materials and poor learning environment are impediments.

“In a system where the universities are shut down for 11 months in a year and when they resume, they rush the students, how can we get the best? A system in which we don’t have the right facilities and infrastructure. In the libraries, you find out that there are outdated books and the science laboratories are not well equipped. Will you compare that to a place where everything is available? The electricity to power computers for learning is not regular. Do you compare this with someone who is schooling in an environment where there is regular electricity 24 hours in seven days? Is it a system in which there is small classes of 20 to 30 students, compared to our universities where there are up to 200 students in a lecture hall where students at the back are not listening?” he added.

According to him, the outdated curriculum, limited budgetary allocation to tertiary institutions and siphoning of budgeted funds often hampered the delivery of employable human capital to companies.

For instance, in the 2021 fiscal year, Nigeria’s budget for the education sector was 6.3%, slightly lower than the 6.7%, allocated to the sector in the 2020 budget.

Brand South Africa reports that “South Africa began restructuring its higher education system in 2003 to widen access to tertiary education and reset the priorities of the old apartheid-based system. Smaller universities and technikons (polytechnics) were incorporated into larger institutions to form comprehensive universities.

Today, South Africa invests a considerable amount in education – as it has ever since the end of apartheid. In 2013, for instance, 19.7 percent of the country’s total budget went to education – a relatively high figure by international standards.

It is not surprising that South African schools are placed at the top best schools in Africa

According to a report by Niyi Akinnaso and published in The Nation, Nigerian universities lack four major indicators of quality education.

“First, while the world’s top universities operate with sizable budgets, Nigerian universities lack adequate and regular funding, not just to pay staff salaries, but also to fund research and provide cutting-edge facilities for teaching and learning. Save for a few private universities into which their proprietors pumped huge resources, often for take-off, Nigerian university campuses and research facilities leave much to be desired.

“Good quality universities feature world class teachers, researchers, and students, who invest in one another through stimulating lectures, seminars, workshops, conferences, research, and other academic activities. True, Nigerian premier universities started out this way, but Nigerian universities today suffer from poor quality teaching, reflecting the low quality of lecturers, substandard research output and unqualified students.

“Nigerian universities have a management deficit. This is due partly to the politicization of the appointment of key managers of university affairs. The situation is further complicated by the parochialisation of the recruitment of academic and administrative staff. The result in most cases is square pegs in round holes.

The solution to Nigerian academic problems, according to Mike Ene, National Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, is just a matter of priority. “From cradle to death, life is full of struggles and if you structure your life, you will find out that in the face of scarce resources, some ambitions are better forgotten. That will lead to giving priority to some areas. If we want the best for ourselves and country, education is a top priority.

“No nation can rise above the level of its education and if we don’t want to be left behind, we must begin to fix the sector, as the future of the country is at stake,” he said.

But Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, National President of ASUU, blamed the government and her policies on education.

“Look at the amount allocated to education in next year’s budget, as usual, it is below expectations. For years now, the government has not allocated more than 6 percent of the budget to education and that doesn’t show us as a serious nation. Even the slight increase in the figure pales to nothing when you consider the value of the naira.

“What the government seems not to understand is that if adequate funding is given to the sector and attention focused on it, it can be a great source of revenue to the country. Foreign students would come and pay in foreign exchange and that is what can be used to finance the education of locals. That is what other nations do when they attract foreign students.

“On strikes, government is fond of making promises it cannot fulfil. They will promise something now and renege on it. Everything boils down to lack of seriousness and we are just toying with our future,” he said.

The government should intervene in tackling the obvious challenges facing Nigerian universities that have resulted in this ugly development where graduates from foreign universities, including universities in neighbouring West African countries are preferred to graduates from Nigerian universities

11, 2021 @ 18:25 GMT |


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