The University of Ibadan is set to commence her convocation and Founder’s Day ceremony this week. “The 74th” quantifies just how old the institution is; it goes to show how much it has grown and how far it has come, despite several challenges and setbacks.
On the more humorous side, it is a week for most students – particularly undergraduates – to hustle for surplus food and enjoy the ambience of merriment. Away from the humour, it is pertinent – as an intellectual community – to track back and access growth. How different has the University been since its inception 74 years ago? How far have we come? How do we compare to the international metrics of excellence and other institutions? What are the setbacks and shortcomings? Where have we grown? What have we achieved?
According to Time Higher Education’s world ranking of universities, the University of Ibadan is rated between 401-500th and 800-1000th on its impact rankings. This is especially laudable considering the predisposition of the Nigerian government to education – as evidenced in funding.
To put this into perspective, education in Icelandic University – a school that ranks close to the University of Ibadan – takes about 17% of their total budget, on average. In Nigeria – on the other hand – education averages approximately 6-7% in the last 6 years. It must have taken a certain administrative dexterity and brilliance to manage the school, such that it competes with counterparts like this.
Outstanding Students and Lecturers
The motto “first and the best” appears to be a befitting name. The University of Ibadan through her students and lecturers has been living up to the standard. Just 2months ago, for instance, a 200level student of Political student, Ayotomiwa Elesho, clinched the N1 million prize of the 6th edition of the Annual National Undergraduate Essay Competition of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB).
This is just one of many other examples. Unibadan students have been also involved in ground-breaking technological inventions. An instance would be the kidnap checkmating invention – developed by a team of students, announced on July 8, 2019. The University lecturers have also been involved in developing outstanding and globally recognised research. A look at the university’s lecturers’ profiles is enough to drive home the point of how well accomplished and read they are. The University of Ibadan should be commended for producing this kind of quality even without adequate support.
One of the metrics to know a university is doing well is the quality it has produced, and how its products are doing in the “real world. The University of Ibadan over the past few years have produced several notable people, many of whom have attributed their success to the university.
They include; Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Godwin Obaseki, Gabriel Afolayan, and Isaac Adewole to name a few. These are people who have achieved so much in different areas of their life. Its alumni have rubbed minds and connected with other great and powerful people in the world which has brought respect and prestige to the university.
UI, EVOLUTION AND THE TIME FREEZE
Access and Evolution
The University, given its age, has witnessed several administrative changes – as in overhauls, adjustments and amendments. However, major decisions in the University – especially as it affects students’ welfare – appear to be considerably reactionary (rather than proactive).
Take, for instance, the very recent “skateboard controversy” reported by media houses across the country, before resumption. In the defense of the management, “it’s illegal to skate on major roads on campus”. The University statement also reiterated this by stating that “Learner drivers are also not allowed on the major roads within the university campus during peak periods”. In truth, this rule may be preventive and cautionary; skaters are prone to downsides like self-injury, and (even) accidents from collisions with other road users. While this piece does not intend to address the dialectics of right or wrong, there are some substantial issues that the scenario raises, especially about access and the students’ handbook.
The controversy has helped us to comprehend that a considerable portion of the student populace is oblivious to the student handbook and the regulations it contains. This poses a situation; students may break the rules of the University without necessarily being aware of it. While ignorance does not excuse violation, it is only fair that students understand the standard they are held by.
It is important that everyone knows what can be and cannot be enforced for and against them. This goes further down to the UI “hardcopy” time freeze. As a solution to accessibility, the University may want to adopt an approach different from the conservative “print is ideal” method. The management could explore the softcopy option, and make necessary documents – of the calibre of the students’ handbook especially – open to all.
Furthermore, on the same issue, the University may need to revisit the handbook and adjust it to the current reality without necessarily ignoring nuance – especially given the current predisposition of the government towards students and lecturer welfare. A worthy comparison would be the stance of Havard University on Skating. Havard University permits staking; however, they permit it only on roads, It is banned in facilities. According to the School handbook “The use of skateboards, roller skates, or inline skates in the facilities is prohibited. Bicycles and scooters are not permitted in the facilities” They also expatiated on this in their students’ handbook; “The use of skateboards, roller skates, or inline skates in the facilities is prohibited. Bicycles and scooters are not permitted in the facilities”.
Some arguments can be made for banning skateboarding, like the danger it poses to road users and the not-so-advanced state of medical care if a severe accident occurs. However, instead of totally stifling youth by just banning this activity on roads, the school could confine it to certain places and even contribute to encouraging participation. After all, skateboarding is a competitive sport with a considerable degree of international appeal. The University may want to consider factors like this in sporting innovations and developing regulations. Most importantly, the student handbook can be expository and clear on some of these
On another front, there is the debate on gas cookers, kerosene stoves and hotplates. Shortly after the resumption, the University of Ibadan released a statement shortly after a meeting with the student union leaders’ stating in very clear terms that the only lawful means of cooking is through a stove. A part of the statement read thus;
“The University management is aware of the high price of kerosene. Hence, the meeting is to determine if the students will be allowed to use electricity or gas cookers for their cooking. However, the management has decided that the students will not be allowed to use any of these other means of cooking. The only lawful way is still by the use of stove”
They cited the high electricity tariff rates as the reason for the ban on hotplates and the carelessness of some students in handling gas for the ban on gas cookers;
“The management also had to let go of gas cookers since many students are careless and can injure many other innocent students with their careless use of the gas cooker”
Also, there are some fundamental issues that this controversy spotlights and the most prominent of them is innovation. As the pacesetter University, it would be more encouraging to see that the school is actively tending towards revolutionizing energy for Campus environments, especially considering the paradigm shift towards conservation on the global front.
While this may not be a quick fix to the power crisis, the University could pioneer the future of (green) energy in Nigeria, for other campuses to collaborate, follow and execute. Rather than just discard these as unrealistic, imaginary and unimplementable, it could start with little projects and attempts. The students could even lean into the vision and leverage this for applied learning and experience if the school plays the cards right.
“If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter”
This was a statement said by George Washington several years ago, a statement which of course is still very valid in today’s world. Various incidences on campus posit that the University environment is not very friendly towards free expression. Of course, this is not explicitly spelt out, students are afraid to say much, to overly criticise or even criticize at all due to the fear of disciplinary action.
Many of the students cannot complain about teaching, administrative and welfare shortcomings, not even when it concerns facilities and equipment. This, in some ways, not only limits growth but also stifles the creativity of the students and affects students’ ability to think. Students should be allowed to constructively criticise when such criticisms are needed.
Feedback mechanisms – like forms, questionnaires and vox pops – could be used to gather constructive criticism. Although some faculties – like the Faculty of the Basic Medical Sciences especially – already use this, the University should consolidate its efforts in these areas. To encourage objective feedback, anonymity should be considered, and the scope of these solutions should extend to all the necessary things – welfare, administration, rules and regulations and facilities inclusive.
“The portal is down.” This phrase is becoming almost increasingly popular in many of her students’ dictionaries. There are almost always times students and even admission seekers cannot get access to their portal because it’s down or hacked. Even, at the time of writing this article, the student portal is currently “not available”.
Just a few weeks ago, the University struggled to regain access to the portal from the hands of Hackers. A world-standard university such as the University of Ibadan should have a better, more secure and up-to-date website and portal. One way to approach this is to leverage the expertise of student professionals if the university does not have the human resource capability to execute the necessary measures.
In conclusion, the University has achieved so much in the past 74 years, especially considering how much funding it gets compared to other schools of its calibre. However, we can still achieve more, and collectively also. As students, it is important to constructively collaborate with the management to build a world-class environment. And to the Graduands, we wish you a happy convocation. Never be afraid to contribute to improving the University by giving back – both in Capital and Resources.
Always remember Recte Sapere Fons. Long Live the University of Ibadan!