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How Nigerian universities can be reformed, by Gbajabiamila

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The Speaker of the House of Representatives Rep Femi Gbajabiamila has said that Nigerian universities must do a lot of work within to be able to entrench good reforms.

The Speaker said sustainable reforms cannot be imposed from the outside of the university system, noting that Nigerian universities must look inward.

Gbajabiamila spoke when he delivered a paper at the first Tunde Ponnle Annual Lecture with the theme ‘Building a Truly 21st Century University: A Task Beyond Government’ held on Thursday at the Osun State University, Oshogbo.

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“For reform to be effective and long-lasting, it must come from within the institutions themselves. More than financing and curriculum, technology and teaching methods, there is a fundamental question of fairness which our higher institutions continue to contend with and must address before we can hope to have them participate fully and profitably in the global community of education and innovation.

“We have a problem with harassment and victimisation in our higher institutions. This is not a problem of a few bad apples desecrating the barrel, but of weak institutional mechanisms, susceptible to egregious abuse by those for whom power is not a call to service, but an opportunity to take more than they are entitled to and to sacrifice the future of others on the altar of their desires.

“We will not solve this problem through occasional purges brought on by external denunciations in the press or on social media, but by reconsidering the ways these institutions operate as a matter of course,” the Speaker said.

To address the problems at hand, the Speaker said: “I propose first that every university in the country, state and federal, public and private commit to a unique system of double-blind testing and marking.

“Double-blind testing will allow for exam questions to be drawn from a pool submitted by all the various lecturers in a particular course so that no single lecturer is able to determine in advance what questions will appear in the set term examinations of their students.

“This will be followed by double-blind marking, where two separate assessors mark all work, without seeing each other’s grades or comments, so that the final mark is assessed through a determination of the average. This is of course, not a perfect system. No system ever is.

“However, this will ensure that no individual lecturer holds in their hands the power to determine a child’s future and will restrict the ability of predators to corrupt such powers to service their base instincts.

“I further propose that we adopt across the board, a system of zero tolerance for individuals, students or staff who are credibly accused of harassment, of intimidation, and any infringements of individual autonomy.

“Let it be the role of independent commissions, made up of persons of integrity and unquestionable authority to evaluate the credibility of complaints, considering only relevant variables and thereafter proposing a course of action to which the university must be bound. Every victim who presents must be listened to and not prejudged.

“Our universities must be places of learning and innovation where people are safe and feel safe, and where injustice in all its forms has no place. This is something that our tertiary institutions need to do for and by themselves before the heavy hand of government intervenes to impose mandates that may be unworkable, or that enforce liabilities that infringe on your independence and make it so that you are unable to fulfil the primary mandates of your existence.

“The summary of it all is simple; where we are is not where we ought to be. Moving from here requires a concerted and collaborative effort between government, our tertiary institutions and stakeholders from the worlds of business, and philanthropy to pursue new approaches, rejecting ancient shibboleths.

“Let us lift our gaze from considerations of small things to focus on the pursuit and achievement of grand ambitions that lift us all and save the future. Let us through our joint efforts raise a generation in whose hearts a light of understanding is lit, and cannot be put out, who possess both the zeal and the passion to defeat the tyranny of low expectations and make good the life of man here on earth.”

Gbajabiamila noted that government could not do it alone, calling on the universities community to devise ways to complement whatever that the government does.

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