Only one per cent of Nigeria’s population are currently in university, says commission

As Part of efforts to revitalise the tertiary education system, National Universities Commission (NUC), is in the final stage of “a draft review’’ of the nation’s university curriculum.

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Executive Secretary of the commission, Prof Abubakar Rasheed said NUC is already working closely with the industries in the country to identify the gaps between the classroom and the workplace experience.

“We are about to conclude the draft review of the entire country’s curriculum, “We are very happy because we are currently being helped by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group.”The NUC boss was speaking on Nigeria’s university education challenges in the areas of access, quality, safety on campuses, inclusion and how they were being addressed.

The government, he said, fully understood the challenges facing the country’s educational sector and was taking steps to address them. He stated that a committee of experts, raised by the commission two years ago to examine the sector, produced a draft blueprint with inputs from all stakeholders.

In the blueprint, he said, poor access and quality of university education were identified as the major challenges in the system.“Currently, there are 172 universities in Nigeria. 79 are privately owned, largely by churches, some by Muslim organisations and by individuals. The others are public universities owned by the Federal Government and various state governments.

“We have a total population enrollment of slightly over two million in the entire university system, which spells a very serious problem; it is almost a crisis. A population of 200 million people with a total university enrolment of just two million translates into one percent of the population currently in the university.”

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He said another dimension to the challenge of access was the gender composition of university students in the country and their enrolment in core courses such as engineering and information technology.

“This is one area we have been working on and at least for the first time in many years we have now succeeded in getting reliable data, which we publish and share with all our stakeholders.“Well, I am very happy to say that in most universities, actually, there are more female than male students, especially in private universities.

“In general, it is just about 42 percent of the total population that are female, and about 58 percent are males,’’ he said.On the teaching side, the executive secretary said there are currently 61,000 academics in the nation’s university system out of which only about 17 per cent are female.

He said the government’s major focus is to attract more female graduates into teaching, especially in the “hard core areas of engineering, basic medical sciences, environmental sciences and agriculture.

“But in the fields of medicine, art, humanities, languages and education, the gender ratio is either 50-50 or there are more female lecturers.“We have just signed something with Oxford University under which a number of Nigerian female academics are attending series of training. Next month, another group will go there to help inject more confidence and competence into the female academics so that they continue to be role models to our young children in the country,’’ Rasheed said.

On safety, the NUC boss said Nigeria’s university campuses were generally safe, except for pockets of one-off security incidents in some areas.He added that there was also a culture of academic freedom in Nigerian universities for both students and teachers to engage in critical thinking and develop their analytical capacities.

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