Proliferation of policies engenders system disconnect
Vice Chancellor, Landmark University, Omu-Aran Kwara State, Professor Aize Obayan, in this interview with Abiodun Fagbemi, in Ilorin says the quality of educational infrastructure, rather than the standard of education has fallen in the country. While faulting frequent policy changes as the reason for a disconnect in the education system, she said her institution would continue to pursue unhindered, its agrarian revolution.
Vision of Landmark University
The primary vision of Landmark University, in addition to its emphasis on becoming a leading world-class university is its quest to drive an agrarian revolution, by digging up the treasure in motherland Africa, towards bringing out the dignity of the Black race. It is clear from the idea of the Visioner/Chancellor, Bishop David Oyedepo, that the university would have a clear focus and that excellence would be her pursuits as far as research focus, community development and enterprise that take cognisance of agricultural issues are concerned. These were excellently put in place and brought into manifestation on March 21 in the year 2011, which was the Founder’s Day. The vision has continued to crystallise in order to give credence to what we are doing. Our agricultural produce is bringing on board the much-needed value chain. Our graduates are churned out with the mindset that agriculture must be practised. Among the existing colleges at the University, it is the college of Agricultural Science that encapsulates the vision. College of Science supplies the much-needed research into agricultural projects, soil crops and agricultural economy and very soon, veterinary science, food science and veterinary medicine will spring forth.
Collaboration with states or the federal government in this respect
We are working towards a one-stop shop idea in such areas as deliverable, processing, packaging and exportation. The Ilorin International Airport will be helpful on these. We recently paid a courtesy visit on Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, at the Government House, Ilorin to further drive home our vision of agrarian revolution, not only in the country, but in the continent and beyond. The current government at the federal level no doubt has agrarian revolution as its focus and agenda.
However what we have brought to fore is to make the efforts intentional. The United Nations sees vast arable land in Nigeria, but we hardly farm. So, our school wants to bring it to front burner and make it germane for the improvement of human conditions. We can’t continue to look at the faces of our children being malnourished. Besides, we should stop the kind of farming that is dependent on the foreign donors. We must begin to embrace that which will deliver sufficient interests and make our youths to be fully involved and engaged.
Using agriculture to curb youth unemployment in the country
The issue of unemployment can’t be arrested without us creating massive job opportunities. When we talk of economic theory, land is no doubt a major factor of production. Every arable land should therefore be turned into farmland. Many rural dwellers are becoming aged and sickly. How much support do they get? I want to say zero especially in the area of health facilities. As we make the agricultural sector very attractive, it begins to make sense, but it will not be fully attractive without technology, which will surely make it grow.
Even in the areas of diary and livestock farming, we need chemical applications to make the birds grow. But modern technology should equally come with the issue of bio-sciences. We must also ask for the place of research and development, especially soil test and not this trial and error thing. We need to forecast weather to know when to plant and when not to plant. Farmers must know this. These and many others things are what we do here and the nation can borrow from it. We did most of these things in the 1960s in Nigeria.
We had groundnut pyramid, massive cocoa and palm oil exportation, as well as massive rubber plantations. Malaysia came here to borrow from us, but today the country export the refined and processed products to Nigeria. Last year after much teaching and research works between September and December we today have rice on our table. If we use every arable land to plant rice in Nigeria, importation of the staple food will stop and our nation will be better for it.
Personal experience as helmsman of a university promoting agrarian revolution
I have the best of garden at home. In fact we have harvested fresh cucumber, garden eggs, tomatoes and vegetable there. Do you know that I have not bought okra for nine months now. I am eating well and saving money. That was the way the aged population ate. I am totally into organic farming, but practising it in a natural way. You don’t have to be a big farmer to be a part of this revolution. You can start from planting of corn. We have students who want to go into agriculture even when they are not studying it as a course. We already have modules for this.
The mindset is to have a little garden at home. Whatever your discipline is here, you still look at the issue of policy of agriculture. Agricultural revolution has a way of restoring the dignity of the Black race, and good meal has a way of changing our health. So, charity must begin from home just as we need to go commercial and not just teaching alone. That is our aim, and we are gradually getting there. Very shortly, we shall become the food basket of the nation. The geographical location here makes us to thrive as well.
Alleged fallen standard of education
That notion is erroneously conceived. In actual fact, standards have not dropped. Instead we should examine the conditions, the capacity building and provisions of infrastructure among others. Our universities used to be a beauty to behold in the past. But today, we are battling with the issue of admission into these universities. We need to examine the number of candidates who sit for University Matriculation and Tertiary Examination (UMTE). Even while admitting students, we must consider the issue of population and the ratio of the available facilities among others. Today in many of those universities, you see students going for photocopies in machines without ink.
There are no good toilets and no dinning facilities in many others. Students are the ones sorting out their accommodation issues and losing precious time in the process,, whereas the university environment should be the conscience of the nation. In the area of quality and standards, only very few Nigerian universities are today capable of competing with their counterparts in Europe or United States. A development agenda is needed once a child is born. In the maternity, the congenial defects of any form are urgently corrected. But this should have commenced at gestational period, especially examining the type of food the child eats.
There must be a developmental plan from cradle to adulthood. Learning does not end at adulthood, but continues. Again, in the area of policy formation, I want to fault the idea of successive ministers of education coming on board with different policies thereby causing disconnection in the system.
The input of the technocrats should always be sought in this respect. We need proper statistics of what our needs are at every point in time, especially knowing the time and the type of training to embark on.
We must also support bursaries and endeavours to bring back the golden era of scholarship awards to students. Internet penetration should be deepened because of the times we are in and the benefits that accrue from it. Very soon 2020 will come to an end, but where is Nigeria in all this? We need to holistically examine all these before we begin to talk of the standards of education in Nigeria.
Ending moral decadence among undergraduates
This is very simple. Here at Landmark University, we frown at anything that will lead to harassment of any sort among students, and that is why such things do not exist here ditto our sister university Convenant University, Sango Ota, Ogun State. So, I would say that putting in place a well-defined policy, and encouraging good moral lessons will bring an end to moral decadence.