Despite the ravaging effects of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic across the globe, key issues at the heart of Africa were tabled for discussion to move the continent forward. The webinar programmes put together by the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Plateau State, and the Association of African Universities (AAU), Ghana came at the right time and offered participants an opportunity to look into some of these problems and possible solutions for the benefit of Africa.
The Vice-Chancellor, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Ogun State, Prof. Kolawole Salako, while addressing participants of the NIPSS Senior Executive Course 42 of 2020 spoke on the topic; “Trends in Population Growth and Human Capital Development: Challenges and Prospects”, noted the diversity of Nigeria in terms of people, culture and natural resources, saying that the country’s population is put at about 206 million and amounting to 226 people per square kilometre. Prof. Salako stressed the need to embark on the genuine ethical revolution at the family to national levels to change the pervasive mindset among youths that encourage them to go into anti-social behaviours as well as the imperative for adequate development of skills latent in the youths, who constitute a reasonable 52% out of the nation’s population.
The Don observed that Nigeria is blessed with people who think deeply and that FUNAAB had equally taken the bull by the horn by expanding the cultivation of land through mechanised farming to produce more food. He highlighted the peculiarities of the University in terms of teaching, research, and extension under which it carries out community development activities by charging participants to work towards giving an enviable future to the upcoming generation, saying that the nation should re-invent its drive toward achieving greatness. The Vice-Chancellor pointed out that the potentials are there for the country if the enabling environment is created for there would be positive achievements, as he enumerated the excellent performance of Nigerian graduates when given the challenge to prove themselves within and outside the shores of the country.Salako, a Professor of Soil Physics, decried a development whereby foreigners invest in large-scale farming while Nigerians would rather look for easy money by neglecting agriculture by calling for a change of attitude. NIPSS, which made the parley possible, was established by Decree No. 20, 1979, and CAP Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (2004). The institute is a high-level centre for research and learning with the primary goal of serving as the nation’s foremost policy ‘think-tank’ through the development of a crop of sound technocrats of high intellectual capacity for the implementation of innovative and dynamic policy initiatives and strategies critical for national development.
In a related development, the Registrar of FUNAAB, Dr. ‘Bola Adekola took part in the Association of African Universities (AAU) webinar on the “Challenges of Human Resources Management in African Universities during the Pandemic”. The Secretary-General of AAU, Prof. Emile Ehile lauded the Registrar for his rich presentation whereby Dr. Adekola discussed the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in the management of human resources of universities across Africa. The Registrar identified the need for universities to understand and prepare for new realities while embracing a virtual approach to the management of human resources in universities.
Dr. Adekola states that the attractions to virtual teaching and learning methods would encourage the recruitment of the best talents across Africa to handle the virtual teaching of students as faculties may no longer have to reside permanently in a given university before the job can be done. He emphasised the need to adopt flexible work arrangements and rotation among other methods of coping with the need to reduce physical contacts, while promoting the observance of safety protocols to stop the spread of the disease in African universities. The moderator of the session, Prof. Nana Darkwa, a former President of AAU, admonished African universities, particularly the privately-owned universities, to expedite action to move their activities online to allow their students resume schooling and abate the danger of going under due to loss of revenues. The webinar was held to launch the initiative of AAU about a job portal for African universities to enable them to tackle the challenges of recruitment and job mobility.
AAU, which is based in Accra, Ghana, came into existence following a decision by the Heads of African Institutions of Higher Education held in 1963 in Sudan. With an initial membership of over 30, the association now has over 360 members, which cut across the African continent. It provides a robust platform for research, cooperation, and collaboration on issues bordering to higher education. AAU convenes higher education institutional leaders and policy-makers on key issues of African higher education and development. Now that critical issues have been discussed at the policy level, it is only hoped that the highlights emanating from the discussions would not go down the drain like previous ones. Relevant stakeholders could harness Salako and Adekola’s lines of thought at such top levels such as NIPSS and AAU. This is worth discussing at another African forum.