Private varsities are hardly recognised — Adeyewa

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page-1-pixDuring the recent launch of Africa Centres of Excellence that was hosted by the National Universities Commission in Abuja, Blueprint cornered the Vice Chancellor of Redeemers University, Prof.  Debo Adeyewa, on issues concerning private universities and Nigeria’s education.

How do you feel about your school’s selection as one of the Centres of Excellence?
First and foremost, we need to thank God for everything, because it’s not by power, not by might. You know, Redeemers University signifies redeemer who is the Lord Jesus, so we want to dedicate this to him, because if you look at the background, NUC called for so many meetings which private universities don’t have interest, but this time around, when they called us, we said okay, then we ask the dean of post graduate studies to attend the meeting, it was there we learnt that they were asking for proposals.  That was quite strange because all along, Nigeria does not recognize private universities; they don’t give us opportunities, but for once, they said come and showcase your capabilities.
We are so happy to have made a submission and the submission turned out to be the best proposal overall; because we had competitions within the country, we had competition within Central and West Africa.
In other words, if you put all the different aspects together, whether it’s health, agriculture or STEM; we came tops in all of these. For us, therefore, we are very glad, we give the glory to God and thank God for our hard working staff, because we quickly sat down and this proposal came out tops. We thank everyone who has worked hard to make the proposal a success.

How is Redeemers University looking forward to the challenges ahead?
As we all know, to be a champion is not as difficult as to keep being a champion, I mean to maintain that first position is not always easy, but by the grace of God, with hard work, diligence and tenacity, we hope to always be at the cutting edge of science, in terms of manpower, equipment and the research environment.
What this is showing is that private universities should not be put in the doldrums, they should not be relegated by saying: can any good thing come out from Nazareth? Something good can come from Nazareth because Jesus came from Nazareth. Private universities should be given opportunities in terms of funding, in terms of research and so on. We intend to give this the best effort so that we would always shine when it comes to research and education in particular.

How challenging is the task running private universities in Nigeria?
It is a very big task because private universities are expected to do the impossible in educating the students; the educational aspect is a challenge because we want to do it better than they do it in public universities. For example, in my university, we have 2,500 students and we have about 200 lecturers that mean, it is a ratio of just about 12.5 students per lecturer; that is wonderful.
We want to do better because in the public schools 100 is the least, sometimes you can have a thousand, so there is work overload and there is no quality. In private universities, there is a lot of challenges that propels us to give the best to students.
Such challenges include; access to laboratories, access to lectures, taking care of each student, and so on.
We want to give the best because we look at the social, the spiritual, the academic, and the psychological needs of our students. So running a private university therefore is a challenge.
Very importantly also, funding is another challenge. Parents would actually love to send their children to private university because they know that when it comes to the environment, it is quite better than public universities, but  funding in public and private universities is not the same and because there is no government support, everything come from fees and subvention by proprietors.
In our own case, we spend more from the subvention from proprietor than the fees; the fees are not even enough to pay salaries, it cannot even pay lecturers let alone other running cost. This is a challenge to private universities, unfortunately parents will prefer to send their children abroad, to Ghana and other places and pay even more rather than patronize private universities in Nigeria, but people are coming to see now that private universities in Nigeria can be far better than the ones in other countries.

What is unique about the institution? Is Redeemers University expensive?
What is unique about Redeemers University is that it is actually a centre of excellence; not just in academics, when it come to moral, we are a centre of excellence, if you look at our student or anyone who come to our university, they normally comment the behavior of our students, in terms of dressing and in terms of relationship that we keep with outsiders and within our self, it is unique. We are also unique in this academic area, as you can see, we have been chosen as a centre for excellence, but people don’t know that we are also a centre of excellence in terms of community, we are focused on community; our students go all out to shine and some of our students have gone out there to win laurels and awards. We are also a centre of excellence for moral and spiritual values. Our uniqueness therefore, is stemming out of the programmes and our products that we provide for the Nigerian community and the whole world.

Expanding on the west coast
We are looking forward to getting students from the West African sub-region because this is the only centre of excellence in this area of research, so we are expecting students from Ghana, from Cameroon, from the Gambia, from all over because we have people who are collaborating with us from the U.S and other parts of the world.
We want to say that this actually is to showcase the abilities of private universities to shine. There are some things that we have that is difficult even for federal government and state universities to get. If you look at what we are budgeting for science and research in particular, it is difficult because of the number of students that are being provided for.
It is time for private universities to stand up and distinguish themselves from the lot. In the next ten years, we will begin to see that the men are going to separate themselves from the boys and I look at private universities as the future of tertiary education in Nigeria, because the thing being grappled by public universities are being grappled better by private universities in spite of the economic limitations and the funding challenges.

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