By Kunle Adedoyin
President Muhammadu Buhari has said that his administration will continue to improve on education to fast track the country’s transition to a knowledge-based society.
The President stated on Monday at the Foundation Day and Convocation ceremonies of the University of Ibadan.
The president, who is the Visitor to the university, was represented at the event by Prof Abubakar Rasheed, the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC).
“One of the cardinal objectives of education in any country is nation-building, especially in the 21st century where knowledge is the key determinant of growth and development of nations,” the president said.
He enjoined the graduands to explore the enormous knowledge gained from the university to ensure the country’s socio-economic development.
“It is our hope that these graduating students will turn out to be worthy ambassadors of this university wherever they find themselves.
“The various speeches delivered today have highlighted the challenges and limitations of the universities and the nation at large.
“Since the inception of my administration, we have made appreciable contributions to education, and we will not relent in improving education to fast track Nigeria’s transition to a knowledge-based society,” he said.
Buhari, however, urged labour unions in the universities to be sensitive to the effects of industrial actions on the education sector.
While noting the government was disturbed by the incessant industrial actions, he sought for the understanding of the unions.
“Government is fully aware of the challenges in the university and will continue to do its best to address them,” he said.
In his address, Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto and Chancellor of the institution, said the emphasis on producing quality graduates must not be limited to learning and entrepreneurship alone.
“The character of our graduates is also of paramount importance. As you are aware, the degrees of this university are awarded based on students having been adjudged to be worthy in character and learning.
“In this wise, therefore, I appeal to our students to be circumspect in their conduct; resist every manner of indiscipline, irresponsibility, uncooperative and rude attitudes under the guise of students’ unionism,” he said.
Sultan further said that the disruption of the academic calendar, sometimes beyond reasonable redemption, had become the bane of Nigeria’s academic community.
He said it is a situation that has put students and the country’s institutions at a great disadvantage globally.
Also, the Pro-Chancellor of the institution, Nde Joshua, in his address, said that the university needed assistance in the area of funding of capital projects.
He appealed to government and well-meaning Nigerians to come to the aid of the university in the areas of manpower development, ICT overhauling, uplift of infrastructure, equipment procurement and other materials.
NAN reports that the event featured award of honorary doctorate degrees and fellowship to distinguished Nigerians for their service to humanity. They included a legal luminary, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), who was awarded, D. Litt. (Honouris causa) and Emeritus Prof. Ayodele Falase, Fellow of the University of Ibadan (FUI). Others included Prof. Emmanuel Edozien, Alex Ezeh and Prof Folagbade Aboaba, who were all awarded D. Sc. (Honouris causa).
Speaking on behalf of other awardees, Babalola said that though he had received more than 10 honorary degrees from many universities in Nigeria and abroad, that of the nation’s premier university was special to him.
Babalola, who is the Founder and Chancellor of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Eķiti, used the opportunity to address the issue of university autonomy, saying it was key to quality and functional education.
“To attain the world-class standard, public universities must be autonomous and free from encumbrances imposed by the government.
“Top universities must be free to charge fees, which will vary according to the nature and requirements of each programme offered.
“They must be free to set standard and admission criteria. They must be free to appoint qualified and appropriate council members, pro-chancellors and vice-chancellors.
“What the government should do is to give subvention to universities as it is done in civilised countries,” he said.
NAN reports that the event was attended dignitaries from all walks of life including the Oyo State Governor, Mr Seyi Makinde and Pastor Enoch Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God.
Others were the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi and the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji.