The Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwukah, recently proposed that Nigerian university graduates may spend an extra year of studies in specialised institutions after graduation in the bid to make them employable. The minister, who made the proposal on May 8 at the two-day retreat for governing councils of federal universities organised by the National Universities Commission (NUC) in Abuja, explained that he made the suggestion based on the fact that many Nigerian university graduates were not good enough to be employed by industries.
The retreat meant to address the challenges of the education sector was anchored on the theme: “Elements of Statutory Governance, Procurement and Financial Accounting in Nigerian Universities.” Prof. Anwuka also stressed that the proposal was similar to the extra year currently being undertaken by law and medical students. He further argued that if law students spend an extra year before going to the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and medical students go for one year housemanship, it will be necessary for graduates of other courses to also pass through the same process.
According to the minister, “the universities are producing products that are not matching the needs of the industries.” The minister was worried that the Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) has failed in the universities. While the minister’s observation has underscored the crisis in the nation’s university education system, his proposal of an extra year for varsity graduates is not the solution.
The fact that medical students and law students spend an extra year of studies does not make it necessary for history, philosophy and other liberal arts and science students to do the same. The minister’s solution is like attacking the symptoms of a disease rather than treating the disease itself. For a number of years, the standard of education in Nigeria is reported to be falling.
The ugly state of our public primary and secondary schools epitomises the rot in the education sector. The growing education tourism to American and European universities by Nigerians shows that all is not well with our university education. The situation is so bad that Nigerian students now flood Ghana and other West African countries for secondary and university education.
To worsen the situation, the government has not done much to improve the standard of education. Funding of education in recent times has been abysmally low. The nation’s tertiary education system has witnessed more industrial actions than any other sector in the country. The academic calendar is erratic and can no longer be predicted with students spending more years for a course than necessary. It is sad that research, the hallmark of any university education, has been relegated to the background.
University teachers seldom have access to international journals and books. The situation of libraries and laboratories in most of our universities is nothing to write home about. We should accept the fact that the standard of education has fallen. The government should sit up and look at the causes of the rot. It is not the number of years spent in school that matters. Already, students in education, engineering and mass communication undertake internship training as part of their studies. Pharmacy students also go for one year internship after graduation. The practice can never apply to every discipline.
The government should not use the additional year proposal to abdicate from its responsibility of providing jobs to varsity graduates. Government must step up its job creation schemes. Therefore, we urge the government to drop the idea of additional year of study for varsity graduates. Apart from its being unrealistic, it won’t serve any useful purpose. Let government fund the universities so well that they can produce world-class graduates that can fit the industries.
Adding one year is not the answer to the problems facing the education sector. The proposal should be dropped forthwith. Government must adequately equip the libraries, laboratories in our varsities. There is need for exchange programmes between the nation’s universities and their overseas counterparts, especially in the area of manpower training.