The Deputy Governor of Kano State and former Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic, Bayero University Kano (BUK), Professor Hafiz Abubakar last Tuesday led a delegation of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN) to a courtesy call on the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, in his office.
Welcoming the team, Professor Rasheed described the Deputy Governor as a fellow passionate about Nigerian higher education and the university system in particular. He said that if the political structure of Kano State had given him space, he would be in the classroom due to his interest in advancing knowledge. He observed that it was not surprising that the visit of the team was purely on how to improve the quality of Nutrition and Dietetics, as a stand-alone programme.
In his address, Professor Hafiz Abubakar informed the Executive Secretary that the team came to solicit for the harmonisation of the curriculum on Nutrition and Dietetics studies developed by the Society and other stakeholders in the field, which was sponsored by UNICEF in 2016. He said the essence was to ensure that a clientele of knowledgeable people were produced in the Nigerian universities, using an approved Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards (BMAS) as prescribed by the NUC. He noted that the way Nutrition and Dietetics programme was currently structured in Nigerian universities allowed some to domicile it under the Medical Science and a few others in the Faculty of Agriculture. This, he said, led to some universities running the programme with bias in Agriculture and others inclined to the medical field.
The Deputy Governor referred Nutrition and Dietetics as one field that required concerted efforts to enhance its growth, as it involved the eating habits of the people, which by extension determines how healthy individuals can live at any point in time. He noted with dismay that those in the medical sciences had not allowed the field to thrive independently due to what he described as ‘protectionism’ and or ‘territory seeking.’ He stated that Nigeria like other countries in the Western World should have introduced Clinical Nutrition in its residency programme in the medical field just as currently witnessed in Internal Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology, among others.
Professor Abubakar told the Executive Secretary that the worst case was the absence of a National Policy framework for addressing Nutrition challenges currently ravaging the country, disclosing that the national average in the country’s intervention programme on malnutrition only stood at 18 per cent. He said that the Federal Government could address some challenges inherent in the area of Nutrition if the National Policy document already developed was gazetted and implemented, which already gave a legal basis on how the yet-to be inaugurated team should function.
According to him, a team already named with the Vice-President of Nigeria as the Chairman of the Board if inaugurated would send a strong signal to the international community on the country’s seriousness in tackling the challenge. He stressed that the most vulnerable groups are Children in the level 0-5 years and women.
While harping on the fact that Nigeria and some other African countries have the highest volume of knowledge in Nutrition due to the wide range of food specimen in their environment, the former Deputy Vice Chancellor, BUK, decried that no Nutritionist in the Government Circle had gone beyond level 14 in Civil Service. He said it had been difficult for any member of the Society to attain decision making level in government, thereby relegating the field in the scheme of things.
The Deputy Governor mentioned that a government decision taken to upgrade the terminal level of Nutritionists in the Civil Service Cadre to level 17 was yet to be gazetted due to the same bias. He disclosed that NSN was an umbrella body for all Nutrition professionals and practitioners founded in 1963 at the University of Ibadan.
The Society has interest to promote and foster the study and practice of nutrition in its widest sense, and provide a common forum for Nutritionists and Public Health professionals to liaise and co-operate with universities, research institutes, government departments, national commissions, corporate organisations and other similar bodies for the exchange of professional and other relevant information for national development.
Speaking in the same vein, other members of the delegation re-echoed the need for the NUC to support the efforts of the Society to ensure that a curriculum to promote quality teaching and learning of Nutrition and Dietetics studies actually emerges soonest.
Responding, the Executive Secretary noted that the NUC Management had been adequately educated beyond argument on the relevance of Nutrition and Dietetics to the society. He congratulated the team for providing leadership to the NSN and for amassing the political and academic strength in the pursuit of their vision. He stated that with the intervention of the Nutrition Society, Nigeria was certainly walking on a solid path to economic revival and development.
On the curriculum harmonisation, Professor Rasheed assured that in October, the Society would be invited to make inputs for the finalisation of the BMAS. He, however, clarified that NUC does not encourage wholesale uniformity in the adoption of curriculum, as it is convinced that some zones may have some specifics that are peculiar and as such there ought to be room for innovations and adaptations. He informed the team that Nutrition will be the subject of focus and topical issue in the next NUC Distinguished Lecture Series to be hosted in December and called on them to participate fully in the discourse.
Both teams agreed on the proposal and the review was fixed for second week in October.
In the delegation were the current President of NSN, Dr. B.I.C. Brai; President of the Federation of African Nutrition Society (FANUS), Professor Ngozi Nnam and the Vice-Chancellor Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma and immediate Past President, Professor I.A. Onimawo.
At the meeting were the Directors of the Directorates of International Cooperation and Liason Services, Mrs. Constance Goddy-Nnadi; Management Support Services, Barr. Victor Onuoha and Executive Secretary’s Office, Mr. Chris Maiyaki as well as the Deputy Director, Information Division, Mr. Haruna Lawal Ajo.