The Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, mni, MFR, FNAL, last week, Thursday, reiterated that the Commission would do everything possible to support the Association of West African Universities (AWAU) to achieve its aims and objectives, in addition to using its powers to attract and galvanize support to Universities in the sub region and in Nigeria in particular.
Professor Rasheed gave this hint when he received a delegation from AWAU to the NUC on a courtesy call, in his office.
He commended them for their commitment and resilience, describing the Association as vital and active.
He further averred that the AWAU should be supported by all universities in West Africa, irrespective of their language leaning- Anglo-phone or Francophone.
He expressed his strong believe in the mission of AWAU and advocated the need to build a strong organization that could galvanize efforts aimed at solving problems on the subcontinent and the continent at large.
The Executive Secretary noted with appreciation, the great strides of Professor Ishaq Oloyede, the current Registrar of JAMB, Nigeria, who worked tirelessly to give AWAU a pride of place and expressed gratitude to him in absentia for having great faith in the AWAU vision.
He stated that without Professor Oloyede, the sub-regional Association would have gone down in history as a failed organization that did not fulfill its full potential. He summed it up by describing him as the father of modern AWAU.
He further informed the delegation that NUC would soon host a joint conference with the European Union (EU) also comprising Harvard University and the Sahelian Institute for Social and Economic Research.
The joint conference would bring together scholars from some countries in the sub regions: Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger Republic, Chad and Ghana sub-region.
According to him, during the slated conference more awareness would be created about the expected roles of the universities in solving some of the African challenges.
The NUC Scribe decried the fact that many of Nigeria’s counterparts and indeed other countries across the world were beginning to question the relevance of the University system in Africa.
This, he said, was not the case in the 1980s and 1990s, but had since become the norm with the crumbling state structure in many African countries.
He stated that the African University system must not allow itself to be swallowed up by the misdeeds of their countries, but must instead find itself on the right side of history where the scholars lead the change process to redeem the image of the continent.
Responding to the issues raised, the Executive Secretary informed the meeting that one of the ways in which the Commission had tried to harmonize efforts at Quality Assurance and development of the university system in Africa had been through the organization of interactions with sister agencies across the continent, whether Francophone or Anglophone countries.
One of such efforts, he said, had been championed by the Deputy Executive Secretary (DES), Academics, Dr Noel B. Saliu who had been instrumental to bringing together the Quality Assurance Agencies of Francophone Africa, under the auspices of CAMES to a meeting at the NUC.
He had also represented the Commission at many other such meetings across Africa including the most recent at Ouagadougou, Burkina-Faso, where the interests of the system came to the fore.
He stated that Nigeria and Ghana both shared boundaries with Francophone countries and as such, a lot of effort must be made to synergize with the universities in those francophone countries.
One of the areas where such synergy has been evidently harnessed, he averred, was in the management of the Africa Centers of Excellence project. Another way of involving the Francophone counterparts, he added, would be to give them a higher sense of belonging in AWAU through leadership roles, noting that AWAU should be allowed to be led by a prominent Francophone member.
He stressed that a stronger AWAU would have a knock-on effect on the ranking of African Universities because any ranking methodology championed by AWAU should definitely take into account the uniqueness of the African economic, social and political environments and also the higher education needs of the continent.
It would again adequately enrich the ranking of these universities; afford the sub-region opportunity to speak in its own unique voice.
Contributing his quota, the DES, Academics, Dr. Saliu specified that the major challenge with the West African University System had been that of integration of the West African sub-region, and this integration of Anglophone and Francophone would require a lot of effort and synergy. Though daunting, it was a surmountable challenge, particularly where stakeholders express the will to do so.
At the end, the Executive Secretary initiated a proposal and both parties agreed that there should be a stakeholder meeting of all the Quality Assurance Agencies in the sub region, with the full leadership of AWAU and selected Vice-Chancellors from the 16 West Africa Countries participating.
To lend further impetus to the idea, the Executive Secretary said that there would be further discussions at the next NUC Management meeting on the logistics of convening the said meeting.
He called on the AWAU team to develop the concept note around this idea which would more clearly articulate the agenda and objectives of the meeting.
The Executive Secretary further stated that the NUC in collaboration with JAMB would explore ways of financing the tickets and accommodation of most of the participants.
He urged the AWAU team to liaise with Dr. Saliu for all related issues and also copy the Head of Special Duties, Ulonna Inyama in the correspondences who would serve as an assistant to the DES (Academics) on the matter.
Earlier, in his remarks, the Chairman of AWAU, Professor Johnson Nyarko Boampong, expressed his gratitude to the Executive Secretary for the warm reception and extended the warm felicitations of other colleagues from Ghana and the rest of the region.
He informed the meeting that the objective of his visit were four-fold to express gratitude to the Commission for the support through the years; introduce the new leadership of AWAU; solicit for the continued support of the Commission; and rub minds with the Commission on how best to reposition the West African University system for economic independence and relevance to the solution of African problems.
Professor Boampong further told the Executive Secretary that the new AWAU Executives were selected in Gambia during their last meeting to take a leadership role in the association and attain the objectives of AWAU.
He agreed with the Executive Secretary that West African Universities have great roles to play in ensuring that higher education become more relevant and the system functional, stressing the importance of Human Capital Development in addressing the challenge.
The Chairman of AWAU noted that with the existence of the Association, West African Countries would be able to cooperate better in a peaceful environment. He added that the Association might need to lobby the political class and ECOWAS to recognize them and also seek their support in order to achieve their aim.
Lending their voices, Vice-Chancellor of Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) and Administrative Secretary of AWAU, Professor Adenike Oladiji; Vice-Chancellor, University of Ilorin and Secretary General of AWAU, Professor Wahab Egbewole, SAN; and Vice-Chancellor, Federal University of Health Sciences, Ila-Orangun, Osun State, Professor Akeem Olawale Lasisi, in their words, appreciated the leadership of NUC and its nurturing role to AWAU over the years.
They also stated that the visit was meant to showcase the willingness and determination of the leadership team to consolidate on the gains of AWAU, and to ensure through the unification of universities in the subcontinent that all stakeholders together build capacity in the West Africa sub-region.
In the AWAU team included the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Technology, Innovation & Partnership, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa, Dr. David Phaho.
At the meeting were: the NUC Deputy Executive Secretary, Administration, Mr. Chris J. Maiyaki; Director, Executive Secretary’s Office (DESO), Mr. John Mairafi Ahmadu; Acting Director, Public Affairs (DPA), Mal. Haruna Lawal Ajo and the Head of Special Duties, Ms. Ulonna Inyama.