Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON, has said that research and innovation were necessary ingredients to solving the developmental challenges confronting African countries.

He tasked leaders, civil society and private organisations to fund and find solutions through research to the numerous problems in the region.

Delivering the 23rd Convocation Lecture of the Lagos State University (LASU) titled:  African Centres of Excellence (ACE) in African Universities: A Veritable Catalyst for Nation Building and Development. Prof.  Osinbajo also said time had come for African countries to invest more in education to lift the people of the continent out of poverty.

The Vice President, who identified education as the most powerful force for socio-economic change in the world, said the nation’s institutions as centres of excellence must be at the apex of the educational system and must attract the financial resources that confer them with operational autonomy and for the conduct of stellar research.

He said President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration had designed a three­fold plan to improve educational outcomes by training this generation of students on how to function, in a knowledge-driven economy.

Osinbajo said the national curriculum presently being developed by the Federal Government would be digital-oriented and that once fully crystallized, it aimed to equip every young person from basic up to tertiary level, the rudimentary level of digital and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) literacy capable of making them globally marketable. He added that the curriculum aimed to introduce STEM, as well as Art in basic and secondary schools.

The vice president, who alluded to the Centre of Excellence status recently granted LASU by the World Bank, saying this government would redesign the educational curriculum as part of Educational Road Map Every Child Counts.

He stated that “It is quite clear we have to change both the substance of education that our children receive as well as the methods by which they are educated. We are aware that the key to achieving this is to focus on STEAM (Science, Education, Technology engineering, Art and Math), and the need for a workforce with STEAM skills to drive economic technology.”

He assured that the initiative would be complemented with deployment of more facilities and capacity-building for teachers, adding that quality teaching remained key to lifting students’ skills quotient to attaining national objective.

According to him “Teachers need to be equipped with the skills and confidence to support digital literacy, functional skill training and STEAM learning. Our efforts under the National Strategy will focus on implementing national retraining at primary and secondary levels, implementing national teacher education standards, sharing best practices and efforts to attract more STEAM graduates into the teaching profession.”

The Visitor to LASU and Governor Akinwunmi Ambode said when he assumed office as governor in 2015, one of his targets in education was to reposition the university as a proper citadel of learning and character development.

He opined that “At that time, this institution was facing a number of challenges, which interfered with the quality of education delivered. Our LASU had a backlog of unreleased results, the subvention by government was no longer sufficient, the infrastructure needed serious rehabilitation and there were incessant industrial and student conflicts.”

Mr. Ambode said his government was determined to put an end to all the challenges because “we believe that LASU is well-positioned to be one of the leading educational institutions in Nigeria”.

“This vision led to the re-composition of the University Governing Council. We selected individuals with experience, dedication and a track record of remarkable leadership,” he said.

Ambode said the deliberate action to change the narrative of the university also led to the emergence of the dynamic management that the university currently enjoyed.

He emphasised that there was an atmosphere of peace and industrial harmony in LASU. The backlog of results have been cleared and the students were graduating every year; stepping out in flying colours, armed with qualifications, character and ideas to change the world.

The Visitor exprressed his happiness that Lagos State government increased the subvention for LASU and also amended the laws governing the institution, especially regarding the tenure of the Vice-Chancellor and making LASU a residential institution.

He stressed that aside from amending the laws of the university and embarking on massive upgrade of Infrastructure, the government also selected individuals with experience, dedication and track record of remarkable leadership to lead the Governing Council, adding that the development positively changed the narrative of the university.

The governor said the infrastructural development entailed upgrading the network of roads within the institution and installation of street lights and projects, which, he said, have added to the university’s infrastructural landscape.

As the state’s number one tertiary institution, he said LASU was given the right attention it deserved as one of the reasons why he made it a point of duty to attend all the Convocation Ceremonies of this institution since he came into office in 2015.

Other efforts done for LASU included programmes initiated to prepare youths for the challenges of this era; to enable them have a good mix of theoretical and practical knowledge to fit into life after school. One of such programmes was the ‘Ready, Set, Work’ Initiative for all final year students of Tertiary Institutions in Lagos State.

He express satisfaction that three years down the line, the ‘Ready Set Work’ initiative was already yielding the positive results desired, with over 30,000 students trained through the face-to face and online academy.

While thanking the Vice Chancellor and the school management and congratulating the graduands, Ambode said: “The world out there is highly competitive and you will face challenges. The good news is that this institution has equipped you to surmount these challenges.”

The governor admonish the graduates that your respective families look up to you; your alma mater looks up to you; and the larger society looks up to you too. Do not disappoint us. Go out there and change the world.

In his remarks, the Chairman of the occasion and Former Ghanaian President, John Dramani Mahama, urged African universities to move away from the colonial system of education and focus on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI). He said they could do so by having multiple campuses for different specialisation in different countries to bridge the gap by making use of STI as catalyst for the development of the region.

Also at the lecture were the institution’s Chancellor, Justice Adesola Oguntade   (rtd);   Pro-Chancellor, Professor Adebayo Ninalowo  and Principal Officers of the university and many invited dignitaries.