Founder of Oduduwa University Ipetumodu (OUI), Dr Ramon Adegoke Adedoyin, in this interview with OLUWOLE IGE, speaks about the challenges in the nation’s education sector, quality of graduates from Nigerian universities, TETFUND, among others issues. Excerpts.
Establishing a private university in Nigeria is not a tea party. How did you manage to source for funds in founding OUI?
I have been in the business of education for a long time. I started as a home lesson teacher and God has been very kind to me. I started succeeding as soon as I started. My mother had a nice building and that was what I actually started with. So, whenever people saw the advertisement of my school, they always thought I was the owner of the building and coupled with the impressive signboard, people started coming in droves.
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Another advantage I had then was that I studied Mathematics in the university and I was also a Mathematics teacher. Then Mathematics was a major challenge to many students. Many students came to my remedial school and that was how I started making a lot of money. From there, I was able to set up a polytechnic and now finally a university. No one sponsored me to establish a university. It was through the dint of hard work and God’s support. This is the reason I believe there is a lot difference between me and a motor dealer. A motor dealer or even a politician may think there is big money in the university business and then go ahead to establish one. This is the main reason so many are rushing into it. If care is not taken, we may start having distressed Private Universities. This is because establishing a university is not a joke. A university proprietor must be educated. This would serve as an added advantage for him or her in establishing a university. That is working for me already; I have been in education business for over 40 years, doing the same thing every now and then.
You seem to believe that private universities do not need the financial and technical support of TETFUND. What informed that opinion?
When government gives you some money, it believes that it has helped you establish a university, a polytechnic, or secondary school and it wants to have total control of running the institution. If you are to rate the best seven universities in the United States and United Kingdom, they are all going to be private universities. People want the private university kind of education, but they don’t have the money or means to get it. So, if government really wants to assist private universities financially, the best way to do it is to give the money individually to students who wish to study in these universities. Government can do it in such a way that if the school fee of the private university in question is N450,000 per session, it can pay the money directly to the university’s account or rather than pay such money directly to the student or university in that manner, it can be pumped into a critical project of the institution, such as a library. If the construction of a library is going to gulp about N450 million, government can just decide to build it; and if the construction fee is equivalent to the tuition fees of the number of students that the government wants to sponsor, the students may be exempted from paying. Better still, the Federal Government can say, ‘okay, we have 70 private universities, let’s construct 70 model libraries or 70 model lecture theatres, making one for each of them.’ So, in this regard, there is no need for TETFUND. People agitating for TETFUND assistance have not thought deep and have not actually learnt from the past about government releasing money to private universities.
As a stakeholder in the education sector, what is the major bane of sector nationally?
With my experience, I believe that Nigerian government is not serious enough about the provision of education to the citizenry. I have an advantage because of my ownership of a university in the United States of America and Ghana. I always consider these good countries when it comes to university education. In Nigeria, if you invest in the establishment of a private university and you want to get a return for such investment, it may not be possible in the next 10 years; whereas if you invest your money in a university education in the US, you may start getting the returns almost immediately.
Why is this not feasible in Nigeria?
Maybe because they said we don’t have money in Nigeria. However, cases of wasted funds abound in the country. I think that something is wrong with our system; but I believe that as soon as that is taken care of, such monies can be utilised effectively in developing the education sector.
If as an educationist you have the ears of the Minister for Education Mallam Adamu Adamu or President Muhammadu Buhari, what advice would you offer them in revamping the education sector?
I would advise them to take cues from the political leadership of the United States of America. I once sponsored my daughter’s university education in the US. I had to pay a lot of money because my daughter was not a citizen of the country. The citizens are just paying peanuts for university education. When my daughter was paying about $10,000, the citizens were paying about $100. You can imagine the wide difference, and this still obtains in the US. The money used in taking care of this is called education loans, because if the tuition fee in private universities is about $70,000, then who is going to pay it, other than the government?. When you are done with your programme in the university, then they begin to take the money back. They assume that you are going to live for the next 100 years, so they spread the payment. Is that not a good thing to do? If someone is offering me a collateral free loan, won’t I take it? I think our government should learn from that and give free education indirectly to Nigerian especially those serious about acquiring education. Our government has not done well in educating Nigerians. They need to improve seriously on that, particularly on funding. The reason will people now prefer private universities to public is that in private universities, a four-year programme will not exceed its duration. Similarly, in private universities, owners and the management do not condone social vices like s3xual harassment, cultism, among others
There are fears in some quarters that the quality of graduates being churned out by public and private universities are nothing to write home. What is your take on this and what can be done to arrest the situation?
The private universities are already working to tackle this. I remember asking the vice chancellor of my university to create ENG 001, 002, 003 and 004. He told me that the institution already had a course on ‘Use of English. I informed him my new idea and I requested that we get the students individually to write essays in their handwritings and anyone who failed to pass the basics would not be allowed to graduate from our university. There was a lecturer with Masters in English Language, whom we invited to our university and he performed so woefully. Then, I wrote a letter to the registrar of the university he graduated from to ascertain if he actually bagged the Master of Arts (MA). Up till now, they haven’t called me or replied the letter I forwarded to them. I am of the view that the foundation of such fellow was faulty. Educational foundation these days is poor and it all starts from the nursery and primary level up to the secondary level before it creeps to the tertiary level. Aside from that, the sentiments about grading are another issue. Do you know that some parents still call to challenge us on why failing their wards, after paying such huge amount of money? However, we let them know that it is not about the money, but about the quality and image of our university. Government should take a critical look at the basic educational foundation to address the rot and quality issues in the education sector.
What are your projections for OUI in the next 10 years?
Right now, the university is just nine years old. The university has gone beyond Dr Ramon Adegoke Adedoyin and I even find it difficult to sit in the university, other than my usual driving through the premises and go out. This is because I have discovered that I cannot cope just sitting down. The institution is going places and we are not resting on our oars to ensure that we improve on our ranking among the best universities in Nigeria and Africa through provision of qualitative tertiary education to the people at affordable cost.
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