Why Downgrade the Federal Universities of Education?

Reports of a plan to downgrade four Universities of Education to their former status as Colleg­es of Education is raising dust in the nation’s higher education system. The four Universities of Education that will return to their former status as Col­leges of Education if this plan is imple­mented are: Alvan Ikoku University of Education, Owerri; Adeyemi University of Education, Ondo; the Federal Uni­versity of Education, Kano; and Federal University of Education, Zaria.

Members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universi­ties (SSANU) of the Federal University of Education, Kano, have risen against the reported planned downgrade, and described it as uncalled for. The ASUU chairman in the university, Dr. Abubakar Sadiq Haruna, has alleged that the for­mer provosts of the four former Colleges of Education are conniving with some interest groups in President Muham­madu Buhari’s administration to return the education universities to their former status.

Similarly, staff and students of Alvan Ikoku University of Education recently demonstrated in Owerri against the move to revert the institution to its former sta­tus as a college of education. The ASUU chairman of the institution, Mrs. Ukachi Nwachukwu, pointed out that all trade unions in the school, staff and students have vowed to resist the rumoured plan to return the institution to the status of a college of education. Students of Adeyemi Federal University of Education, Ondo, in Ondo State, have also demonstrated against the planned downgrade.

Although the Federal Government is yet to make its position known on the matter, we urge it to clear the air imme­diately to douse the tension in the insti­tutions. Government should not keep silent when there is disquiet in four insti­tutions of higher learning in the country. It should act before the situation deterio­rates.

However, without prejudice to the government’s position on this matter, we must say that the former Colleges of Education in question are eminently qualified for upgrade to universities, be­ing the foremost Colleges of Education in the country. They have a long history of producing high quality teachers for the country. They started with producing National Certificate of Education (NCE) holders and were later affiliated to some Nigerian universities to produce gradu­ates in education. They have not at any time been found wanting in their respon­sibility of producing high quality teach­ers.

Again, the need for more graduate teachers in the country’s education sys­tem is not in doubt. It was in a bid to satisfy that need that the administration of former president, Dr. Goodluck Jona­than, decided to upgrade the former Col­leges of Education to Universities of Edu­cation.

Politics aside, Jonathan’s move was well-intentioned, and can still serve a use­ful purpose. There is no arguing the fact that we need more university spaces to accommodate more of the large number of candidates who sit for the Joint Admis­sions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examinations every year. Therefore, gov­ernment should be careful not to reduce university admission spaces that it should be seeking to expand.

We are, therefore, opposed to any move to return these universities to their former status. Doing so will not in any way help teacher education in the country. We have reached a stage where graduate teachers should be teaching at all levels of education, including prima­ry schools.

The Buhari government should be con­cerned with moving education forward, and keep the people well apprised of its intentions and plans for the sector. The ongoing speculations on the fate of these universities are unhealthy and should be rested with a formal statement by the education authorities. Downgrading the institutions to their former status should not be an option.

Our view is that whatever is required to solidify the status of these institutions as universities should be done. Whatever funds are required to achieve this objec­tive should be released. Let the govern­ment address all the deficiencies militat­ing against their continuing existence as universities.

We call on the new administration to dispel the rumours raging on the fate of these schools, and reassure their staff and students on its position on the matter. The earlier the government does this, the bet­ter for the institutions and the country.

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