Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Nigerians pilgrimage to Ghana’s ‘Portakabin’ universities

“…Thousand and one one-block and many mushroom universities (are) set up to target Nigerian students yearning for education…. But, sadly, they are not cheap as Nigerians pay in dollars. These universities are just pure business ventures.”
–Ambassador Ademola Onafowokan, Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Ghana.
 I shook my head in disbelief as I read the report of The PUNCH’s correspondent, Temitayo Famutimi’s 10-day odyssey to Ghana to study the country’s tertiary educational facilities. The report published on December 19, 2013 edition of this paper and the subsequent editorial of The PUNCH on it on January 26, 2014 were an eye-opener. The report, in particular, details the parlous state of the facilities and how desperate Nigerian students seeking university education are yearly falling prey of many of these sub-standard universities. Records from the Nigerian embassy in Ghana have it that about 110,000 Nigerians are studying  in Ghana with approximately N160bn being paid by them according to Wale Babalakin, Chairman, Committee of Pro-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities.
According to the aforementioned The PUNCH editorial: “At one such one-block university — Accra Institute of Technology — which claims to be the equivalent of the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, there are about 2,000 students, out of which 1,200 are reportedly Nigerians. The school also runs a ‘doctoral programme’ in a rented and uncompleted structure, and charges between $1,300 (N202,800) and $1,510 (N235,560) per session, accommodation and feeding excluded. However, at public universities, fees for foreigners vacillate between $6,000 (N936,000) and $8,000 (N1,248,000) per session, while those studying Medicine pay as much as $18,000 (N2,808,000).”
Famutimi reported that apart from AIT, other institutions operating from a one-block structure include the Sikkim Manipal University, Accra campus; Radford University College, Accra; and  Mahatma Gandhi University, Accra campus. Out of the about 50 private universities certified by the Ghanaian Government, only one of them is a full-fledged institution chartered to award degrees — the Valley View University, belonging to the Seventh Day Adventist. The VVU reportedly awards degrees on its own, without recourse to any government-owned or foreign university. Invariably, 49 of these “private universities” are sub-standard affiliates, study centres, or satellite campuses of foreign universities.
The main attraction to these pseudo universities  in Ghana include the low entry requirements; flexible admission schedule as students are still being offered admission up until a month to the examination date; ability to complete an undergraduate degree in six semesters instead of Nigeria’s minimum of eight semesters if you’re not a direct entry students as well as the smooth academic session. According to the  report:” Investigations reveal that the processes involved in securing admission into these quasi-universities are rather too easy for comfort, because they only require the candidate to have a good Senior School Certificate Examination result. This is in sharp contrast to Nigeria where, in addition to scoring at least six credits in the SSCE, candidates are also required to sit for and pass the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination as well as the Post-UTME of their individual institutions of choice.”
The PUNCH correspondent also found out that a good number of these private institutions also admit Nigerian students with deficiencies in their SSCE for undergraduate programmes. However, such students are expected to make up for the deficiencies within a stipulated time, such that their credentials will then be attached to their files at the later date. However, it was equally reported that some Ghanaians hold the opinion that the influx of Nigerians in the country had shot up the increasing cases of cultism in their tertiary institutions.
In contrast to the sad story in the Ghanaian private universities, the country’s nine public universities are said to be operating on international standards. Investigations show that securing admission into any of the nine universities is highly competitive, as a prospective candidate must present his academic transcripts from his or her  home university, the original WASSCE result, while he also has to sit for an internal examination relevant to the intended course, the overall result of which will determine whether or not he or she will be offered admission.
The institutions are the University of Ghana, Legon; Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi; University of Cape Coast; University of Education, Winnieba; and University for Development Studies, Tamale. Others are the University of Energy and Natural Resources, Ahafo; University of Mines and Technology, Tarkwa; University of Professional Studies, Legon; and the more recently established University of Health and Allied Sciences, Ho, in the Volta Region.  All of these tertiary institutions are said to have standard facilities and structures.
There is an adage that if you must blame hawk for wickedness, first scold the mother hen for exposing her children to danger. The fault does not lie with Ghanaians making a brisk business out of Nigerians; the blame is with us. It is with government that will allow its university academic staff to go on strike for 169 days in 2013 (July 1 – December 17, 2013). In the first place, if there had been adequate funding of Nigerian tertiary institutions, the various unions will not be going on perennial strikes. As I write this, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics has been on strike for upward of seven months while its Colleges of Education counterparts commenced an industrial action on January 15, 2014. For as long as there is labour unrest in Nigeria’s ivory towers, for as long as Nigerian tertiary institutions continue to have low carrying capacity (out of the 1.7 million students that applied for admission in 2013, only 520,000 got admission to universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.), so long will there be an influx of students desperate for academic laurels to foreign institutions be they fake or genuine.
The most preposterous thing is that parents and guardians of students who are jetting out to many of the foreign tertiary institutions for further studies do not bother to verify from the Evaluation and Accreditation Department of the Federal Ministry of Education or the National Universities Commission or the Nigerian Embassy in those countries if the institution they are about to send their children has genuine certification or accreditation.
I ask, what are the students, on graduation, going to do with such worthless certificates? First and foremost, they will not be moblised for the mandatory National Youth Service Corps scheme while their chances of securing paid employment are also very slim. At the end of the day they realise too late that they had embarked on a wild goose chase, a fruitless adventure.
I must say in closing that the phenomenon of fake or illegal universities is not limited to Ghana or any foreign universities. Even in Nigeria, the NUC has been having a running battle with some scoundrels who have established unaccredited and uncertified private universities.
In May 2013, the commission closed 41 illegal universities out of the 67 operating in the country. Nigerian students, “shine your eyes”, a short cut is sometimes a wrong cut and schooling in illegal institution is one of such. A word is enough, only for the wise.