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Conversations On The Impacts Of Private Universities On Public Universities In Africa (1)



Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon


Toyin Falola

The conference by the University of Texas at Austin (supported by the Carnegie Corporation) is an ambitious and passionate move to redesign, restructure, and reform university education in Africa. When I chose to shake the roots of university education in Africa and catalyse the reformation I envisioned, some issues did not sit well with me. I looked at how African youth are making waves in different fields of endeavour — entertainment, fashion, software development and IT, cryptocurrency and blockchain, social media influencing and influencer marketing, affiliate marketing, among others—and shook my head in lamentation at the realisation that these skills are not the resultant effects of university education. This is not to imply that the young people who are doing exploits in these fields did not attend universities. In fact, now more than ever, there is a scramble for university education among the African youth. Year after year, examination bodies such as Nigeria’s Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) continue to record an increase in the number of applicants. The youth are still clamouring for higher education, and as much as the concept of education as against schooling might be lost on the typical African youth, they still go to school. However, several factors in Africa’s university education system have made it impossible for universities to take an active role in the development of many African youths.

These young ones are making waves in technology, founding investor-backed startups that are proffering solutions to various problems across Africa and all over the world — from Pharmatech to Fintech to Agritech, to mention a few. We have African youth making waves in the entertainment industry — worldwide sensations who are taking Afrobeats to several countries around the world, winning international and national awards, owning a sizeable chunk of the traffic generated by famous streaming platforms such as Netflix, among other things. There are excellent African youth in sports — representing their countries at the Olympics and making pro teams in different sports at diverse teams throughout the world. The evidence is there all around us! Yet, these young ones are taught at universities where simple tech solutions such as result management systems or financial management systems are still light years away from manifestation. What a contrast!

READ ALSO: Partnering For Greatness: Rethinking University Education In Africa

Contributions from the several panelists who were present on the first day of the conference held at the beautiful campus of Babcock University show that there are similarities in the challenges of university education in Africa. In many of the countries represented, public universities have the bulk of the market share when it comes to university education, with private universities holding but a small fraction. For instance, private universities are currently not common in South Africa and are only recently trying to surface. Nonetheless, we see that private universities are making their presence felt in the university education system.

While many members of the panel were able to establish the lack of adequate funding as one of the fundamental problems militating against university education in Africa, it was established that other factors will continually drag university education in Africa below its goals even if adequate funds were provided for the running and administration of these institutions of higher learning. Thus, the reformation of university education in Africa goes beyond funding. Can funding suddenly make universities more invested in what their students eventually become? If adequate funding were provided today, does that mean we would be able to say in the near future that African universities contributed to the making of tech entrepreneurs, blockchain experts, renowned entertainers, and innovative scientists?

READ ALSO: Africa And The  Double Pandemic: COVID-19, Terrorism, And The Future Of Education In The New Normal

The decadence of the African society in itself is one of the major causes of the current state of the African university education system. Prof. Ayo Olukotun, a renowned political scientist, described it as a decadent system managing decay, thus leading to problematic or corrupt outcomes. Yet, it appears that private universities are increasingly becoming adept at doing better. Are there things to learn from the private university sector?

Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, the keynote speaker, pioneered the suggestion of solutions to the malaise bedecking university education in Africa. He called for quality assurance assessment — not on paper — but one truly put into action. He urged governments to establish regulatory bodies that would truly be committed to quality assurance. If we are to interrogate the issue of quality assurance in universities across Africa, we will discover that its absence is one of the problems dragging African countries below the benchmark. Is it truly a problem of a lack of funding or a lack of management, quality assurance, and effective management of available resources?

Undoubtedly, private universities in Africa have impacted university education in diverse ways. One of such is the absence of strike actions in these private schools. Public university education in Africa, especially in Nigeria, is notorious for strike actions, which cannot be blamed on the striking workers since they are entitled to their earned rewards. Sometimes even, their clamours are not about their earned rewards, but about the development of the universities. Another factor is the quality of student experience. By their structure, private universities in Africa are more student-centred than public universities. These institutions understand the essentiality of students in the university education system; therefore, they make the system more student-centred. From the environment to the facilities and the teaching methods, the system should be designed to make learning easier and safer for the students.

READ ALSO: Musa Adedayo And Alaroye: The Future Of Yoruba Language

Participants at the conference also highlighted one fundamental misconception about private universities in Africa. Private universities are often seen as profit-making establishments. But in reality, many of these private institutions are not necessarily more financially buoyant than the public ones. It is then more of efficiency and the effective management of the inadequate resources available. Since private universities are owned by individuals, organisations, or society, it becomes difficult to use resources indiscriminately without factoring in several options and possible consequences. It is easier for a university administrator in a government-owned university to mismanage funds than it is for an administrator in a private institution. Thus, private universities are not always smiling to the bank, as many people believe. Rather, they know how to put the available resources to use and achieve optimal results from their investment.

But why is this not so in public universities? Could the reason be the mentality that government-funded projects do not directly affect the financial stance of individuals? Is it the “it is not my money” mentality that allows public university managers to squander resources? If we so claim that public universities are not adequately funded, how do we account for the underutilised or unutilised assets? How do we account for the duplicity of assets? The ridiculous budgeting?

Management across various levels of the university system — from the Head of Department to the Dean, to the members of the Senate, to the Principal Officers — is one of the problems militating against public universities in Africa. One of the issues raised during the conference is the need to distinguish between academic and administrative excellence. A professor’s academic success is not a good gauge of whether they would be an excellent administrator, and this is one of the biggest dents in university administration. It was proposed that training and re-training of university staff members be done across different cadres, with leadership training and certification a prerequisite for holding administrative positions in the university system. It is myopic to allow leaders who have no fundamental knowledge of negotiation, communication and correspondence, crisis management, among other issues, into the system. A university administrator must understand the importance of scale of preference while factoring out personal benefits and objectives.

So, to what extent have universities impacted the societies they belong to? How innovative are our public universities? To what degree do they propose solutions to the society in which they are domiciled? Prof. Abdul Rasheed Na’Allah pointed out the importance of having universities as citadels of public good. This can be seen in how some private universities have contributed to the society they find themselves in. The gown-town relationship is symbiotic, and there is the need for a restructuring in the management of universities to allow for innovative ideas towards the reformation of public schools. The challenges being faced by public universities in Africa go beyond inadequate funding. The structure is decadent, and so are the results.

Furthermore, the role of donors and owners of universities — both public and private — cannot be handled with levity, especially in private schools. Prof. Jide Owoeye, a distinguished professor of International Relations and founder of Lead City University, pointed out the need to conduct university management and operations as strictly business while also allowing for the full functioning of all the organs of the university, including the Governing Council and the Senate. The founders need to be invested in their universities, though not to the point of infringing on the freedom given to the organs to function as they should.

Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.


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Abiodun Seeks US Partnership In Developing Critical Sectors



Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun

The Ogun State government has solicited for partnership with the United States of America in developing the critical sectors of the State’s economy.

The State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun who stated this when he received the American Consul General to Nigeria, Mr. Will Stevens, who led a 5-man delegation on a courtesy call in his office at Oke-Mosan Abeokuta on Wednesday, noted that the State considers the United States as a progressive partner in the areas of economy, good governance, security, climate change and human capital development around the world.

Governor Abiodun posited that the State apart from the sophistication of its people and their cognitive political culture, is unanimously and popularly adjudged as the New Jersey of Nigeria and the leading industrial hub in the West Africa Sub-region, hence the need to tap from the American experience to further its developmental stride.

The governor said his administration at inception in 2019, assembled a team made up of highly resourceful technocrats and cerebral policy architects and conceptualized a transformational philosophy coined ISEYA, which is an acronym for Infrastructural Development, Social Welfare and Well-being, Education and Human Capital Development, Youth Empowerment and lastly, Agriculture and Food Security.

He said: “Through this concept, we have strategically transformed the state with modern infrastructure, deliberate policy steps to attract businesses and moving the economy from being federal allocation-focused to becoming the state with the third largest Internally Generated Revenue in the country.

“The State’s strategic location as the primary gateway to Lagos State – the largest market with the busiest ports in Nigeria has contributed to its status as the Industrial Hub of Nigeria.

“Our State is home to one of the largest industrial zones in Sub-Saharan Africa, which includes the 8,000 hectares OPIC-owned Agbara Industrial Estate, which accommodates the Federal Ogun-Guangdong Free Trade Zone (OGFTZ), with forty-four (44) operational companies, factory tenants from across the world, with over 6,000 Nigerian employees and an estimated 100,000 metric tons of freight moving in and out daily.”

Prince Abiodun noted that in its quest to make Ogun State the first destination for investors in Nigeria, his administration is currently constructing an Agro Cargo International Airport at Iperu-Ilishan road in Ikenne Local Government Area of the State, adding that the project is strategically designed to create the needed infrastructure to boost the exportation of agricultural and non-agricultural goods.

“By its structure and business plan, the Cargo Airport remains a game-changer in our import and export promotion efforts, as it was specifically constructed to be an aerotropolis (Airport City) equipped with components such as a special agro-processing zone to process raw agricultural materials for exports, an international testing centre to certify that agro-produce complies with international standards before it is exported, and facility for passenger operations as well as facilities to receive parcels coming into Nigeria that are to be redistributed to other parts of the country.

“In addition to that, it is an important component of Ogun State’s transportation master plan expected not only to connect rail, road and water transportation but also to decongest the Lagos Airport,” the governor added.

Governor Abiodun appreciated the American government for her firm stance on democratic governance, specifically on the sanctity of the electoral process as well as supporting different reforms in the electoral process and taking an uncompromising position on electoral offenders.

In an interview after a closed-door meeting with the governor, the Consul General said their discussions centred on security and health.

He noted that health remains the number one investment in Nigeria as the US government is in the health sector to help Nigeria to reach the 95 95 95 goals of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country.

“It is my job to promote US trade and investment here in certain parts of Nigeria. I had a great conversation with the governor about the incredible investment the US companies are already making in the state as well as opportunities for more increased US trade and investment.

“We also talked about the tax sector, I think there are incredible opportunities right now to find jobs and opportunities for Nigerian youths to participate in the tax sector.

“We’ve seen the explosion of growth and investment in that sector throughout Nigeria, particularly in the South West,” the Consul General added.

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Toyin Falola And The October Harvest



Prof. Ezekiel Oladele Adeoti .Photo by ‘Gbile Oshadipe (2023) ©

By Ezekiel Oladele Adeoti

In the annals of academic and societal change, few luminaries shine as brightly as Professor Toyin Falola. As autumn leaves drifted in October, the literary world was astir from the changing seasons and the relentless enthusiasm of a septuagenarian scholar making waves across lecture halls and public platforms. In many cultures and traditions, October is a month of harvest – a time to reap the fruits of labour sown in prior months. Fittingly, for Professor Falola, this October truly lived up to that essence, bearing witness to an intellectual harvest that few could parallel.

Prof. Toyin Falola at the second  Distinguished Lecture Series of the Department of History & International Studies, Lagos State University, Ojo-Lagos, Nigeria on August 10, 2022. Photo by “Gbile Oshadipe (2022) ©

In many ways, the achievements of this month were a microcosm of Falola’s broader career: a testament to the confluence of hard work, passion, and a deep-seated commitment to societal advancement.

Within 31 days, Falola graced the podium for 3 public lectures, imparted wisdom in 2 university lectures, and was the beacon of 3 convocation lectures. Each of these engagements wasn’t just about sharing knowledge; they were conduits for sparking change, challenging established norms, and inspiring the next generation. However, to truly grasp the magnitude of Falola’s October endeavours, one must delve deeper into the essence of the man himself. At an age when many of his peers are retreating into the tranquillity of retirement, Falola’s spirit remains undiminished, if not encouraged. It’s not just the number of lectures or the honorary doctorates he received – which, in and of itself, is a remarkable feat – but the zeal with which he approaches each endeavour. His lectures, for instance, are not mere recitations of historical facts or academic theories. They are vibrant tapestries woven with threads of history, contemporary societal issues, and a vision for a brighter future. They challenge, they provoke, and most importantly, they inspire. But what drives a man of over 70 years to such relentless pursuit? To find the answer, one need not look further than his past works and the themes that permeate them. For Falola, academia isn’t a secluded ivory tower but a platform to engage with the real world. His research, extensive and varied as it is, always circles back to the core of societal problems. From the intricacies of Yoruba history to the broader strokes of African colonial and post-colonial narratives, Falola’s work sheds light on the issues that matter. These are issues that, in many ways, continue to shape societies today.

In this context, October wasn’t just another month in the calendar but a manifestation of Falola’s lifelong commitment to societal change. A promise that has seen him transcend the traditional confines of academia to engage with the broader public. His public lectures resonate with many audiences, often interspersed with anecdotes, real-life examples, and a touch of humour. From the eager university student to the curious layman, Falola’s words strike a chord, reminding everyone of the transformative power of knowledge and its role in sculpting a better future. In delving deeper into the man behind the October Harvest, one quickly realizes that Professor Falola’s achievements are not a product of overnight success but the culmination of decades of unwavering dedication. It’s a journey that’s seen him navigate the tumultuous waters of academia, societal challenges, and personal hurdles, emerging each time with a renewed sense of purpose. More than anything, this tenacity has been the cornerstone of his October endeavours and his broader career. One might wonder, what is the essence of these lectures and engagements? Why do they matter? The answer lies in the content and context of each meeting. Take, for instance, one of his public lectures from October. While the topic might have revolved around historical narratives, Falola deftly intertwined it with contemporary issues, drawing parallels and highlighting lessons. His ability to bridge the past with the present, to draw lessons from history and apply them to current challenges, is what sets him apart. In doing so, he educates and empowers his audience to view issues through a multifaceted lens, promoting critical thinking and proactive engagement.

Moreover, the venues of these lectures—from universities to public platforms—underscore his commitment to inclusive education. Universities, the traditional bastions of knowledge, are just one part of the equation for Falola. By stepping out and engaging with the broader public, he’s democratizing knowledge, making it accessible to all, irrespective of their academic or socio-economic backgrounds. It’s a move that challenges the status quo, emphasizing that learning shouldn’t be confined to ivory towers but should permeate every stratum of society. However, it’s not just the lectures that stood out in October. The two honorary doctorates he received are symbolic of his contributions to academia and society at large. Such accolades, while celebratory, are also reflective. They compel us to examine the body of work that merits such recognition. For Falola, it’s a vast tapestry of research, publications, mentorship, and public engagement. Each strand, be it a book, an article, or a lecture, is imbued with a purpose: to enlighten, challenge, and change. Yet, amidst all the accolades and achievements, what’s truly remarkable is Falola’s humility. Interact with him, and you’re not met with the airs of a celebrated academician but the warmth of a mentor, the curiosity of a lifelong learner, and the passion of a societal changemaker. This unique blend of excellence and humility makes his October Harvest not just an academic feat but a life lesson for many. It serves as a poignant reminder that success isn’t just about personal milestones but about the impact one leaves on society and the legacy one creates for future generations.

Reflecting on the October Harvest and the man at its epicentre, we must contextualize Professor Falola’s achievements within a broader societal framework. At a time when the world grapples with myriad challenges – from socio-political upheavals to environmental crises – the role of intellectuals and academicians becomes ever more crucial. And Falola, with his October engagements and lifelong commitment, epitomizes the potential of scholarly intervention in driving societal change. But why is this important? In an era dominated by bite-sized information and fleeting trends, the depth and breadth of academic research provide a counterbalance. Falola’s lectures, rich in historical context and analytical depth, offer a respite from the cacophony of superficial narratives. They remind us of the importance of understanding the past to navigate the present and shape the future. Every lecture and engagement is a clarion call for introspection, urging society to delve deeper, question more, and strive for a holistic understanding. This is not to say that academia is the sole bastion of truth or the only path to societal change. But scholars like Falola, who bridge the gap between the academic and public spheres, play a pivotal role in grounding discussions in research, evidence, and historical context. They serve as beacons, illuminating the path forward with the torch of knowledge.

Furthermore, Falola’s October engagements underscore the timeless essence of commitment and passion. His journey is a testament to perseverance, dedication, and lifelong learning in a world that often prioritizes instant gratification. It’s a narrative that resonates beyond the confines of academia, inspiring professionals, creatives, and changemakers across various fields. The underlying message? Age is but a number; passion and commitment are timeless. As we draw the curtains on the October Harvest, carrying forward the lessons it offers is essential. It’s a month that celebrates Professor Falola’s achievements, the ethos of scholarly engagement, and its potential impact on society. It’s a call to action for scholars, students, and the general public to engage, question, learn, and drive change.

In conclusion, Professor Toyin Falola’s October Harvest is more than a chronicle of a month’s achievements. It’s a celebration of a lifetime of dedication, a tribute to the transformative power of knowledge, and a reminder of the potential each one of us holds. As the leaves of October give way to the chill of November, the echoes of Falola’s lectures, the wisdom of his words, and the passion of his commitment continue to inspire, urging us all to sow the seeds of change, knowledge, and progress. For in every seed lies the promise of a harvest, and in every effort, the potential for impact.

Prof. Adeoti wrote from  the Department of History & International Studies at the Faculty of Arts, Lagos State University, Ojo-Lagos, Nigeria.


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Keep Witchcraft Accusations Out Of Politics In Sychelles



Witch Burning, Impunity And Abuses Linked to Witchcraft Beliefs In Benue State
Dr. Leo Igwe

By Leo Igwe

The Advocacy for Alleged Witches urges the government of Sychelles to keep charges linked to witchcraft beliefs out of politics in the country because they make no legal and political sense. This call became necessary following a report that the country’s main opposition leader, Peter Herminie has been charged with witchcraft. Charged with witchcraft in this 21st century? He was accused along with seven other persons including a Tanzanian. According to the report, Herminie and other persons have been charged with “possessing items intended for use in witchcraft, conspiracy to perform witchcraft and procuring services related to witchcraft”. It was stated that the name of this key politician was allegedly mentioned in a whatsapp message between a local and the person from Tanzania, who was arrested at the main international airport on September 21, 2023. The report says that “Items related to witchcraft, including stones, black wooden artefacts, small bottles of brownish liquid, a collection of powders, and documents with strange language and “demonic and satanic” symbols” were found in the possession of this Tanzanian.

State prosecutors are of the notion that the documents might be some vandalised materials from the local churches. Mr. Herminie has denied the charges, and dismissed the allegation that items linked to witchcraft including bones, body parts, and objects associated with Christianity” were found in his office or in his possession.

The Advocacy for Alleged Witches is asking the government of Sychelles to drop these charges, because they are absurd and constitute a show of shame and embarrassment. The prosecution of Herminie and other co-accused is witch hunting in both literal and political sense. And witch hunting should has no place in 21st century politics in Sychelles.

Otherwise, how does the government define witchcraft or witchcraft items? How does the government distinguish witchcraft items, whatever that means, from traditional religious objects? How did the prosecutors know that the said items were intended for use in witchcraft? Are stones, black wooden artefacts, and small bottles of brownish liquid witchcraft materials? I mean how will state prosecutors establish that some symbols are demonic and satanic?

Has the government the facility or expertise to prove beyond reasonable doubt what is witchcraft and what is not witchcraft, what is demonic or satanic and what is not? How will the government prosecute this case without flagrantly violating the right of its citizens to freedom of religion or belief? At a time of growing cases of witch persecution in many parts of Africa, the government of Sychelles should discontinue this unfortunate and unwarranted instance of witch hunting.


Dr.Igwe directs the Advocacy for Alleged Witches.

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