EDUCATION AS COMMERCE: THE OSUN EXAMPLE

It sounds so imponderable, almost unconscionable, that the man who today prides himself as the philosopher king of the Obasanjo concept of education as an item of trade is none other than Professor Peter Okebukola, an otherwise highly regarded academic. He is today the greatest theoretician, indeed, a zealot of those that see education-ala the…”
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September 18, 2007 11:51 pm

It sounds so imponderable, almost unconscionable, that the man who today prides himself as the philosopher king of the Obasanjo concept of education as an item of trade is none other than Professor Peter Okebukola, an otherwise highly regarded academic. He is today the greatest theoretician, indeed, a zealot of those that see education-ala the Breton Wood institutions-not as a social service but one that must be paid for through the nose, even by those who have, and be completely taken beyond the reach of the children of the poor.

It is such a cruel irony that those who should facilitate access to higher education for the greater majority of our youth are the very ones now snatching it from the reach of the children of the poor. It reminds one of Margaret Thatcher, the milk snatcher, who thought nothing of denying little kids of that essential product.

Of course, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola has proved time, and again, that he is not a great fan of the under privileged. But nothing can compare with the fees regime he has now approved for his Nobel prize-targeting university, one which ranges between N150,000 and N200,000.00k, depending on where you come from and what course of study.

Even without conducing a series of open-ended interviews or having the privilege of access for an intensive study of their executive memos which must have sought of justify these totally unreasonable fees in a so-called state university, it is only too obvious that the Osun publics, like the parents whose wards were unconscionably fleeced of their hard earned money, are today not offering Oyinlola any roses.

Whatever their claims to expertise in this area, both in its multi-campus structure and the punishing fee regime, the Osun State University as conceptualized by its Implementation Committee is a study in how not to run a university especially in a largely agrarian and preponderantly poor environment. It would have made more sense if Professor Okebukola, as Executive Secretary of the National University Commission, had partnered with Governor Oyinlola to obtain a license from the Obasanjo government to own a private university even if it would be sited in Osun State.

Look around the entire country, nothing compares to this man’s inhumanity to man, the one germinating in Osun State where the sing-song for the governor’s first four years was that there was no money to establish a university.

At the Osun State University, students shall, in addition to the excessive fees, also pay for games (can you imagine), ICT, library, examination, hand-book and damage, in what would essentially be an off-campus institution. I think Prince Oyinlola must get these people to invent more ways of making a bank of a university.

Writing in her EDUTALK column in The Nation of 6 September, 2007, Kofoworola Belo-Osagie has the following to say “Thousands of potential students are weeping, weeping that after making so much effort to gain admission into the newly created Osun State University, Osogbo, they are back to square one and the poorer for it’ She went on to describe how what looks to me like a typical 419 scam was hatched. A university whose Implementation Committee must have programmed to admit less than 6000 students in all the way to sell application forms to close to 100,000 candidates at a princely sum of N3,000.00k.

If ever there was a scam, this was it. And since the NCC would not have allowed this to pass if committed by any of Communications companies, I think the NUC must get Osun State to vomit and refund this unearned bonanza.

It is stealing by style. On top of this, each candidate was made to pay N500.00k for a scratch card which hardly guaranteed access to their website and as if these were not enough indignities, many of the candidates had to bribe lower cadre staff to finally obtain application forms that had been paid for in the first instance. On top of all these too, the candidates hadn’t the slightest idea of what type of fees the university would inflict on them.

If they do not know it yet, these people have succeeded in giving Osun State a bad name. But the worst was yet to come. It came in the form of a you-can-go-to-hell admonition on their website where they insulted the poor candidates and their parents as follows: ‘APPLICANTS WHO DO NOT SHARE OUR VISION OF A WORLD CLASS UNIVERSITY through payment of our published fees are NOT compelled to enroll in UNIOSUN. This, coming from a people who lay claims to being educated is a big shame indeed.

They now went on to give some 419-like psyching: “After few months of pioneering experience from September 21, you will hold your head high anywhere in the world as a student of Osun State University’ and in 25 years, they would have produced a Nobel prize winner. Pray, how much did Professor Soyinka pay at the University of Ibadan?

What exactly are they going to do here that Covenant University to  which Professor Okebukola gets routinely invited has not done thousand times over? Is he going to replicate his state of the art facilities in every town and village where they have their campus?  If yes, can they not see the unnecessary duplication in men and materials? And if they were going to charge these fees why not have one campus? Before I get lectured on dividends of democracy, what exactly has Ire gained from its Polytechnic apart from tears, blood and mayhem? What manner of administrators are these?

I lay no claims to any expertise here, but I have been privileged to drink at the feet of the very best and this is no ego tripping: Oluwasanmi at Ife and Akinkugbe at Ilorin. These are academic giants and administrators with whom I worked directly. One thing I came away with from each of them was their total commitment to the cause and welfare of their students. Even with a punishing back-ache, Oluwasanmi would ensure they had the best and as pioneer Vice-Chancellor (Principal, University College, Ilorin), Professor Akinkugbe spared no effort in ensuring the comfort of the young men and women under his care. Not for them a take-it or leave-it, heaven-may-care pronouncements as they now gleefully tell us in Osogbo.

And lest they be carried away by fancy, these Osun people should not be led into thinking that they’re going to replicate Covenant or the Redeemer universities in Osogbo. Or are they also going to pay a professor in excess of N13m as Covenant does? These are institutions the Holy Spirit laid on the hearts of the men pioneering them and for them there is a clear vision. Academics, I know, go to certain universities, not for money, but for the incomparable academic standing of that particular university’s leadership. There in Osun, I cannot see any of that for now nor would a serious academic not think twice before taking up an appointment with a government that recently treated medical doctors like filth. So where are their Nobel Laureates coming from? After all this is a state institution with all its predilection to cult related and partisan political activities, adept as the proprietors are, at manipulating these young minds.

For all that I can glimpse of UNIOSUN for now, it is nothing more than the brainwave of an experiment-loving academic who successfully sold his pet idea of a university to less than calculating political office holder with the prospective students no better than guinea pigs. To make any significant impact therefore, the university, its structure and its underpinning philosophy, must be completely reworked.

One hopes their large egos would permit.

By: femi orebe

Culled from THE NATION.

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