Globally, Education has been affirmed as an important tool for a nation's development. As a developing country, Nigeria's aim of development has placed emphasis on the development of individual as a way of national development through the higher education system. The realization led to a vigorous university education by the government after independence.
Nigerian educational policy
AMADI M.N 2011 defined policies as written or unwritten statements that guide present and future thinking, initiatives, actions and decision of managers. While educational policy is a general statement containing principles, regulations and rules that govern many of the decisions on how to educate children, where to get them educated, where to get them employed, who to teach them, how to finance their education, what to teach, how to impart skills, goals, objectives and even the philosophy.
Policy on higher education is included in the policy program of the educational sectors policies adopted by the government. In the educational sector policies adopted in the past include the 6-3-3-4 system, education for all, TRCN, UPE, needs educational policy paper, Al majiri and nomadic education system and the recent UBE, modified 9-3-4 and 1-9-3-4 system and the NPE 2004. The National Policy on Education(NPE) was first formulated in 1977 which has been reviewed in 1981, 1988 and presently 2004. The policy system adopted a 6-3-3-4 system which has been recently modified into 1-6-3-3-4 to cater for early childhood education. Amadi also recorded that the higher education has 7 goals as specified in the NPE 2004. In the NPE 2004 section 8 addresses higher education with the objectives stated and intended targets and how it will be met.
It is for this reason that the government formulated the national policy on education which is expected to guide and provide terms of action in the educational sector. The system of education has different tiers including the primary as foundation, secondary(divided into junior and senior schools) and the tertiary tier which include the Universities, Colleges of Educations, Polytechnics, Monotechnics, and other degree awarding institution at the post secondary level.
HISTORY INTO HIGHER EDUCATION DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA
Higher education in Nigeria is part of the national education system which comprises of the universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and other degree awarding institution at the post secondary level. Maja, (2000) viewed Higher education in Nigeria as the largest and most complex in the continent. The supervision of this system is carried out by the National University Commission for the universities(NUC), National Board for Technical Education(NBTE) for the polytechnics and technical education and the National Commission for Colleges of Education(NCCE) for the colleges of education. This higher institution pursue their mission through teaching, research, publications and community service programs.
According to Ekwueme L.U in Aloy Ejiogu(2004, pp 98-120)Nigerian Education and challenges of the 21st century published by the faculty of education UNIVERSITY OF LAGOS. The higher education covers education at the tertiary level including the universities(both conventional and specialised) polytechnics, monotechnics, Colleges of Education and institute that prepare students for diverse profession and careers. He opined that universities are to produce high level of manpower in various fields including arts, humanities, social sciences, pure and applied sciences while the polytechnics and College of technology are to produce middle level technical manpower.
In Nigeria the higher education development could be traced to the Eliot and Asquoith commission report of 1945 which led to the establishment of University College Ibadan and subsequently commissions like Ashby commission 1960 which led to the establishment of 4 additional universities( Obafemi Awolowo University, 1960, University of Nigeria Nsukka 1960, Ahmadu Bello University 1962 And University of Lagos 1962). Several other reports and commissions led to the emergence of other universities.
The universities in Nigeria are of various types depending on their mandates and focus area. They include the conventional universities (e.g University of Lagos, Obafemi Awolowo University, University of Ibadan, University of Nigeria Nsukka and University of Ilorin etc.) and specialised universities. The specialised universities have their own area of focus such as Agriculture(University of Agriculture Abeokuta, Micheal Okpara University of Agriculture And University of Agriculture Makurdi), Technology(Federal University Of Technology Akure, Federal University Of Technology Yola, Federal University Of Technology Owerri, Federal University Of Technology Minna, Ladoke Akintola University Of Technology Etc), Petroleum(Federal University Of Petroleum Resources Effurrun), Education(Tai Solarin University Of Education).
The goals and objectives of university education are highlighted in the NPE 2004: 22 are as follow;
(a) contribute to national development through high level relevant manpower training.
(b) develop and inculcate proper values for the survival of the individual and society;
(c) develop the intellectual capability of individuals to understand and appreciate their local and external environments;
(d) acquire both physical and intellectual skills which will enable individuals to be self-reliant and useful members of the society;
(e) promote and encourage scholarship and community service;
(f) forge and cement national unity; and
(g) promote national and international understanding and interaction
Source; National policy on education(2004)
The university system have witnessed unprecedented growth both in term of quantity of the university and turn out of graduate from about 5 in 1962 to …….in 2012. This sector of the educational system has recorded success and is still faced with myriads of challenges affecting it. The universities takes a larger chunk of concentration of the higher education as it focus on producing high level skilled manpower for the market.
At present, Nigeria has 117 Universities including the Nigeria Defence Academy and Police College, 27 Monotechnics,26 colleges of agriculture, 50 colleges of health technology 99 VEIs/IEIs, 73 Polytechnics and 67 Colleges of Education. At the moment in Nigeria there is no clearly defined policy on higher agricultural education.
Nigerian Agricultural Universities
The existence of the Universities of Agricultures is not new as it has been practiced across the globe, specialised institutions are set up at different point in time to address specific needs in relation to the national goals and development. Example include the Land-grant universities, massachetis institute of technology MIT, London school of economics etc.
The universities of agriculture in Nigeria were established according to the military decree of 1988 which established three(3) universities of agriculture( University of Agriculture Abeokuta, Ogun state, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike Abia State and University of Agriculture Makurdi, Benue state.) to provide the needed manpower in the agricultural sector and their objectives stated in the decree establishing them after merging and demerging of previously established higher institute of learning.
The universities derives its power, organisation and administrative rules from the decree and other laws governing the operation of universities in Nigeria. This universities are modeled in line with the establishment of the universities of technology.
The Nigerian government in 1988 in line with its objectives of developing the agricultural sector established 3 universities of agriculture by an act called Federal Universities of Agriculture Act 1988 . The three universities were from existing institutions but with mandates in the area of agriculture and rural development. The objectives of the universities are stated out in section 3 a-m of the Federal Universities of Agriculture Act 1988 as follows;
to encourage the advancement of learning and to hold out to all persons without distinction of race, creed, sex or political conviction, the opportunity of acquiring a higher education in agriculture;
to develop and offer academic and professional programmes leading to the award of diplomas, first degrees, postgraduate research and higher degrees which emphasize planning, adaptive, technical, maintenance, developmental and productive skills in agriculture, agricultural engineering and allied professional disciplines with the aim of producing socially mature persons with capacity to improve on those disciplines and develop new ones, but also to contribute to the scientific transformation of agriculture in Nigeria;
to act as agents and catalysts, through postgraduate training, research and innovation for the effective and economic utilisation, exploitation and conservation of Nigeria's natural, agricultural, economic and human resources;
to offer to the general population, as a form of public service, the results of training and research in agriculture and allied disciplines and to foster the practical application of those results;
to establish appropriate relationships with other national institutions involved in training, research and development of agriculture;
to identify the agricultural problems and needs of Nigeria and to find solutions to them within the context of overall national development;
to provide and promote sound basic scientific training as a foundation for the development of agriculture and allied disciplines, taking into account indigenous culture, the need to enhance national unity, the need to vastly increase the practical content of student training, and adequate preparation of graduates for self-employment in agriculture and allied professions;
to promote and emphasise teaching, research and extension of agricultural knowledge, including agriculture extension services and outreach programmes, in-service training, continuing education, and on-farm adaptive research;
to offer academic programmes in relation to the training of manpower for agriculture in Nigeria;
to organise research relevant to training of agriculture with emphasis on small scale farming;
to organise extension services and out-reach programmes for technology transfer;
to establish institutional linkages in order to foster collaboration and integration of training, research, and extension activities; and
to undertake any other activities appropriate for Universities of Agriculture.
SOURCE; FEDERAL UNIVERSITIES OF AGRICULTURE ACT; COMPLETE LAWS OF NIGERIA
The act and the general universities miscellaneous provision act 20---- provides the authority upon which the university is managed, its area of interest and authority to appoint and disengage staff. The universities are located in the countries different ecological region them the need to explore in areas of their own ecological advantages. As the universities has been noted for achieving excellence in areas of their own advantage. This universities alongside the other universities compete, admit and are ranked together which makes a totality of the university system. These universities have excelled in their own area like UNIVERSITY OF AGRICULTURE ABEOKUTA been the best university in Nigeria according to the NATIONAL UNIVERSITY COMMISSION and 2nd best in Nigeria and 35th in Africa for 2011 by Webometrics int'l. also Umudike breaking grounds in areas of yam seedlings (root and tuber crop development). The policy for Universities of Agricultures are administered by the Federal Ministry of Education through the National University Commission and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture And Rural Development enshrined in the establishing act.
Challenges facing the universities in Nigeria
Globally, universities face one or more issues at a point in time which hitherto contribute to the dynamics witnessed in education. In Africa the challenges are high and shape the quality and nature of higher education offered.
Charles.j.maguire(2006) listed the main challenges facing African universities with Nigeria as no exception as;
enrollment are often greater than the capacity of universities to handle.
Unsustainable pattern of expenditures for higher education.
Decline in quality of education.
Declining relevance to national needs.
Exodus of teaching and research staff to areas of higher pay and better conditions.
Too many universities in certain countries unsustainable with existing budgets.
Disconnect with the employers of the graduate from the universities.
General challenges faced by the universities in Nigeria include;
Okebukola (2006) ascertained that the challenges facing Nigerian universities are grouped into;
1. Access 2. Funding 3. Management 4. Teaching, research and learning.
Peculiar challenges faced by the agricultural universities in Nigeria
Agricultural education in Nigeria has continue to face all challenges faced by the educational sector thus making it more difficult for the universities of agriculture to excel. The universities are faced daunting challenges coupled with the specialised nature like their counter part in the conventional universities. The focused nature has added to the numerous challenges they face. These challenges although similar with the other universities but the degree varies.
According to a world bank report(1999) on integrating university reported that agricultural universities face challenges of providing relevant training for future agricultural scientist, defining institutional roles in relation to general universities, establishing structures and funding procedures for research and extension, drafting research agendas, providing adequate staff incentives, improving program relevance and creating roles in extension.
Charles.j.maguire(2006) was of the opinion that the problem with agricultural higher education include;
Isolation of the agricultural university from other parts of the university system.
Lack of communication with employers of the graduate of the university(the market).
Poor practical skills.
Decreased funding as urban focus gather strength.
Weak connection with other part of the agricultural part of the agricultural education system. i.e colleges, vocational schools, farming training networks e.t.c.
High unemployment of graduates from the university often due to lack of relevance of curriculum.
Failure to attract the best quality students from secondary schools. (the universities are considered as alternatives/ option not their choice).
Inbreeding; teaching and research staff are frequently graduate of the same university or college thereby excluding the entry of new ideas from the wider world of academia and research.
Challenges faced by the Universities of Agricultures in Nigeria include but not limited to;
Funding; all universities still put their number one challenge as paucity of funds this is because the principal financier i.e the government do not release the budgetary allocation and even when released the percentage. The issue of funding can be viewed from three 3 point i. Availability and accessibility of funds ii. Level of fund iii. Application and management of funds.
Funds available to many of these Universities of Agricultures are from the federal government through budgetary allocations and grants from other federal government agencies like Tertiary Education Trust Fund, National University Commission, Education Trust Fund, Petroleum Trust Development Fund among others. According to the act establishing the Universities of Agricultures the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Federal Ministry of Education, Federal Ministry of Environment are also partners in the funding of this universities but little can be said of them except the education ministry which act as supervising and administrative ministry. The federal government through its budgetary mechanism allocate funds to this institution which are released late, inadequate and under high bureaucratic process making accessing the funds stressful. With level of funding dictated by the by the principal owners the govt who has a lot to fund and seeing the university as a recurrent expenditure only led to the poor and inadequate funding of the university as only low percentage of their capital budget is released for infrastructural development of the universities resulting in poor infrastructural, capital and human development. Also the government interference in the funds application and procurement process affect the funds for infrastructural development.
Many of the universities administrators faced with paucity of funds and late release of funds still go ahead with the misapplication of the funds to projects which are not of importance to the university. Many universities engage in white elephant project leading to the many uncompleted and abandoned projects as indicated in the summary report of the needs assessment carried out by the federal govt. many of the university administrators lack financial skills to manage and do not invest in priority project and in project that could have benefit and returns to their institution. As Universities of Agricultures with focused on agriculture many of their administrators do not focus on their areas of specialization as investment are carried out on trivial projects neglecting the fufilment of their mandates of agricultural development through teaching, research and extension.
Management issues; the Universities of Agricultures as specialised institutions are also faced with issues of leadership and administrative challenges. Many of the administrators are not well grounded in management issues such responsible for the poor performance of the universities. These has made many of the universities redundant as they fail to explore new opportunities, improved procedures like ICT in the management of the universities. Also the tribalization and politicization of the management team of these institutions has led to frequent conflicts, less cooperation and team work do not exist. The poorly structured organogram of the university also account for some failure of the administrators.
Curriculum relevance; the responsible for the dwindling image of the Universities of Agricultures has been the relevance of their courses to the job market. Many job providers especially believes that the curriculum and training received by the graduates of the Universities of Agricultures do not have any relevance with the needed skills and so would still need to train and retrain such graduate to fit in their own scheme. The curriculum has been in use for a long time and still place emphasis crude scientific approach rather than modern practical approach and also the curriculum increases the distance between the town and gown as graduate of Universities of Agricultures are expected to be employers of labour through their training but many of them due to the nature of the training received do not have the needed experience still depend on white collar jobs which are non existing so increasing the unemployment figure of the country. Also graduates from of Universities of Agricultures are not produced in line with the national policy and needs as government needs. For instance the national Agricultural Transformation Agenda currently focuses on value chain approach to develop areas like rice, cassava, wheat, millet etc. many of the training received In the universities do not conform with this. Curriculum still remain obsolete and cannot meet the need of this program as graduates are still taught with hoes and cutlass rather than with machineries like tractor, plough and irrigation farming.
With relevant changing issues in the global world the agricultural universities in association with other relevant stakeholders like the nutritionist, sociologist, climatologist and economics must provide answers to those emerging issues raised by the issues like climate change, disease outbreak, economic recession, food and nutrition in order to remain relevant to the nation's need and the people.
Research and its output; Universities of Agricultures carry out research In the their specialization area with many hindrances. Such as paucity of funds to carry out research, global climate change seasonality fluctuations, environmental hazards, experimental failure but have still been able to bring out tangible results as innovation and discovery, technology development such as development of rice threshing and milling machine of various types and cassava processing machine but many of this output have not found their way into local use as they end up in the universities or the library. Promotion and subsidy should be given to farmers willing to adopt and use the technologies. The government should encourage the direct usage of research output proven to be better and also promote the multiplication of technology, promotion of innovation and act seriously on the output of research from the universities as this will encourage more research.. although research has to be streamlined into the national needs and private sector needs i.e research must have direct benefits with what the people need so that it can be directly applied. Also training of staff for enhanced research productivity should be done. Funding of research activities should increase as not only the government bear the cost as the private sector need to be involved. There is a need for coordination of research activities in the Universities of Agricultures in order to avoid duplication hence the need for the establishment of research database (databank).
Library and knowledge management; the library forms the backbone of university system as the content , accessibility and availability of books determines the knowledge available and how it is applied. The Nigeria library system is faced with fundamental challenges so are the Universities of Agricultures this include availability of books and research materials in interested areas; accessibility and timeliness of the books as books found in the libraries are obsolete. There is also low level of usage and exposure to e-library and non awareness about e-software like AGORA, TEEAL and virtual library. As collaborated by Salaam(201 ) that a large number of academic staff was not aware of the existence of TEEAL in the library. Hence the result of its usage is not encouraging. The library serves both the student and the staff of the university community but the library are stocked with obsolete, non relevant books, poorly coordinated and managed. E-library is still faced with challenges of usage and facilities, also access to modern institution library is still not possible.
INFRASTRUCTURAL CHALLENGES; infrastructural challenges in Nigeria universities remains a trademark as many of the university infrastructure network are in bad state, obsolete, inadequate, poorly maintained, inaccessible and over stressed. The infrastructure network of the university include the road networks, transport system, medical system, physical buildings including lecture halls, practical laboratories and workshop, power supply, IT network, accommodation and security.
Lecture hall; Universities of Agricultures have lecture halls where classroom teaching takes place. This halls are inadequate, overstressed many of the time as student population exceeds the sitting capacity, do not have the necessary equipment to support teaching like projectors, effective sound system, electrical system and accessories like toilets, good ventilation, security system even when they are available they are not in good condition leading to poor lecture condition.
Transport and road networks; the road network of the universities are still not in good shape including those connecting the universities with other part of the city. The inter-connecting roads and the ones connecting the farm with the academic centers. With majority of the students residing off campus, the movement in and out of the university has been affected so leading the management to venture into transport. This include allowing private transport owners to plight the school and provision of mass buses to convey students from school to outside the campus. The cost of transportation add up to the high recurrent expenditure of the university.
Medical system; the medical system of the universities only render preliminary medical and laboratory service to its community. The medical centres are faced with challenges such as inadequate bed space, inadequate drug, short and poorly motivated staff, absence of water and electric supply thus hindering the delivery of service to the community. Response to emergency situations and linkage with other health facilities within the state of location has continue to hamper their delivery. Many of the medical facilities are in poor state, with no or obsolete equipment. Access and quality of service rendered by the facility remain largely unsatisfiable.
Practical and laboratory workshop; as Universities of Agricultures are science based, the need for practical and laboratories and workshop cannot be downplayed or under emphasized. As practical forms part of the teaching and research process as this enhance the need for a well equipped standard laboratories and workshop reverse is the case in many institutions as the laboratory are filled with obsolete materials in places where the laboratories exist as many do not have laboratory and workshop. Materials needed in workshop for fabrication and engineering works are usually not provided as students are only taught the theory of practical or a large number of student come together in groups to work on the small available tools with many not having the practical feelings. Also, many of the laboratories do not have power and water supply to enhance their work condition so making it difficult for simple laboratory work to be carried out by both the students and the staff culminating in going outside to do such jobs.
Power supply; this remain a clog in the wheel of progress of the nation in the educational sector as the erratic to no power supply has stalled and even terminated many research, practical, administrative and academic activities which made classroom teaching unbearable, classroom teaching unbearable working environment poorer and has led to the usage of alternative sources such as generator and solar power which makes a high percentage of the budget of the institutions which most time are bogus and unsustainable leading to the rationing of power or total black out in some cases on campus. The manifestation of poor power supply as aided the activities of miscreants and vices such as theft, cultism etc. on campus and also some cases of student unrest most especially when exams is approaching also manifesting in the increasing price of services on campus as a result of power outage.
Information Communication Technology(ICT); Universities of Agricultures have applied ICT at low level in their daily activities. The most used ones are still used at some challenging level. The internet is not as efficient as it goes on and off. Also the bandwidth size still remain small compared to the level of work to be carried out. Other ICT facilities such as computers, scanners, photocopiers, printers, faxing machine are available but inadequate. Also, the low level of automation of activities i.e adoption electronic ways of doing things as many of their activities are still carried out manually and those carried out electronically do face challenges such as non accessibility, lack of maintenance, lack of expertise or IT professionals. Although IT has been employed in the database management of the universities especially for staff and students but still need to do more upon the management of its database as university ranking such as Webometrics rank universities according to their ICT application especially the Web contents.
Security; security of lives and properties remain fundamental for any progress to be witness in the university setting actions and activities resulting from student unrest, cultism, theft, indigene-student fracas possess a strong threat to security of lives and property. With the Universities of Agricultures having many of its community members(staff and students) resides off campus there is a need to ensure safety and security both within and outside the campus in order to enhance their productivity. Also, university properties have to be secured from theft and preying animals as well as poaching illegal settlements.
Accommodation; larger student population of Universities of Agricultures resides off campus as the Universities of Agricultures could not provide enough hostel for them also the staff population resides off campus who also face the harsh condition of getting decent accommodation as property owners exploit them. The university accommodation are over populated with an average of 6-8 students in a room and the maintenance of this hostel are still poor. Seeking for hostel has continue to be competitive even with the increasing cost of the hostel has continue to be a great challenge. The accommodation where available are usually in bad shape, poorly maintained and of high cost.
Other challenges include staff welfare(motivation and productivity), access and admission issues, student population, activities and welfare, quality assurance(inspection and supervision), need assessment, teaching methodology and pedadgogy.
With the totality of these problems the universities of agriculture deals with the risk of becoming irrelevant as an educational institution if not urgently addressed. This has now manifested as agricultural position in organizations and agencies are now been taken over by non agric experts especially those from the social sciences background more in the private sector.
Prospects and solution
SOLUTION TO SOME PROBLEMS HIGHLIGHTED.
Redefining the curriculum content to meet prevailing government policy, national goals and the need of the private sector.
Carry out aggressive outreach activities to inform all potential funding agencies about the potentials of the institution and the major constraints preventing their optimal operation.
Build institutional confidence among staff so that they are able to articulate the vision and commitment of the institution in national and regional development.
Choose a thorough goal setting exercise for all the departments and faculties and rank those goals so that potential funding agencies can choose areas to assist.
Engage in continuous dialogue with donors and government to keep up with their areas of interest and procedures for project presentation and presentation.
Institute a staff appraisal system in objectives, transparent and consistent in order to reward high performers but at the same time encourage below-average staff.
*** in order to achieve many of the institutional goals leadership skills are a necessary ingredients as this help the institution to maximize its strength and minimize the effect of its weakness and exploring opportunities. Thus the leadership of the institute must be appointed based on merit and technical expertise in the area of specialization through a credible selection process.