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Mixed reactions over creation of new varsities by Delta government

Umah Muhammed
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Mixed reactions have continued to trail the creation of three additional universities in Delta State. While some stakeholders described the decision as an aberration and uncalled for, others commended government for a job well done.

Already, there are seven existing universities in the state, but supporters of the government’s decision said additional institutions are a good omen for the people.

Prof Tony Afejuku, of the Department of English and Literature, University of Benin, said additional universities would enable students of Delta origin who were hitherto deprived admission due to lack of infrastructure and capacity, be admitted.

He however expressed fears that successive administrations may not be able to fund such universities once the present administration completes its tenure.

On whether the state can adequately fund the schools, Prof. Afejuku said the state is buoyant enough. “It is just that people have been mismanaging funds; the bulk of Delta money comes from Warri, so, a conventional University should as well be cited in the oil City, at least, to balance the equation”.

Associate Professor of Mass Communication and Journalism at the Delta State University, Abraka, Dr Emmanuel Ufuophu-Biri, said while the decision is commendable; can the state government fund the universities?

“Is the state government willing to fund the universities? Has government been sufficiently funding existing institutions of higher learning in the state? Do we have sufficient universities in the state? With the establishment of three new universities, does the state now have too many universities?

Dr. Ufuophu-Biri said government can conveniently fund the new institutions, as the state has the capacity to fund the new universities as well as other existing higher institutions.

“The creation of new universities is government’s manifestation of massive love for education, knowing that education promotes and drives sustainable development’” the labour leader added.

As to whether there were already sufficient universities in the state before creating new ones, the associate professor noted that the state has only Delta State University, Abraka as the only public university in the state. “Frankly, the state does not have sufficient universities going by her population and people’s penchant for education. Look at the Boston area of Massachusetts in the United States of America, it has a population of about 4.5 million people, and that area has about 78 universities. Many of them are world-class universities. Delta State has over 5.5 million people serviced by only Delta State University, Abraka, two other specialised federal universities and a few high-fee paying private universities. Only one state university cannot cater for teeming number of university applicants from the state.

Ufuophu-Biri added: “Every year, over 30,000 candidates apply for admission to each of the country’s public universities; in many cases, less than 7000 are admitted by each of the universities. This trend is not good enough”.

But for Theophilus Onojeghen, establishing three more universities is suicidal, as existing ones have not been adequately funded. He lamented that most of the institutions have not been able to meet their mandates, apart from issuing certificates at the end of the four or five years programmes.

“Research is dead in our higher institutions because government at all levels are not providing funds, they simply do not believe in research, and now we are talking about COVID-19, with all the professionals in Medicines in Nigerian universities, no research is being carried out to cure the virus. So, creating additional universities for me is a misplaced priority.

He wondered how a governor complaining of paucity of funds and who allegedly retrenched about 1500 people employed by the last administration, would now establish three universities that would attract more than 6000 workers.

According to Onojeghen, Delta has three polytechnics, three colleges of education, three nursing schools and universities, but no industries.

This, to him, has led to high rate of crime in the state, as government is unable to engage some of the graduates, five or 10 years after graduation.

Source: Guardian Nigerian Newspaper

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