From the management of newly licensed Atiba University came an assurance that brilliant but poor students will be catered for.
Speaking on the plan of the varsity, which is the 73rd private university in Nigeria, the chairman of the institution’s Board of Trustees, Alhaji Abdulrahman Idris said the issue was recently tabled at a stakeholders meeting.
He added: We have set up a committee comprising of eminent and seasoned scholars. We call the “Take-off Committee”. They are currently working on this and other relevant concerns. At the end of the day, they would come up with acceptable positions or arrangements that are practically workable and in tandem with contemporary realities. Definitely, we are going to put indigent students in our consideration and agenda. We must give them chance. Indigents (or poverty) is a reality. And it will be a tragedy to allow it to obstruct the educational or any form of personal development. After-all, education is a social service. It is a national tragedy for us to continue to allow poverty to remain an obstacle to education.’
Expressing confidence that the university will stand out, he disclosed: ‘that we have Atiba University licensed today has been a hectic and very long journey of 15 years. Ordinarily, in view of what we passed through, we should value the licence and coming into being of the university. We shall strive to put in our best in ensuring that Atiba remains one of the best universities in Nigeria and even beyond – Amen.
‘After all, it was not something we got on a platter of gold. We really worked hard for it and thank God Almighty for enabling us to achieve the success story. Accordingly, it is our ardent desire to give Atiba a superlative and competitive edge over its contemporaries and even the older Ivory Towers. What then shall be our selling point over and above the others?
‘Firstly, we have put all the relevant machineries at our disposal to make it work. This is due to the fact that we have long years of preparations and in the process identified the major and specific problems/crisis of the Nigerian university system. We specifically came up with responses on each specific concern. We have put in all necessary structures and facilities in place. We have dealt with the all-important issues of space by acquiring a vast expanse of land for future expansion.
‘Secondly, we intend to have a university that will answer in clear and emphatic terms the functional and practical needs of the society. We shall have courses on Entrepreneurial Studies so that we have creators rather than seekers of job
‘Thirdly, we intend to adopt an Inter-disciplinary approach in our curricula so as to make our graduates well rounded. In the fourth stead, we intend to integrate teaching models and modules. These are our selling points which will give a competitive edge,’ he submitted.
On Nigerians should expect from the institution, Idris explained that ‘the Nigerian public should definitely expect the best – though we are starting with only three faculties, 11 departments and 19 programmes. We will begin with only 500 students. This is to ensure that the existing facilities adequately meet the needs of the students. It is improper to admit more than we can serve.
‘People should expect the best in terms of quality teaching, quality learning environment and quality facilities. Qualitative education is our prime objective. Ours is a world class citadel where global university standards, procedures and best practice will not be compromised. Let it be emphatically observed that there is a clear nexus between the progress of a nation and the quality of education.
‘Unlike public universities, private universities do not get assistance from government through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND). What efforts are proprietors of private universities making to access this fund?\’
On how the issue of funding will be addressed, he said that ‘You have stated a fact. We know it and are assiduously working on the issue. The crisis of finance is the major problem of the entire Nigerian University System (be it public or private).
‘Indeed, the present government has, at the highest level of officialdom decided that very soon the issue of financial assistance to private universities will be looked into by TETFUND. We trust the government. Additionally, consultancy services and such other strategies for raising funds are being marshalled and articulated by our Team of Consultants and Implementation Committee.’
He said that there are laid down criteria and requirements alongside specific procedures and ‘we (at ATIBA) resolve to strictly adhere with them so as to ensure quality standards, adding that ‘there is presently the challenge of time. We have a short time to swing into full action.
‘We have to complete the admission process as soon as possible and time is insufficient. The admission process needs to be done articulately, meticulously and equitably (or justly). These are difficult and time-consuming acts. We must avoid emotions and sentimentalism in all that we do. This is yet another challenge. Thirdly, there is the challenge of external pressure either for admission or employment. I must confess that our human challenges daunt us more than other kinds of challenges. But, we are coping well.’
He revealed that though he is Northerner, the principle of Federal Character will not be a crucial factor in the management and operations of Atiba.
‘That, I am a Northerner has nothing to do with quality education. There is no better legacy one can bequeath than good quality education. That is why we are in. We want to get the best and go by the best. We shall endeavour to operate the best academic market anywhere in the world. Accordingly, the Federal Character principle will not be a fundamental but incidental factor. By this, I mean people in the catchment area of the university will be accorded some measure of consideration but only after all fundamentals of meritorious cases have been considered.
‘In other words, while the interests of the people of the locality will not be ignored, local interest will not be of immediate and prime relevance. The best and only the best will be accorded such priority relevance.
‘Having said this, it is however, instructive to add that the university will operate in such a way to give the governments within the jurisdiction of the university revenue. Since we also intend to expand the frontiers of agriculture as a major discipline, you can be rest assured that the people of the locality will be gainfully employed, ‘ he assured.