By Stephen Oyedemi
The Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, LAUTECH, Ogbomosho sadly transiting from grace to grass.
A university which once ranked among the best in the county and was an attraction to students interested in pursuing technology based careers has now become a laughing stock in the community of higher institutions in Nigeria.
The University is not being funded responsibly by the States (Oyo and Osun) which jointly own it. While the downturn in the Nation’s economic performance could be linked to this, the question of priority also arises.
The University administration has been accused of mismanagement of the school’s resources, being unable to account for students’ fees paid over years. While it is important for the University administration to fiscally responsible, open and prudent, the question of commitment from the two states cannot be put aside.
The Oyo State government has promised to open a new Technical University in Ibadan, the State’s capital. This is coming at a time LAUTECH is in deep crisis and cannot be properly funded.
The question is, why can’t the resources going into this new varsity be channelled to keep LAUTECH going? Perhaps, it won’t work like that, since resources have to come equally from both sides. Osun State also runs its solely owned school, University of Osun which of course draws more of its attention.
So clearly, the problem of LAUTECH is that of priority.
Both states cannot come to an agreement on how to sustain the school. Instead, they are shifting their focus to their ‘own’ universities. Unfortunate!
In the midst of this crisis, seeing clearly the dead end ahead LAUTECH students are agitating and making calls that the Federal Government should take over the University, since the two states have shown gross incompetence and eroding interest in the institution. But then, the FG does not have the constitutional powers to do that; every university is established by an act of the National Assembly and therefore cannot be taken over just like that. But assuming the FG could even take over the school, there is no assurance that such an action will improve the school in the long run. The current reality in most of the FG universities is nothing to be proud of; maladministration, nepotism and corruption has eaten deep into the system so much that even the premier university, University of Ibadan, haven’t been able to produce Identity Cards for its students for over 2 sessions despite payments and renewal of such every year, leading to the current closure of the school.
Shouldn’t LAUTECH be privatized then? Yes! I mean, if two ‘big states’ cannot manage a single university effectively and won’t let one of them take full ownership of it, then, why not just privatize it?
Private Universities in Nigeria have very stable calendars and place a lot of emphasis on digital and entrepreneurial skills development of their students, unlike most government run universities which are still being run like we are in the 50s or 60s.
Although, the concern of most people when it comes to privatization in a case like this is the possible increase in school fees. However, this is usually initial; and as time goes by, it naturally falls. The reason why the fees in most private universities remain high is because they haven’t been able to have enough students for fees to start falling through economies of scale. But for a university as LAUTECH which already has a big student population, economies of scale will come into play and as a result, there will be very little increase in fees, if at all.
For the sake of this institution which many individuals have worked hard to build, and for the sake of the careers and future of its students, there is need for honest discussions about the way forward and perhaps, a need for realistic and sometimes radical solutions.
Stephen Oyedemi writes from Ibadan, the Oyo State capital