OP-ED: KWASU Cannot Survive Zero-subvention Policy of Abdulrazaq Govt

BETWEEN KWASU AND KWARA HOTEL WHERE LIES THE MIGHTY PRESENCE OF KWARA STATE GOVERNMENT

Abdullahi A. Bakare, Ph.D

ASUU Secretary, Kwara State University, Malete

Kwara State University (KWASU) was founded in 2009 as the 34th state university and the 95th university in Nigeria as a conventional university to receive approval from the National Universities Commission (NUC). The certificate and instrument to operate the university were obtained on February 9, 2009. KWASU was established under the administration of Dr. Bukola Saraki in 2009. The edict that established the institution was signed into law on December 24, 2008. The university was officially commissioned on May 19, 2011, by His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the then-president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The pioneer Vice-Chancellor, Professor AbdulRasheed Na’Allah, who until his appointment, was Chair of the African American Studies Department of the Western Illinois University, Macomb, United States of America assumed office on Tuesday, July 28, 2009. KWASU commenced academic activities on December 17, 2009, with the vision to be “the foremost in expanding the frontiers of knowledge and innovation”. This vision propels its unique motto which is to be “the Green University for Community Development and Entrepreneurship” and mission statement which is to be “the fulcrum of a knowledge-driven society, building competencies through creativity and cutting-edge technology.” In pursuit of these, the university has carefully assembled manpower both locally and internationally, and developed the most ultra-modern facilities with high ICT intensiveness to accomplish a dream of a “world-class university.” Until recent past, the presence of all these elements combined to create a ladder of rising glory, enabling KWASU to easily reach all of its ambitious goals.

The developmental milestones were to soon slowed to a halt in 2014, when the administration of immediate past Governor AbdulFatai Ahmed ceased subvention to KWASU. The State government suspended subvention to KWASU, its only public-owned university after five years of moratorium, which had subjected members to untold hardship. Staff salaries were no longer paid as and when due. As a consequence, the university management approached banks for loans to be able to pay staff salaries and meet other administrative financial demands, an action that led to high indebtedness to banks.

Just over a year later, precisely between July to October 2015, the management was owing staff up to four months’ salaries. Payment of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) was also owed to academic staff in KWASU since 2009. As if this was not enough, the tension was further exacerbated by the current administration ably led by His Excellency, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq, the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF).

Hopes were high when Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq took over as the 7th Executive Governor of Kwara State. However, the hopes were raised only to be swiftly dashed as the Governor since then has not in any way fared better. Were it not for the TETFund intervention programme that has saved us from the many years of state government neglect, by using funding and project management to develop infrastructure which has created for us an environment that is supportive of academics, KWASU campus would have by now evolved into a glorified village secondary school. As of yet, apart from the meagre roads and structures by the former and present Governors, all other stunning structures on Malete Campus were TETFund sponsored.

For the avoidance of doubt, KWASU has received over N13 billion from TETfund for infrastructure-related interventions from 2010 till date. As a result, majority of the best projects in KWASU like the library complex, indoor sports complex, assorted brand new buses as well as adorable facilities such as staff offices, classrooms, lecture halls, and laboratories that have practically transformed KWASU environment into a better working condition, were all TETfund sponsored, a product of ASUU struggles. Ironically, the latest of such special high impact projects, namely the Senate Building, Engineering Workshop and Centre for Sustainable Energy Building were recently commissioned by the Governor ably represented by the Commissioner of Tertiary Education, Dr. Mary Arinde who jointly commissioned the projects with the Executive Secretary of TETfund, Architect Sonny Echonu.

Presently, most of the requisite buildings and facilities by the TETfund that used to aid conducive learning, teaching and research are steadily losing their structural integrity on KWASU landscape as a result of the population explosion, now put at over 25000. All the foreign academics engaged by the previous administrations to place the university on a higher global standing and ranking have all left. It is at such a critical time, the Kwara State Government approved N17.8 billion for the rehabilitation of Kwara State Hotel.

It is worth noting that the total cost of all Teftund-sponsored structures and facilities, including those directly funded by the past and present Governors is negligible in comparison to the N17.8 billion allocated for the refurbishment of the Kwara State Hotel.

It raises concerns that a university, which is globally intended to thrive in an environment that fosters competitiveness, creative thinking and as well encourages innovative practices to promote holistic personality and development for nurturing future leaders, is treated as having little or no social significance in anyway comparable to the potential social benefits of a hotel.

It is the height of ridicule to value a hotel over a university, a sector that builds vital links with the world, and as well produces both the knowledgeable workforce and researches that drive economic and human capital growth. We make bold to submit that a public funded university offers an excellent rate of return on investment.

As a matter of fact, universities globally are evaluated in terms of the public role they play. Politically, they strengthen democracy by producing graduates who are able and capable to participate in robust, thoughtful and informed discussion and effect changes in democratic principles that seek to equitably allocate public resources. Universities therefore are a breeding ground for civic-minded and responsible citizens. Any tenably valid second opinion on this measure of worth will undoubtedly justify the shutdown of any university system as a knowledge industry and in this instance, Kwara State University. Seemingly, since the coming of His Excellency, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq, little or no attention has been paid to KWASU.

In 2019 when the first wave of the Coronavirus Disease Pandemic broke out, Kwara State Government awarded over N30 million contract to the Technical Entrepreneurship Centre (TEC), University of Ilorin to produce various sizes of hand sanitisers for distribution to the people of Kwara State. This was a time KWASU its only public-owned university was facing the challenges of revenue deficit which therefore compelled it to struggle to pay staff salaries. It was at a time, KWASU could not admit students to charge school fees, its only source of revenue due to closure of all the public and private institutions. More so that there was the existence of Centre for Entrepreneurship (the first of its kind in Nigeria) in KWASU, that was and is always willing to present research works for funding and global recognition. Given that this and other instances with detrimental effects were leaving KWASU in worse position than before its previous imperiled position, ASUU-KWASU as a union since 2021 started pursuing, legitimately, restoration of subvention and payment of accrued EAA to members. Nevertheless, all forms of lobbying and diplomatic channels explored by the Union to secure serious commitment of the government to gratifying conditions of service in KWASU yielded no tangible outcomes. As a result, and as KWASU is gasping for breath, the staff are bearing the brunt to make it survive.

Since 2020/2021 academic session, specifically beginning from November 2021, our members have been working continuously and nonstop. Although we are not robots, we have worked 24/7 for 365 days for three years. In KWASU, we teach regular students from Monday to Friday, and students of programmes such as Institute of Professional and Continuous Education (IPCE), Centre for Ecology and Environmental Management and Studies (CEERMS), Interim Joint Matriculation Board Examination (IJMBE), SANDWICH and others from Friday to Sunday. To maintain undisrupted flow of all these programmes, we continuously and voluntarily sacrifice our entitled annual leave every year. This comes at a great cost to our health, our comfort, siesta, quality time for family as well as quality time and focus for quality research for publication in Q1 journals. Our pay is too meager to cater for our basic needs or to make up for all our sacrifices, nor to adequately care for our declining health stemming from exposure to all kinds of hazards in the course of discharging our primary duties. In light of this, restoring subvention and payment of accrued EAA is critical to easing the hardships from the overburdened workloads by members, and the current excruciating economic situations prevailing in the country.

At this juncture, it is important to state that the last time we attempted to express our frustration over the suspension of subvention to KWASU by the Government, its only public-owned university, since 2014, Kwara State Government instigated the then KWASU management against us. Regardless of how hard the Government will struggle to defend the management financing capacity, KWASU will never be able to survive impending administrative and academic collapse in 2024 with the current zero-subvention policy of Kwara State Government.

©️ tobayan1@yahoo.com, asuu.kwasu@gmail.com or 08100040342

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