By Our Reporter
The Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN), has said universities cannot continue to survive on government largesse, adding that they must learn to invest and improve on revenue generation.
Speaking yesterday during the conferment of postgraduate and honorary degrees at UNILAG’s 50th Convocation Ceremony, the lawyer said Nigerians universities cannot continue to survive as” government departments expecting government largesse”.
Babalakin said while there had been a raging battle on whether education should be funded by government alone or it should be funded by government and all stakeholders, his position was that quality education “is an inescapable necessity”.
His words: “It is a must that we all have to be properly educated, so if the government can afford to do it all on its own, so be it. But if the government cannot afford it, then we all must join forces to do it. If the choice is between quality education and free education, I choose the former.”
Citing examples of universities that have worked hard to be self-sufficient, Babalakin said: “Harvard University today has an average of $36b. Oxford and Cambridge Universities jointly have 22 Billion Pounds (about $30b). One College in Cambridge (Trinity College) has $1.3b. How did these universities achieve this? The founders of these universities realized that universities must invest, create value, save money and be productive.
“Our universities cannot continue to survive as government departments expecting government largesse. We have to take advantage of what we’ve got. There are no less than 50 Nigerians today, who can rebuild UNILAG, but they have to know that their contributions would be used appropriately and they would be able to measure performance and monitor their money.
“If you can assure them of these, then you will be on the road to rebuilding the university system in a manner that it can compete all over the world. There is nothing such as Nigerian education or Nigerian standard. The standard must be universal and worldwide.”
Babalakin thanked President Muhammadu Buhari, for his “very keen interest and determination to reposition education in Nigeria”.
He also thanked the Education Minister, Mallam Adamu Adamu, “whose commitment to the cause of repositioning the education system is unparalleled”; as well as the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Alhaji Abubakar Rasheed, who represented the president at the event.
Urging the Ph.d graduates to see their degree as a pedestal for greater achievements, the pro-chancellor said: “I want you to be part of a great reformation of Nigeria. I want you to be instrumental to positive change. I want you to be developmental in your various fields and refuse to accept defeat. You are special members of the intelligentsia and you shouldn’t take it for granted.
“I urge you to take the position of United States President John F. Kennedy when he came into power in 1959, that the torch had been passed to a new generation that will not be deterred by the frivolities and obstructions of the former. Let us decide that we’ll turn every stumbling block to a stepping stone for the attainment of greater heights.”
Babalakin advised them to participate actively in activities of UNILAG’s Alumni Association, noting that “the greatest universities in the world have gotten to their peak largely because of great support from their alumni”.
Honorary doctorate degrees were conferred on a prominent lawyer, Alhaji Femi Okunnu (SAN); the General Overseer of Mountain & Fires Ministries, Pastor Daniel Olukoya; and Zenith bank Chairman Mr Jim Ovia.
Also at the event were former Lagos State Deputy Governor Alhaja Lateefat Okunnu; Chief Adebutu Kessington; Lagos State Governor-Elect Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu; former Osun State Deputy Governor Mrs Titi Laoye-Tomori; and Prof. Oye Ibidapo-Obe, among others.