Open Letter from Dr. Ugoji Ebujo:
Our country’s institution once mighty has fallen and is falling. The decay is systemic and deep-seated and widespread.
Our political system is heavily infected by corruption and the educational system is strangulated by poor funding. But our education suffers from much more. Teachers groan and moan, deride politicians and claim moral indignation but they are equally culpable for the rot that has beset us.
The university of Ghana and the University of Nigeria have so much in common besides being named after their respective countries. They were both conceived during the colonial era and they have main campuses located on hills, Legon and Nsukka . Both have very large student population of between 35000 and 38000. They have regional reputations and have produced high quality graduates who have played great roles in their societies.
A brief stay in each university last year afforded me an opportunity to reflect on the two societies through those institutions . In Legon, it was an experience of efficiency, culture and aesthetics. All buildings were painted and all were white and all had red roofs and all windows black.
Flowers and hedges were manicured and trees added beauty to the environment. Order was evident and everything showed agelessness because the new and the old abided by a laid down code. The library was quaint but noiseless, lacked modern books but had good ambience.
The hostels showed they have not lacked care and the newer ones were quite modern. But whether old or new , modern or ancient the colour codes were maintained and all the roofs were red. The Guest house was sparsely furnished but functional and had good landscaping . Order and serenity were evident. The internet wifi system was good. Nsukka was a different experience. A multitude of Uncompleted projects littered everywhere, grasses had
Turned to bushes and hedges were untrammeled, free and wild. Many buildings were pale, washed and battered. Hostels were in shambles .The Enugu campus that houses faculties of Law and Medicine has no pipe borne water. The state of the toilet facilities in Enugu campus can only be imagined. A chat with some female students of that campus revealed that students have buckets for defecating.
They defecate in the open, along the toilet corridor,many at a time, facing themselves, into buckets and hurl the contents afterward into the toilet Bowls, leaving trails of feces for the cleaners who come when they wish to effect as much cleaning as they can. The buckets are subsequently rinsed with scarce water ,which they have to buy , and kept in the rooms until when again needed. Those who cannot stand the bucket idea defecate into polythene bags and fling them onto a heap behind the hostels.
That heap has survived generations . Its pathetic. An Alumni exists but the atrocity has persisted. The Vice chancellors residence is state of the art, new. The vice chancellor has managed to ensconce himself in five star comfort while students are dehumanized . Dont ask me who is being groomed there. Perhaps pit toilets , since they cannot have water, may actually restore some dignity.
Its that bad. Students learning early how to be wild. The school’s internet network system functions so abysmally slowly that I could not use it . Lecturers and students can hardly do meaningful online researches in that remote location. A senior lecturer told me she sends articles to foreign journals using her blackberry phone. That is the story of Nigeria .
And ironically the school’s motto reads: To restore the dignity of man. Ghanas 2015 budget is 50 percent donor funded, Nigeria is rich and lives on her own money. Legon is to a great extent insulated from political and local administrative changes because Legon has a tradition.
A tradition that all must follow. That entrenched tradition is the institution. So while projects in Legon are completed before others are started, and buildings are repainted yearly, Nsukka is a picture of haphazardness and planlessness. An environment of order and good tradition will culture , nurture and instill order and virtue in young minds but if you sow disorder , you will reap disorder.
Often Nigerian academics sneer at the politicians claiming they are superficial, flimsy, selfish, shortsighted and wasteful. But Nsukka indicts Our academics.And Its not just about funding. And Nsukka is not alone ,other public universities are perhaps worse. Nsukka is a reflection of our society .University of Ghana indicts all of us. And we shamelessly now troop there in droves in search of better tertiary education for our children.