This is a blog about social issues, be they political, economic, religious or cultural . It aims to create awareness especially on those issues that the mainstream media will ignore, and will provide useful insights on how to produce a better society. All views expressed are strictly personal.
Kashe kwarkwatar ido
(literally translated as killing the lice on your eyes) is a common Hausa adage
which can perhaps be explained in English as satisfying your curiosity. Travelling
around the world is one of the greatest opportunities to kill the lice on your
eyes. People tend to like hearing stories about other places. This time around
my destination is Washington DC, the United States which I visited in the
middle of October 2013. It is my third visit in five years. To many people,
among the famous places to visit in order to kill the lice on your eyes would
include the White House, the US Congress etc, especially when the country was
engaged in the debate over the government shutdown. For me the most interesting
places to visit could actually be outside the famous symbols of power which we
see on our television screens almost on daily visit. In fact the best places
for me are the bookshops; where you will find series of publications, even on
topics you never think someone will write about.
a portion of the Berlin Wall displayed in the museum
Before departing for
Washington, someone posted a book review on the Nigeria Muslim Forum discussion
list. An eye catching review on a book recently released, entitled “Thomas
Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders” written by Professor Denise A
Spencer. According to Professor Spencer, “by the time Congressman Ellison was
elected and swore his private oath of office on Jefferson’s Qur’an in 2007, I
thought as a historian that I might have something to contribute”.
You might recall that
in 2007, when Mr Ellison was elected as the first Muslim into the US Congress,
there was serious controversy when he suggested that he wants to take his oath
with a copy of the Qur’an owned by former US President Thomas Jefferson, the
author of the declaration of US Independence, first Secretary of State and
third President of the United States. As someone who is interested in the study
of multiculturalism and representation of identity, this is definitely an
important literature. It is a book that explains the role of Islam and Muslims
in the evolution of the United States. But my curiosity does not end in getting
a copy of Jefferson’s Qur’an, I already have list which I was eager to
purchase, and gladly I did.
As I settled in my
hotel, and checked my email, I saw a message from my good friend Malam Habeeb
Idris Pindiga, the Editor of Daily Trust Newspaper. Habeeb was a year
ahead of me at Bayero University, Kano. He was responding to an email I sent to
him earlier. You know as a Public Relations Practitioner, you have to be
friendly to journalists, it is even much better if the journalist is already
your friend (I am sorry Habeeb, I know your paper has strict rules over brown
envelop, so let me exonerate you quickly, this is not a bribe).
correspondence we agreed to meet outside the World Bank headquarters. I told
Habeeb about the series of books I purchased, and the ones still on the line. I
knew definitely that I will learn something from him, because three years ago,
it was him and Bashir Saad Abdullahi who recommended another book to me, Flat
Earth News written by the investigative journalist Nick Davies. It is a
book I will suggest everyone who reads the news or watch television must read.
If you do, I assure you, you will never be the same again. Because it will be
clear to you how journalism has been penetrated by vested interests, and how
stories are planted in the media to mislead the public.
Do you trust the press?
But Habeeb’s gift to me
this time around, was not a book. “Have you been to the news museum?”, he asked
“No, in fact I never heard about it. In my previous visits to the US I never had
time to come to Washington”, I said. The following day we visited the News
Museum owned by USA Today. It is an important information hub for anyone who
wants to kill the lice on his eyes. There is a record on almost every important
story that happens around the world. The museum has a section that features the
front pages of other newspapers around the world. In fact, they even brought
the remains of the Berlin Wall, part of the antenna at the top of the World
Trade Centre, destroyed on 9/11/. A section is dedicated to the pictures of
journalists who died on the front line. Other sections simply feature the front
pages of key global stories, think of any?
Habeeb has mastered
this museum; he took me to every section and explained the historical artifacts
in the museum. There was an interesting quotation in the museum I found
interesting, it says in times of disaster, everyone runs away, except
journalists and emergency workers. But the one I keep thinking about was a
poster with the following bold inscriptions: CAN THE PRESS BE TRUSTED? What is
The second source of
funding that will help universities in Africa is inter-regional consolidation.
If you take countries like Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt and emerging oil
economies like Angola, they do better in comparison to other African countries.
Equally important are the free trade zones, as well as lack of travel restrictions
among African regions such as the Economic Community of West African States
(ECOWAS), and the Southern African Development Community (SADEC) provide ample
opportunities for exploring the potential of African universities, and
generating more income. Institutions like Bayero University, Ahmadu Bello
University or the University of Ibadan have every potential to explore the
educational market in neighboring countries like Benin, Niger, Chad, Cameroon
etc. the expansion of market and economic activities should not just be restricted
to material goods and services, education should be the most important commodity that should be
transferred across borders.
The good news is that
there is thirst for higher education almost everywhere, what is difficult is
affordability, so if you take these institutions to the door step of these
neighboring countries you will be in position to consolidate your income, and
most importantly provide educational services. It is not as easy as it sounds,
but when you have chief executives that have the foresight to pursue long term
initiatives that will bring both quality and income, it is doable. The
University I was teaching until few months back, Northumbria University in
North East England, is now the largest provider of university education in Hong
Kong, and making similar in roads in Singapore. These are countries in faraway
Asia; and that business strategy started not long ago. Within short period the
university saw its income rise, and began to recruit top class academics around
the world, and began to compete with the best universities in Britain.
Other Universities from
United States and the United Kingdom are opening campuses in Malaysia, the Gulf
Region, China and North Africa. African universities should explore the
potential within them, otherwise within short period, with the proliferation of
private universities, and the European and American Universities seeking ways
to maximize their incomes, our universities, which at the moment are attended
by our brothers and sisters only, while the elites send their kids abroad, will
become like public primary and secondary schools. I hope it never happens.
About nine years ago, one of the Professors in Nigerian Universities, currently
holding an executive position told me that, there is every possibility
that in the next few years our universities will become like public primary and
I couldn’t believe my
eyes when I saw some pictures on the state of Nigerian campuses published recently
in the Newsletter of ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities-Nigeria).
Without exaggeration, some refugee camps are better equipped than the condition
students learn in our universities. And these graduates are expected to compete
with those in the Ivy League universities around the world.
The final strategy to
help African universities is the need to create regional educational hubs in
Africa. Here I mean, in each region, from the North to South, East to West and
Central Africa, top class universities need to be produced that will serve the
economic needs of that region. To do that, a political decision needs to be
made. The African Union should be the one to make that political decision. In
this regard I will suggest, that All African Heads of State agree to a Marshal
plan on the development of education which will support these educational hubs
to develop for at least 20 to 30 years, until African Universities are in the
position to compete with other universities around the world. One great mistake
that Africa will make is to allow the current state of higher education to
continue as it is.
Gone should be the days
when universities simply produce glorified-literate individuals who can only
join government services and append their signatures on documents to release
money or approve contracts. African States should think of universities that
produce innovators along our value system. In coming up with this Marshal plan,
African philanthropists should be involved, and we are not short of them, many are racing to feature in Forbes list of dollar billionaires. Left to me the effort of people
like Mr Mo Ibrahim to give award to African leaders, which in recent years are
difficult to find, I will rather suggest he gives that money to one African university
to develop its infrastructure; that way good leaders can be produced who may
not even need an award, but who see service to humanity as their reward.
Please visit my blog: www.jameelyushau.blogspot.com to read the previous editions as I have made
some modifications especially to some errors my attention was drawn to after
The strength of Harvard
University’s endowment fund is quite exceptional, because the $30 billion that
the university makes from its donors is more than the entire amount spent by
British universities, as a BBC report in 2011 indicated. The Harvard University endowment fund is an example of where private effort is made to generate
funding for university education.
Here is an
example of government effort to establish a world class university. As reported
by Global Higher Education, the King Abdallah University of Science and
Technology in Jeddah started with an investment of $12.5 Billion. This is just
one university that is at the moment in transition to compete with the best
universities in the world.
So to return to
our main subject, universities in Africa need to device creative means of financing their activities, some of
these means are not beyond reach. For this reason this column will suggest
three different alternatives to seek additional income for universities. The
first solution one would propose is intra-regional consolidation which has
various elements. A common trend you find in some African universities is
multiplication of effort. For instance you can find three universities in the
same region receiving funding from the same government, yet each of these
universities would have chemistry department, biology department, sociology
department etc. Yet at the end of the day neither department possesses enough
staff strength and modern equipments to the highest standard. Instead of having
three or four similar departments producing so many half-baked graduates, the
universities should collaborate with each other and produce centres of
excellence with each university focusing on its areas of strength.
Let’s take some universities in Nigeria for instance. What is the
key difference in terms of specialization between Ahmad Bello University,
Bayero University and Usman Dan Fodio University? How does the University of Lagos,
the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University differ from each other in terms of
the quality of the courses they offer and the nature of their specialization?
Running a university in this age is a serious business that requires a lot of
strategic thinking in terms of the local and the global positioning of the
If you take for
instance the United States, you can see the point I am trying to make when you
look at some universities in the same region. Both Harvard University and
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are located in Boston, yet each of
them is different in its global positioning. Similarly, the Colleges of the
University of London such as University College London (UCL), Imperial College,
and the School of Oriental and African Studies have a clear global positioning
such that students clearly know why they apply to these universities. Employers
clearly understand what to expect based on the specialization of such
institutions. Governments requiring policy input know exactly which institution
has the uniqueness to address their concerns.
African universities need to create a brand for themselves. This will help in
coming up with better ideas for income generation. If you revisit the list of
the best universities in the world as mentioned earlier in this series, one
thing you will notice is that almost each one of them has an identifiable
brand. The creation of this scholarly brand is essential in attracting the best
into the universities. These students would eventually take policy making
positions; some of them will run successful individual businesses etc. when a
university succeeds in producing high quality graduates, it must follow that up
with a strong alumni programme, by making sure it remains in touch with each
student from graduation to retirement.
associations are not about annual gatherings. They are about unlocking the
potential of your graduates, following their career development, and utilizing
their experience as well as resources for the benefit of the university. In
universities elsewhere, it is not uncommon to find departments getting free
teaching from their students who have amassed so much experience in their
field, and running classes free of charge. It is not uncommon to see key
university infrastructure in various universities built by their alumni. The alumni
are equally the best starting point for establishing a strong endowment fund
These kinds of
initiatives are part and parcel of creative investment. A key area of
investment for universities is housing within the region of the university.
Just take a census of students living in university surroundings, paying
exorbitant amount for rent, yet the very universities in whose neighborhood these
students are living do not benefit from anything economically. A lot of our
universities actually have enough land to build houses and give it as rent to the
students. Anyone who studied in British Universities will tell you how
substantial part of the houses surrounding the universities are owned by the universities.
These are investments that do not require deep thinking before they could be