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Citizens don’t talk about positives—UNILAG VC

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By Abraham Adekunle

Prof. Ogunsola discussed a variety of topics, including university autonomy.

The 13th Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, Prof. Folasade Ogunsola, spent considerable time discussing a wide range of issues with the media. The humble, elegant, warm and very eloquent professor is the former Provost of the College of Medicine, former Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC) of Development Services, and former Acting Vice Chancellor of the institution. She is the first female Vice Chancellor of UNILAG since its establishment in 1962. In an interview with the media, she talked about her emergence, gender equity in Nigeria’s education and political sectors, her vision for the university and sundry issues in Nigeria’s tertiary education sub-sector.

Speaking on her emergence as the first female Vice Chancellor of UNILAG, she revealed some of the challenges that she faced. She noted that she believed she had a good chance of getting the position, but other candidates were also qualified and confident in their own right. She said that the effect of the interview, which was done privately, was numbing. After getting the job, she also realized that there are those who doubt her ability to perform on the job, especially because she is a woman. She recalled that somebody had said to her when she was a DVC or Provost, “Oh, you will make a good VC, but not got UNILAG. We will look for one small university for you soon.”

Emergence of women in senior positions inevitable.

After Prof. Grace Alele Williams served as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin, decades passed before women started returning to the highest positions in the university. Right now, there are many female vice chancellors in the country. She sometimes attributes this to the fact that women are becoming more vocal. Some other times, she sees the situation as many women still at lower levels coming up and taking higher positions, such as dean of faculties. Whether people like it or not, she said women are moving into more senior positions.

She also touched on the rise in the wave of emigration by the Nigerian youth to other countries, a concept that has been termed “Japa syndrome.” She said that it is not as rosy as the youth think it is out there. She acknowledged that she cannot tell anyone not to emigrate to another country. Sometimes, it is necessary to go, make mistakes and come back. However, she advised anyone trying to go to do so with a plan to come back. She said it is better to go with the vision of what you are going to get and how you are going to reintegrate. “You will never be a first-class citizen in many of those countries no matter what you achieve,” she said.

Prof. Ogunsola said university autonomy is a necessity.

Lately, the discourse around university autonomy has been heated. This is rightfully so as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) went on an eight-month strike action in 2022, effectively truncating academic activities and adding more years to students’ allocated period of study. Many people have commented that university autonomy will make university education expensive and the poor will be denied access to tertiary education. However, the Vice Chancellor’s opinion differs. She compares the absence of university autonomy to the imprisonment of minds. Universities cannot afford to be politicized. Instead, it should be based on merit.

Essentially, she said that autonomy is imperative to achieve world-class universities. According to her, government involvement should be minimal such that they are not controlling the institutions from the outside. This is because the very core of university is merit. University education is extremely expensive, she said, because it is not just about classrooms. It is about equipment. It is about being able to go to conferences. It is about continuous pollination of minds from different places.

Her administration focuses on the FUTURE READY agenda.

The idea is to recognize that the world is changing very rapidly and anybody who are lacking will soon become irrelevant. She noted that it is the same for education. At the rate at which knowledge is churned out, the institution wants to train minds to be able to use the information. This is because by the time any student leaves the school, half of what they learnt would be obsolete. FUTURE READY is an acronym for Financial Re-engineering for Multiple Streams of Income, Unlocking Human Capital, Technology Driven Processes, Unrelenting Internalization, Research for Development, and Entrepreneurship and Innovation (FUTURE); Ranking with the Best, Enhancing Students and Staff Experience, Alumni Repositioning, Decolonizing our Education and Celebrating our History and Culture, and Yielding Inquiring Minds (READY).

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