The University of Africa: In Pursuit of an Innovative and Sustainable University Responding to the Challenges of a State and a Nation

Speeches

The University of Africa:
In Pursuit of an Innovative and Sustainable University
Responding to the Challenges of a State and a Nation

 On the occasion of the Matriculation of students admitted to the University of Africa, Toru-Orua, Bayelsa State, 21st  April, 2018

 by

Turner T. Isoun, CFR, FAS
Niger Delta Wetlands Centre, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State

(All protocols observed:)

I was requested by your Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Valentine A. Aletor, to give this Matriculation Address. He also requested that I choose the title of the address. You will agree that these are serious-minded requests; and indeed I’m not sure I know why the Vice-Chancellor thought I qualified to give this address.

But, I agreed in principle and here we go!  The title of the address I have composed for this Matriculation is: University of Africa: In Pursuit of an Innovative and Sustainable University, Responding to the Challenges of a State (Bayelsa) and a Nation (Nigeria).

Nigeria currently has 160 universities: 40 federal, 46 state and at least 74 private universities, with the public universities (federal and state) having much greater carrying capacities (student populations) than the private universities. Those who are not close to the data, will ask: do we really need more Universities? My answer is: “Yes”!  In one recent year statistics showed that over 1.5 million candidates applied for university admission through the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Exam (JAMB).  And that the Nigerian University System could admit only about a third of those qualified – or about a half million. What happened to the remaining 1 million candidates? Nigeria, is not famous for gathering accurate data, but we need such data to answer that question and address the issues arising!!

How many of the remaining 1 million qualified candidates go to other tertiary institutions:  the Polytechnic Institutions, Colleges of Education, Vocational Training Institutes and other skills Training Institutes – all of which have the potential to provide quality education equal to universities. How many qualified candidates go through informal skills acquisition and through apprenticeships? How many are forced to drop out of the formal and informal educational pipelines entirely? The numbers given in answer to those questions – and there are some available –  will show the glaring need for increasing university and other tertiary level education options for the unmet needs of our young men and women[1].

While we may agree that we need more universities, we must then face the real challenges to making the institutions we build actually deliver the vision for which we establish them: (a) that they lead to sustainable livelihoods for those who are trained and (b) that they enable their students to contribute to sustainable development of our communities, states and our country.

Thus, while we have the students and know that educating them is essential to our society’s well being, indeed to its survival, we must consider the means of achieving the objectives of educating them relative to the real challenges of university policies and implementation which are: (a) Access, (b) Relevance, and (c) Quality.

Access
Access includes the (a) admission of many more qualified students; and (b) the provision of the physical structures to accommodate research, teaching and healthy student and staff residential environments in educational institutions. We must also, as a matter of policy, address the issue of our society’s disruptive economic inequity by ensuring that high performing low income students are given access to attend university through merit-based scholarships from government, private companies and individuals.

Yes, there has in fact, been a remarkable increase in access to universities in Nigeria through expansion in the number of universities and provision of at least basic physical facilities for them.

Focusing on access to universities in the primary target area of the University of Africa, which is the Niger Delta, and particularly Rivers and Bayelsa States, we must go back to 1967, when the old Rivers State was created, and a young naval officer from Brass , Navy Captain Alfred Diete Spiff was appointed Military Governor of the State. That was 50 years ago and there were no universities in the primary target area!   Now we have 6 public universities in what was the old Rivers State, two Federal and four State Universities and two private universities. A good start for sure.

The rapid rise in the number of universities in the territory of the old Rivers State is an outcome of the creation of the additional State of Bayelsa from the old Rivers State. We therefore, need to acknowledge the wisdom and foresight of our elders who generated the idea and crusaded for the creation of Bayelsa State – and further, insisted on our going back to the swamps to develop our State of Bayelsa. These forward-looking elders must be acknowledged to be veritable Trustees of Bayelsa State.

Todays younger generation of Bayeslsa State indigenes and their friends and neighbors, having the privilege to Matriculate today in the University of Africa are required to carry the enlightenment of these Trustees forward.

Relevance
Given the increasing number of universities that are already solving in part, the relatively straight forward and obvious challenges of ‘Access’, we must address the much more difficult challenges of Relevance and Quality.

In the African physical setting, natural and human resources, cultural values and lifestyles vary widely even in small geographical areas. Will all Universities in Nigeria need to address the challenges of relevance and quality using the same structure, vision and mission? Or can the vision of the University of Africa be unique especially with respect to the challenge of relevance?

It should be fascinating to you to know that some of the earliest institutions of higher education were in Africa. Surely the vision and mission of the original Universities founded by the Muslims: Fez Morocco in 859 AD, and a century later, the University of Timbuktu, (in Mali) were markedly different from the first  European Universities that were established much later. The oldest tertiary educational institution in the world is the University in Fez Morocco – it is still existing as a prestigious centre of science and technology. From its inception, it was a place for study not only of the Quaran, but also mathematics, music, chemistry, medicines, astronomy, political debate and natural sciences. It was established by the daughter – yes, the daughter of a wealthy Moroccan merchant who also set up its urban infrastructure, surrounded the university by places of lodging, business, steam rooms, schools, etc. many of which are still functioning today. Students came to study from many parts of the world. A Catholic Pope – Pope Sylvestor II studied there, taking the unique knowledge he gained in Arabic numbers, culture and sciences including mathematics and astronomy, back to Europe with him. Indeed the mathematics we use today couldn’t have been possible without the spread of the Arabic number system.  The financial independence of this university (derived from the wisdom of a merchant and his daughter) has been a strong advantage for it has helped the university sustain its high quality services in spite of periodic political instability in Morocco over the centuries.

At the end of the 11th century, the University of Timbuktu had an attendance of 25,000 students in a city with a population of 100,000 people. The students came from all corners of the African continent in search of excellence in knowledge and trade. Timbuktu’s literary output was enormous (700,000 of its manuscripts exist today) and included works covering the history of Africa and southern Europe, religion, mathematics medicine and law. There are even manuscripts detailing the movement of the stars and possible cures for malaria. The scientist, Zouber who in this century searched out these manuscripts, says he immediately realized the manuscripts’ importance as primary sources of truth. He concluded that “Colonizers had always argued that they were here to civilize Africa but there were many points of light. Clearly Africa was not living in obscurity.”

I can’t resist the temptation at this point to ask you to share with me in imagining what Africa’s intellectual and academic development trajectory could have been if, as was portrayed in the recently released blockbuster film, The Black Panther, our forebears in Nigeria and other parts of Africa had intentionally isolated themselves from the Eastern and Western Worlds to develop independently of the human exploitation, environmental destruction, damage to cultures, and devastating diseases, introduced from outside the continent.

Do you know that China barricaded its vast borders for centuries, while advancing on its own, in social structure, spiritual values and scientific studies, artisanal skills and technically sophisticated processes and products that were far ahead of the rest of the world at the time – and indeed many of which have never been equaled elsewhere since?

Relevance and Quality: The Nigerian Experience
Now, back to this century and the Nigerian experience with relevance and quality in university education. I did my basic academic work – research, teaching, and service (as a Veterinary Pathologist) at the University of Ibadan. My title as Professor came from Ibadan. But the University of Ibadan, the oldest Nigerian University, now over 70 years old, was designed and piloted by our colonizers. At a point, the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, University of Ghana Legon, and Makerere University Uganda were acknowledged as some of the best Universities in the Commonwealth but –  they were clearly imprinted by the mission and vision of the UK. So you might ask, where was the original Nigerian (African) input to the establishment, and running of the University of Ibadan? Indeed, it took many years for the University of Ibadan to evolve from the character of its colonizers into a more African University.

Meanwhile, as Ibadan was slowly evolving, changes were taking place elsewhere in Nigeria and, in fact, academics in the Niger Delta region led the way. In 1979, I headed the team that created the Rivers State University of Science and Technology – the first university to focus its vision and mission on more than the classical disciplines. I played a key part in the strategic planning (as Chairman of the Planning Committee) and in the running of the University (as Vice-Chancellor of that University in 1980). It existed as a University of Science and Technology for 37 years and indisputably had the imprint of being an African University in vision, mission and curriculum, providing hitherto unavailable access, quality and relevance to its student population.  Indeed, it opened up remarkable opportunities to large numbers of its students who are now key figures in our Niger Delta region.  It is, however, regrettable that the vision and mission of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology has not been fully and adequately sustained in recent years.

Relevance and Quality: The Sustainability Problem
Now that we have a significant number of universities and some experience operating them, the challenge of access is decreasing and we are confronting squarely the far more difficult issues of Relevance and Quality – ensuring that educational institutions are relevant in a world where the incorporation of science and technology goods and services requires constant adaptation and innovation; while at the same time ensuring that they function without interruption and without compromising on quality and standards over time. While putting up buildings and administrative structures is relatively simple and fundable, ensuring that a relevant education curriculum is supported by expert teachers and researchers and that scientific technology and research facilities are of high quality, is hugely expensive. Funding cannot be sporadic or short-term: it must be independent of government and sustained. Can we benefit from understanding what successful university systems are doing elsewhere to ensure a sustainable funding?

What have Americans done to promote the sustainability of high quality and relevant Universities? A key input – and one that has been broadly supported across political and commercial boundaries – was that the USA ensured that research in American Universities was driven by money from many sources – through realistic fees and diverse grants, to be sure but most importantly, massive funding came to the universities from their National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Private Foundations, and commercial Institutions driven by commerce.

Of course, all of these ‘investors’ expected returns from university research and training that would directly improve their own performances.  Indeed, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where I was a visiting scientist in 1976, is on record as igniting the formation of many companies producing products and services valued at billions of dollars – dollars that are shared by the companies and the university.

The Chinese model for promoting sustainable Universities is to incorporate the university system into the economic productivity system, in addition to, and supported by, the traditional roles of teaching, research and service. The Nigerian Communications Satellite, for instance, was manufactured by the Chinese Academy of Space Sciences and was used as a tool for training and research for both Chinese and Nigerian scientists.

These are just a few real examples of how other countries have found ways for funding research and teaching through guarantied regular and substantial inputs to universities. These investments are concertedly designed in such a way that they are not unduly compromised by political changes or individuals in investing institutions.

Funding for Universities in Nigeria
Who funds university research and teaching in Nigeria?   As Hon Minister of Science and Technology, I struggled to have a strong and independent Nigerian National Science Foundation to support research, but I failed. Unfortunately, it has been over ten years since my efforts, and in spite of similar efforts of others who followed me, there is yet no Nigerian National Foundation to support research. Again, there was energetic talk about establishing a Nigerian Research and Innovation Trust Fund; where has that discussion taken us? Where else can our innovative scientific minds turn?

Irrespective of the very real challenges to providing a robust and productive tertiary education system in Nigeria, I have no doubt that the governments, corporate Nigeria and individuals, are capable of addressing them successfully. But the Federal and State Governments must provide the needed enlightened leadership for these players to ensure they are guided by policies that produce education that is of high quality, relevant, and current, with Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) being of central importance to curricula and teaching methods.

  • Science, Research and Innovation Fund.

The Federal and State Governments must consider that their contributions to the funding of tertiary education is an investment in their self-interest, as opposed to an expenditure with no returns.

I wish to challenge the Federal and State Governments to allocate 1 billion dollars – from the Excess Crude Account from which the Federal Government and all State Governments have statutory rights – to a Science, Research and Innovation Fund established by Law for use by Tertiary Institutions. If these funds are used to address specific (relevant) problems and needs through innovative research and its application to products and services, there will be high returns on investment – both financial (to the government) and through improvements to the quality of life and employment opportunities for civil society.

This fund could, for example enable an academically diverse team of innovative academics and students to design a practical means of providing renewable energy systems targeted for use in our remote schools, incorporating their own improved energy storage systems and/or energy capture systems into portable and inexpensive ‘kits’.  Again, an improved ‘intranet for academic exchange’ application built by a group of university experts in satellite technology, connectivity and coding, could be set up to enable cross-fertilization of ideas, sharing of skills across all tertiary institutions in the country and general networking among scientists and their students for building enthusiasm and confidence in themselves for mastering their disciplines.

  • State Support for Research

The beauty of a federal constitutional system, is that the State Governments have some concurrent powers with the Federal Government. My understanding is that nothing stops a State Government from establishing a Fund for Innovative Research. Is anything stopping the Bayelsa State Educational Trust Fund from establishing such a fund in its Bye-Laws for use in its universities? Is there any reason that Bayelsa State cannot dedicate a fixed amount of money (or a percentage) of oil revenue (or substantial revenues from other sources) to the Fund specifically for use by academics and their students in all of its higher institutions? Such funds are not to be seen as ‘grants’ for research only, but are to be ‘investments’ in research leading to innovative application to products and services.  Is there any reason why the Fund cannot be designed to be self-perpetuating through requiring that the beneficiaries of research and product development funds return part of income generated from products and services carried out, back to the State?

Another highly needed research support, that the Fund for Innovative Research could provide is in the provision of small grants for proposal-writing and marketing of grants for academics who have ideas that will ignite excitement and attract financial investment from dynamic and forward-looking entrepreneurs, and catalyze the incorporation of innovative and science and technology-based research into improving the value of their commercial products and services.

  • Sharing of Assets and Capacity between Institutions

C.1. Universities and Institutions

There are other ways to seize opportunities to share assets and ideas between local agencies and international institutes in the country, and the bright minds in universities that are currently frustrated by not only limited resources and facilities, but also by loneliness, and a lack of collegiate attitudes among their peers.  How many of you know that less than twenty minutes by road from Toru Orua, in Odi, at the Odi Bioresources Development Centre (BioDeC), there is a modern laboratory installed and commissioned for DNA and genomic research, and so far, is not being used? If this laboratory is ‘adopted’ by a diverse group of visionary scientists with complementary skills and experience, they can address such issues as, for example:

(i) the isolation of indigenous and genetically modified micro-organisms for use in the bio-remediation (or breaking down and inactivating) of hydrocarbons and other pollutants that threaten our biodiversity and livelihoods, and

(ii) the identification of specific biomarkers to fingerprint and trace crude oil that has been ‘refined’ or ‘bunkered’ illegally, to its specific source and

(iii) the identification the specific source of particulate air pollutants such as the pervasive soot in Port Harcourt!

Over the last few years, BioDeC has also opened an important gateway to research in Niger Delta rain forest and aquatic ecology and biodiversity resources.  The value of the often unique biodiversity of our forests and freshwater, brackish and marine ecosystems is being revealed through studies of taxonomy, cultivation, biotechnology and product development.  These resources can make contributions to medicine/health, food, and industrial chemistry that will have local and global value[2].

As just one example, I want to call your attention to the edible larva so popular in Bayelsa State – known to science as Rhynchophorus ferrugineus or ‘Bayelsa suya’. Because of its high nutritional value, Bayelsa scientists are studying its habits/ecology and life cycle and are doing research on its breeding and commercial cultivation for food. Even more exciting is the potential for using enzymes extracted from these larvae to break down cellulose in plant materials for production of bio-fuels from plant cellulose.

Mr Vice-Chancellor, you and I know well that the power of science and scholarship is driven by sharing information, and cooperative research activity. I recommend that you visit BioDeC. I certainly will encourage cooperation between the University of Africa and BioDeC, not because I played a key role in the establishment of the Centre, but for the huge potential for the networking of university scientific minds and the natural and physical resources at your university and the Centre.

C.2. We have acknowledged the number of Universities we now have in the Niger Delta and that they can provide access to our qualified students. The critical mass of tertiary institutions that we now have can produce high quality graduates and research in all disciplines – but ONLY if they are supported equitably with each institution identified as being specialized in particular disciplines where they have special capacities and expertise. It may not be financially wise or productive to have 4 mediocre medical schools, or 5 minimally staffed law schools where 1 or 2 of each could provide better professional education. Like the BioDeC story, inter-institutional sharing of capacity (experienced teachers and researchers) and facilities (laboratories) between universities is a valuable stimulus to healthy cooperation and enhancement of the quality of teaching, research and production. And it can also reduce overall costs.

Quality University Education: Essential Elements

When talking about new institutions and organizations, we love to use the terms ‘world class’, ‘global standard’, and the like, without considering what we mean by these terms and if we actually deserve to use them!

If today’s university is to provide the quality education that fulfils the vision and mission of its founders, and the needs of society, it must, by definition, be relevant and innovative. It is not acceptable to simply, ‘do more of the same’.   There are some key inter-related features, that must be incorporated innovatively into the University of Africa experience:

  1. Physical Facilities

Physical facilities are a given. But physical facilities must be need-driven, reflecting the location of the institution, and sustainability issues with respect to the need for 24 hour utilities (especially water and light), and building designs and materials requiring minimal maintenance and repair. Yes, we need the modern infrastructure of utilities, administrative office blocks, classroom buildings, laboratories of diverse function (from renewable energy technologies to robotics, to industrial chemistry), libraries, auditoria, hostels, staff residences, continuing education centres, theatres, exhibition halls, canteens, sports facilities, staff schools, etc.). These diverse facilities are essential for the operation of a University. But physical infrastructure is a dead asset without other complex elements that are much more difficult to acquire.

  1. Excellence in Academic Teaching and Research.

For university academic staff, teaching is the number one responsibility, followed by research, or the generation of new knowledge which determines whether he/she is promoted to the top university academic rank of Professor. Unfortunately, the typical Nigerian University lecturer is threatened with being obsolete.

Today however, effective and Innovative approaches to teaching and research by professional academics and to learning by their students, has interfaced with science and technology in ways that are making it possible for teaching to be innovative and effective. The Internet is providing ready access to information from across the globe, expanding the range of knowledge available to lecturers and students. Indeed, the Internet has created a situation in which the student may have more information (not necessarily useful knowledge) than the lecturer.  Thus, the best educators of today understand that they are learning with their students and often even, from their students. Lecturers don’t tell students what to think. Instead teaching, especially at university level today, is designed to produce intellectual self-reliance – to teach students how to think, question, and analyze – and to take charge of their learning.

The University of Africa is expected to have highly experienced staff, with strong backgrounds in their specializations and an enthusiasm for incorporating new knowledge and tools into the teaching experience. With a careful search and selection process, such individuals can be identified in many disciplines. There will be some academic areas, however, where local expertise may not be readily available. In this case (as is done in the USA, Israel, China and France for example) the university will need to look beyond its national borders for the best minds they can get –current in their area of expertise and experienced in teaching it. From my experience, Nigerian lecturers benefitted greatly from having international academic colleagues at UNN, UI and RSUST. They worked generously with their Nigerian colleagues and mentored many of them to become similarly capable academics in their fields of excellence.

  1. Relevant and Innovative Curricula

An opinion piece in the Guardian a month ago declared that “expired education is Africa’s learning crisis”.[3]  Most of us would agree that to a very great extent, what we teach our students in universities is what we were taught.  Surely we do not expect what was needed for employment fifty years ago, to be what will get us a livelihood today.  On the other hand, can there ever be a standard, relevant and up to-date curriculum for Universities? Can anybody predict what types of jobs shall be on demand 10—20 years from now? Probably not.

What needs to be done in this situation, is to prepare our students for today and for being able to accommodate and innovate in response to continuous change.

There is a basic core content for every discipline, but in addition to that content, curricula must be designed to be relevant, at the cutting edge of knowledge with respect to current needs and applications to meet the needs of employers in commerce and industry, government agencies, and for self-employment.

To create such a forward looking academic environment in the 21st century and beyond will require that everyone without exception, be party to the ever-expanding use of computers and the internet and in addition, to understand and use the ‘internet of things’; and understand the tools of artificial intelligence and robotics, all of which will completely change the way we relate to our teachers, the way we learn, acquire information, process information and transform that information to useful knowledge.

Because students today will move into a work world of completely new and constantly changing requirements, the curriculum for every student must include ‘traineeships’ whereby their knowledge and capacities are ‘tested’ and innovation and resilience are practiced before they leave the university.

The people of the Niger Delta are ‘amphibious’, comfortable both in water (fresh and salt water) and on land environments. We have unique opportunities to exploit our environment in ways that will improve the economic well-being and create new employment opportunities for our people. Today’s graduate, grounded in modern science and technology who has specialized in marine engineering, aquatic  biology, tropical agriculture or alternative energy, is in a position to make major innovative contributions to development in the Niger Delta.  Government projects such as he proposed road to the Central Niger Delta – from Sagbama, through Toru Orua, to Ekeremor to the Agge deep sea port are clearly and strategically indicated; some of our matriculating students could be part of this work as trainees and later as employees and employers.  New roads, bridges and ports will in turn open up areas that are now difficult to access, creating opportunities for innovative University of Africa students in other disciplines as well.

  1. Intelligent, Self-motivated, Curious and Innovative Students

Students of the University of Africa: This is your day – the first day in a unique adventure from which you will determine the benefits. A quote from another matriculation says it well: “The experiences you have at this university will change you. Use these changes to learn about yourself, your strengths and your weaknesses. With confidence and an open mind, you will develop a depth of character and richness of personality of which you will be proud. (Your teachers will guide you to) “be independent in your judgement, critical in your analysis and innovative in developing solutions. These skills will continue to serve you as you navigate a world that is constantly and rapidly changing so that you can sustain your livelihoods and contribute to the meeting the needs of today’s society to be globally competitive”.[4]

My dear fellow students and scholars, if you forget everything I have said so far, I implore you to always remember those two words: Self-motivation and curiosity!! If you are driven by these two traits, you will be an innovator – you will do things differently – and you will be amazed at what you will do with your life.

  1. A Community of Inquiring and Open Minds

The University of Africa has a few advantages with respect to innovation and sustainability. There are no entrenched and fixed traditions; no dogmatic, inflexible, and ‘entitled’ staff, no fixed vested interests and impenetrable hierarchies. Its isolated physical location is an advantage for serious scholars, mathematicians, scientists and artists as long as their basic needs for a good quality of life are met. The character of the campus is ready to be determined. So we need to ask: ‘what needs to be done to generate a healthy, stimulating environment without the conflicts and unproductive and petty competitiveness seen in so many universities’?

If staff and students arrive at campus late morning and return to Yenagoa, Odi, or Ughelli every day or even every weekend, they deprive themselves of many important benefits of a university environment. If administrators and academics and students are sequestered to their own areas of campus and never meet outside official events, under-lying tensions and misconceptions build up.  This kind of dysfunctional community situation must be pre-empted.

A university is a great place to develop one’s mind but also to challenge one’s values, to be exposed to new ideas and ways of doing things, and to raise a family in a safe, stimulating and diverse environment.  There is need for making a concerted effort to develop a well-rounded university community for sharing ideas, interacting at many levels, and for feeling one is leading an abundant life, as part of a community of inquiring and open minds where “All Views Matter!”

The university community envisioned is a shared one between academic and support staff, and students. Shared non-academic facilities and services will include among others:

  • Dedicated residential facilities for staff and students
  • Common transport system within the University and beyond.
  • Common cafeteria and indoor recreational activities
  • Shared extra-curricular activity facilities: sports facilities, continuing education and multi-purpose exhibition facilities to accommodate for example: theatre/drama groups, debate and music (choral, instrumental) groups, continuing education for all (in art, languages, computer use etc.), multi-purpose exhibition facilities.

To summarize, Toru- Orua can be an academic oasis while at the same time being a well rounded community offering opportunities for personal intellectual development and life-long values.  This high quality multifaceted collegiate environment is to provide a diversity of academic and social activities consistent with the common humanity and common dreams of its staff and students and to provide opportunities for a healthy interface between the university and its host community.

  1. Encouragement and Support from Parents, Relatives and Friends

Students must take the greatest share of the responsibility for their success and must find ways to help themselves to succeed, through both financial and lifestyle choices.  But we must acknowledge that the parents and relatives and friends of the matriculating students – young men and women -, of the University of Africa, who have the confidence of entrusting their wards to this university will need to do their part to provide some of the inputs required by the students in order to enable them to learn in a scholarly environment without undue stress. With your support, the university will be empowered to rise up to its challenges and will not let your matriculating students down.

  1. The Founding Fathers –

The Founding Fathers are the Visionaries: they include:

  • the Governor of Bayelsa State Hon Seriake Dickson who generated the vision of the University of Africa;
  • the Landlords (citizens of Toru-Orua) who are vested in the university’s success as a reflection of their own values and wisdom, and provided the land for the institution, and
  • the regional front-running citizens who understand acutely the importance of human capacity for exploiting our environment and the world’s STI, for sustainable development.

Finally, a University is what the founding fathers, staff and students make of it. I am confident that the University of Africa is capable of becoming an “Innovative, and Sustainable University”, responding to the challenges of our Bayelsa State and our Nation of Nigeria.  Thus we wish to again thank the Governor of Bayelsa State Hon Seriake Dickson, the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, and indeed all of the people of Bayelsa State for establishing the University of Africa; and thus making today’s matriculation a reality.

Thank you.

Mbana!

Adou!

Aliuwa!

(Followed by a Traditional Greeting)

[1] Most countries in Africa have shared the challenges faced by Nigeria. Zimbabwe for example, is considered one of the poorest countries in the world but has one of the highest literacy rates (90%) resulting from massive expansion of their pre-tertiary education after independence. But in one recent year, 300,000 students graduated from secondary school and only 18% were admitted to the limited university openings.  This means over 80% of potentially productive persons are left with no opportunity for formal institutional training for acquiring employable skills.

[2] “Palm weevil larvae (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus) or Bayelsa Suya – have over 6% protein and 13% fat and are high in several vitamins.” (from a proposal to NABDA from D. Commander Thomas RSUST, 2005). Studies are being done on its habits/ecology and life cycle as well as on in-vitro methods of cultivation as a tool for research and commercial cultivation and breeding for food.  Even more exciting is the potential for using enzymes extracted from these larvae to break down cellulose in plant materials for production of bio-fuels. Adults, pupae and larvae of many Rhyncopherus species are edible and eaten in other parts of the world.

[3] The Guardian Nigeria March 19, 2018. P 16

[4] Prof Monaco, Tufts University 2013 Matriculation

Follow and like us

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *