Home Education Interview: Wesley set to be one of best universities in Nigeria – Prof. Obeka
Education - July 6, 2023

Interview: Wesley set to be one of best universities in Nigeria – Prof. Obeka

Vice-Chancellor, Wesley University, Ondo and the first Bishop of the Methodist Church, Nigeria to be appointed Vice-Chancellor of a university, Rt. Rev. (Prof.) Samuel Sunday Obeka, spoke with us about the prospects of Wesley University, Ondo. He is the Bishop of Wesley Ecumenical Cathedral, Ondo, Ondo State. He speaks about the institution and many other issues affecting higher education in the country in this interview.

Excerpts:

We would like you to talk about Wesley University sir.

Methodist Church Nigeria thought it wise to establish a university, known as Wesley University of Science and Technology but in development strides and in tune with exigent realities, later grew from a strictly science and technology based institution to a multi-disciplinary and conventional university, and that led to the change of name to “Wesley University”, Ondo. The university offers 44 academic programmes spread across nine colleges all approved and accredited by the National Universities Commission (NUC). The programmes are in the Colleges of Law, Arts, Education, Natural and Applied Sciences, Environmental Design and Management, Agriculture, Food Science & Technology, Health Sciences and Social and Management Sciences. We also have a School of Postgraduate Studies, as well as an Institute of Agricultural Research & Training and a School of Continuing Education. Programmes in these colleges include Community Health, Early Childhood Education, Special Education and Library and Information Science as well as Law and Nursing Science. In the Postgraduate programmes, we run the full range of programmes such as PGD, MSc and MPhil/PhD. in Biochemistry, Business Administration, Accounting, Computer Science, Hospitality Management & Tourism, Mass Communication, Nutrition & Dietetics, Microbiology and Education at Postgraduate levels only.  The BA/BSc. programmes are: Theatre Arts, English & Literary Studies, International Relations & Diplomacy, Sociology, Geography & Environmental Education, as well as Social Studies Education. The university also has Part-Time and online degree programmes, diploma and certificate courses in the various colleges. Some of the diploma and certificates programmes in the College of Agriculture are – Poultry Management & Production, Beekeeping & Honey Production and Fisheries Production & Management. In the College of Social and Management Sciences, we have – Peace Management & Conflict Resolution, Safety Management & Security Studies, and in the Department of Mass Communication, we have – Video-Editing, Media Studies and Photography, Public Relations and Advertising, Scriptwriting and Editing. In the department of Business Administration, we offer short courses on Customer Service & Relationship Management.  It is very important to note that the Methodist Church (Nigeria) was started in 1842 and since then, it has made a lot of contributions in the development of the educational sector, the agricultural sector, the health sector and other sectors of governance. By the grace of God, we are projecting that in the five years times, Wesley University will be one of the best universities in Nigeria. We are working assiduously towards that goal, and we surely will get there.

How do you gauge the relationship between the host city, Ondo and Wesley University, and how has this relationship impacted the environment over the years?

We have a very cordial relationship with the host community.  For instance, at the governing council level, the community is well represented and in terms of scholarship, the sons and daughters of this community have benefited from it.  From time to time, we usually host the community in our events as part of efforts to associate with, and be identified with them. We always interact with them for the progress of the university. The community and its leaders donated a large portion of land to the university and the Certificate of Occupancy signed and sealed by the state governor was presented to the university. That is to show you that our hosts are very supportive because of our cordial relationship.  Methodist Church Nigeria and Wesley University maintain a robust relationship with the people of Ondo Kingdom and its environs. We have been empowering farmers in the city through free workshops and training programmes. Also, we do have a programme called “ICT Challenge” for secondary school students, where they are taught how to use basic ICT tools. We organise annual quiz competitions to enhance their interests in science and technological courses. Moreover, a good number of the indigenes are gainfully employed in the university.

There has been a controversy wherein members of church-established universities in Nigeria, who contributed towards the establishment of their church-owned universities, are not able to enrol their children in them, because of unaffordable tuition fees. What is the Methodist Church, Nigeria, the owner of the Wesley University doing to curb such a situation?

In that regard, the Methodist Church, Nigeria has a robust scholarship scheme for all her members, and ministers across all the conference areas enjoy percentage reduction for their children’s tuition fees. We have a good number of them in all the university’s colleges, from all the dioceses that make up the Methodist Church in Nigeria. We have had a good number of students coming from far and wide.  In the area of Theological Studies, we are affiliated with the church’s theological institutes. As a Methodist Church-owned University, they usually study here under the auspices of the church’s scholarship schemes. It is very important to note that Wesley University is the first university to offer a degree in theological studies in the country and we developed the theology curriculum in collaboration with the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) for other universities in Nigeria.

Apart from students’ enrolment, how and where else is the university generating funds?

The church as parental body has been very supportive, as well as some philanthropic individuals. We also have some support from international agencies and funds are also obtained from internally generated revenue.

What are the Current Challenges faced by the University?

 The usual challenge encountered by all universities in Nigeria is inadequate funding, but we are coping with the little funds at our disposal, meanwhile trying harder at accessing other available funding sources.

How would you rate Nigeria education and if the curricula have helped in development of the country?

The present state of education in Nigeria leaves much to be desired. In fact, that’s why the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) is currently looking at higher education from the indigenous perspective by trying to develop some innovative programmes that would suit and complement our contemporary society. Because the nation has been living under the borrowed educational system, theories and principles of the Western world or colonial master, the borrowed system has not helped us much in the development of our country. So, with the indigenisation of our educational system, our development theories, principles or philosophy, I believe in a few years from now, the educational system in the country would be better placed to entrench our national psyche upon the path of much needed socio-economic advancement.  We also see that in term of funding the, budgetary allocations falls grossly below average and all over, there have been strident clamours for further increase in budgetary allocations to all levels of the educational sector.

What’s your view on the large number of First-class graduates produced by private universities and is it not necessary to have a common examination body to determine their quality?

The educational policy in the nation tried to generally moderate the system, especially in terms of the intellectual competencies of her resources personnel, e.g. the university professorial cadre, it’s globally assessed and rated, which means that you cannot be a professor in any university without your papers being assessed by at least three internationally accredited professors. That’s an attempt to ensure there is standard in professorship rating. Other academic positions too have a common assessment rating arrangement. So, before a person can become a Lecturer-one, Senior-lecturer, or Associate-professor, there is a standard assessment rating that the person must have passed through as far as the academic community is concerned. So when you come to student appraisals, for instance, the entering points to Nigerian universities are very relevant. Before you gain admission to a university, there are certain criteria set nationally to attain it through the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) and the Joint Universities Preliminary Examination Board (JUPEB). Also, we have the Ordinary Level qualifying Examination body like the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and other agencies coming together to monitor educational policy and ensure compliance. The universities tried to follow a unified grading system   and to ensure compatibility of all levels of academic attainments. If it’s a First-class candidate from Wesley University Ondo, it’s expected that the bearer of the certificate should be able to compete favourably with other First-class materials all over the world, not only in Nigeria. You are aware that Nigerian universities’ certificates are rated high in other countries. So there is standardisation when it comes to educational policies globally. A good example is in the medical profession, Nigeria medical doctors are rated high in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and other developed nations. Nigerian professionals also occupy high positions and are highly respected in those countries.  That’s why the system follows a highly rigid appraisal before being approval by the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC). Before your university is accredited for any academic programmes, it follows the same pattern. NUC must come to verify all your academic programmes to ensure it conforms to the national standard.

The same graduates that graduated First-class are being rejected or re-trained by some organisations in Nigeria. Even some of them are said to be unemployable. What is your suggestion on the way forward?

I can tell you that the NUC is doing a great job, because during their accreditation exercise to any university in Nigeria, they check many things, which include school examination questions, marking schemes and they scrutinise marked answer scripts. The monitoring and standardisation instrument of the NUC are in place. So, it’s expected that someone who is a First-class graduate of any university in Nigeria should live up to expectations as a First-class brain in any university or professional environment of the world.  As far as Wesley University, Ondo is concerned, we have a broad-based curriculum and regarding our graduates, we usually have feedback from their employers in terms of morals, performance and academics.

TEFUND is only focused on government-owned institutions and some stakeholders are agitating for the extension of the funds to privately-owned institutions too. What is your view on such development?

We have discussed it many times at both national and international meetings. One of the greatest disservice a nation can do to their tertiary institutions is to discriminate against institutions owned by government. The present TEFUND intervention is focused on only institutions established by the federal or state governments, neglecting the voluntary organisations or church-based universities. I therefore appeal to the Federal government to consider and extend the educational intervention funds towards the development of the private institutions because they are critical stakeholders in the educational development of humanity in the nation.

Many parents believe in sending their children abroad for higher education. What is your advice to make Nigerian higher education attractive?

The issue of brain-drain has been a cog in the wheel of progress in our national development.  When I was the chairman of Ahmadu Bello University international conference, we organised conferences on the exodus of elites and the brain-drain abroad for better opportunities, and my advice to government then was to improve the welfare and conditions of service of workers in the country. Also, it is also important to improve the welfare packages for the citizenry to reduce the level of brain-drain and the exodus of the youths out of the country.  I want to appeal to parents to be patient, the state of the nation cannot continue like this for much longer, as we pray always that God will intervene in the affairs of this nation Nigeria, and things will get better for the citizens.

The Ninth National Assembly tried to pass a bill that would prohibit medical graduated from leaving the country immediately after their studies. Now Wesley University, Ondo wants to start medical studies, would you support such a bill?

The bill was dead-on-arrival because no government has the moral right or any other right for that matter, to prohibit medical graduates from leaving the country for better job opportunities abroad when the conditions of service in the Nigerian medical field are neither conducive nor compensatory. How can you pass such a bill despite that the government functionaries of this nation at the highest level, starting from the President, and other high-ranking government officials have a custom of traveling abroad for medical attention for their most minimal health challenges, at the expense of the citizens. Rather, the legislators should concentrate on improving the academic standards and the quality of health facilities as well as improve the conditions of service and compensation for medical personnel in our country, in order to stimulate confidence in the system and prevent brain-drain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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