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We consider the implementation of a recent decision by the authorities of Lagos State University, LASU, making Yoruba language compulsory for all courses of study in the institution a welcome development that should be embraced by all well-meaning Nigerians and devoid of any ethnic colouration considering the inherent capacity of the initiative to create a more coherent bond among the various members of the federating units in the country.
On the face of it, the project may smack of ethnic domineering in the manner of imposing the culture and language of a geopolitical zone upon the rest of ethnic nationalities but the reality on the ground is that the policy if successfully replicated in all tertiary institutions in the country is capable of helping to rejuvenate the nation’s rich cultural heritage which is fast vanishing.
The LASU move towards cultural revival is indeed not too far from the spirit and intents of the founding fathers of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC scheme designed to ensure a broad-based cross-breeding of ideas, culture, language and people through such exchange programme which encourages the dismantling of imaginary boarders.
We, therefore, totally disagree with opponents of the LASU’s scheme inculcating Yoruba language as a compulsory course into its general studies who expressed such myopic view that the long-term objective of the scheme is to discourage none indigenes from accessing the institution thus making it the exclusive preserve of the Yorubas.
However, in the contrary, we strongly advocate the replication of the LASU policy in virtually all institutions of higher learning in the country in the same manner that we recommend the reintroduction of the teaching of History in our basic education level.
It is a sad reality that agencies statutorily charged for the development of school curriculum have continued to sacrifice the teaching of the nation’s history, culture and inter-relationship of the various regions and languages including her heroes’ past to younger generations to the extent that the country is fast loosing track of its socio-cultural and political affinity.
Part of the dangers inherent in this unfortunate situation is the distortion of historical facts to the extent that most Nigerians are further being divided along the lines of region, party politics and religion while at the same time ignoring the things that unite her people. We will continue to advocate for the return of the teaching of our rich History as part of elementary studies.
It is not for want of argument that we are quick to remind ourselves that those nations that aspire to greatness strive hard to promote traits that evoke commonalities and unification which are what culture and language stand for.
Technological and scientific breakthroughs are better achieved through common purpose and mutual understanding which are some of the basic tools that countries like Russia, China, Japan, Germany even Rwanda among others have built on in acquiring technological feats as opposed to waiting for the transfer of technology to their countries.
We view with concern the recent declaration of intent by the Education Ministry to grant universities greater autonomy, which indicates that the National Universities Commission, NUC is still bent on checkmating and compressing the academic exuberance of universities as implied in the recently introduced Core Curriculum Minimum Academic Standards (CCMAS) through which empower the body to develop 70 per cent of the contents of university curriculum while allowing individual universities to express their uniqueness within a band of 30 per cent input in their curriculum, a move that is retrogressive.
It is our opinion that institutions of higher learning should be encouraged to demonstrate some considerable level of sagacity in their quest to expand the scope of learning and character of students within their various campuses to the extent that competition as well as their areas of competences and specialties should constitute part of their unique selling points.
It is worrisome to note the observation of some key stakeholders in the education sector who argue that unbundling some programmes as contained in the 70percent CCMAS would render graduates of such programmes limited, inadequate and subsequently unemployable in the sectors that would ordinarily want to engage their services.
Agreed that section 10(1) of the Education (National Minimum Standards and Establishment of Institutions) Act, Cap E3, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 empowers NUC to set the minimum standards for all universities and other degree awarding institutions and conduct the accreditation of their degrees and other academic awards, we hold the strong view that the exercise of such powers should be conducted in due consultation with academics who are members of Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU.
Though it can be argued that the CCMAS reflects a global perspective that would equip our graduates with the 21st Century knowledge and wherewithal that transcend traditional boundaries, the principles and spirit of the Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards (BMAS) model should be inculcated in the new system in order to encourage the adoptability and creativity of individual universities which is what the likes of LASU are trying to expound on in making the Yoruba language a compulsory general course.
There is an urgent need for NUC to reconsider and if found necessary accept the proposed innovations from the universities on curriculum development instead of adopting the top-to-bottom model used for the CCMAS. Besides the body should encourage universities, as currently being done by the University of Ibadan, to propose innovations for the review of their programmes. Proposals from across universities should then be sieved and synthesised by more competent expert teams to review the existing BMAS documents and, or restructure the CCMAS as appropriate.
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