We Use School Fees to Build Infrastructure at DELSU
– Eric Arubayi, Vice-Chancellor, DELSU
In this interview with Adekunbi Ero, executive editor, Eric Arubayi, Vice-Chancellor, VC, Delta State University, DELSU and professor of education administration, appraises the development of tertiary education in Delta State and returns the verdict that it “has taken a very, very long leap for the better”.
Can you give an assessment of the state of tertiary education in Delta State?
First of all, I have to say that tertiary education in Delta State has taken a very, very long leap for the better. Before now, before the present administration, we had just two colleges of education. Later, the College of Education, Mosogar, was added. Then, we never had any Polytechnic at all; also later, the state government added the Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwashi-Uku; Delta State Polytechnic, Ozoro and Delta State Polytechnic, Oghara. The intention really is to produce middle-level manpower in the education sector. And Delta that is known very well as a state endowed with education, these institutions are intended to provide access to the teeming population of Deltans that are craving for tertiary education. The state government also went ahead to add four more polytechnics – the one at Sapele, another one at Abigborodo. There is one at Aboh in Ndokwa and the other one is in Patani.
You see, you can best appreciate why these things are being done. I take the Delta State University as an example. The last JAMB exam we did, the number of applicants was about 51,000 and the carrying capacity given to us by NUC is 3,500 which is just around five per cent. So where are the others going? So, you can now see why these polytechnics and colleges of education, their establishment, is very timely so that even when they finish from these institutions, they can still come to the university, if they so desire. And when they come, they will be coming as direct entry students. There is another aspect. Delta State also has Institute of Continuing Education. What do they do? Those of them who were unable to make their papers go in there and the institute really runs them through rigorous programmes such that at the end of the day, they pass their papers, and they are now ready to move into the tertiary institutions of their choice. Basically, I have told you how tertiary education in Delta State has actually metamorphosed.
Are you not bothered how the government would be able to sustain all these tertiary institutions in the face of competing demands for the resources of the state? It is believed in some quarters that the government is biting more than it can chew such that quality may be sacrificed on the altar of quantity?
Well, people can say what they want to say. Those of us who are in the education sector know that whatever investment you put into education right now, you will reap it in no distant future. The state government has tried to cope by providing funds, paying the salaries of the lecturers, providing infrastructure facilities and doing far more to ensure that these institutions are sustained. And take it or leave it, those institutions are just growing; every child that is born today first of all sits down, stands before he starts moving. So, these institutions, they are going to mature with time. Even if you have few structures there, they are not going to be static. The state government is still going to continue. Don’t forget, administration is continuous. Our governor today has done very well. By the grace of God, come May 2015, he will exit; somebody else will take over. And the person would build on his vision and mission and continue with some of all these legacies that the present administration has put in place.
Delta is a three-campus university; and like the governor is wont to say, it is like running three state universities at once. How convenient has it been managing the university?
Well, it’s a good question. We’ve existed for 21 years with these three campuses. Initially, there were hiccups here and there. But like every new thing that starts, there are bound to be problems. But I want to say that we’ve overcome those problems. There are some other states that have come to us here to find out from us – how do you people manage this your three-campus structure? And we tell them, and they marvel over it. You see, education in Delta State is a big industry such that if you tell the Deltan that the university should be only in Abraka, there are many people from other ethnic nationalities that will want to have a bite of the university that we have. So, the state government did it in such a way that we have three campuses – the main campus here in Abraka in the Central Senatorial District. We have the campus in Anwai, Asaba in the North Senatorial District and we have the third campus in Oleh, in the South Senatorial District. The university stands on a tripod and Abraka, being the main headquarters, the seat of administration of Delta State University. So, tacitly, and in law, Delta State government has one university. And in administration, we have provosts; a Provost in Oleh, a Provost in Asaba, reporting to the VC here in Abraka who has two deputy VCs, one in Administration and the other one in Academic. The Bursar, the Registrar, the librarians are all here in the seat of administration. So, that is just to tell you how we’ve been managing. We’ve been doing fine and we don’t have problems as such.
How will you say the present administration of Governor Uduaghan has impacted on the growth of this university?
Well, I wish you would have time to go round and see things for yourself. The Delta State government has done a lot. The most important thing is that whatever we generate internally, we know it is government revenue, they allow us to use it in the development of the institution. And apart from that, they pay our salaries and wages 100 per cent, running into millions. When I tell some people, they say ha, the state government gives you this every month? Of course! But whatever we generate, we use it for our running cost. You may be shocked to believe that the money we expend in Abraka alone on diesel every month, is in the neighbourhood of around N14 million. In Abraka alone, we have about 16, 17 generators – we have two 1000 KVA there, 500 KVA serving the academic area, 500 in the library, two 500 KVA in Site 1, another two 500 KVA in Site 3, we have in Pre-degree, we have in the College; we have some 250 KVA in other areas, I keep counting. We need these generators to be able to survive because you know that the power sector in Nigeria has gone comatose.
We have to power our systems; and the students in the hostels, if they don’t have water, they become restive. And more importantly, Delta State has the lowest tuition amongst all universities in the country – state universities. Federal, they say they don’t pay but they have some other levies; so, let’s not go into that one. Our tuition for a year is just about N23,000. And in the hostels, N10,000 per session. So, you can see what the state government really does for us; a lot of augmentation to be able to meet some of all these challenges. So, they are trying. If we go to Site 3 of this university, you will see the massive administrative block that the state government is building – seven floors. This one where we are talking now was built by UNESCO when this school was College of Education, Abraka. You see the Asaba campus, the library there, renovated and built by the state government; hostels for females, hostels for males and all that. You go to Oleh campus, the Engineering workshops, big workshops, three of them, massive, built by the state government. The administrative block, built by the state government; the Faculty of Law, the building is ongoing. And we have very, very impressive lecture theatres. These are all the things the state government has been able to do, apart from providing some other things that are too numerous to start listing.
TELL recently did an in-depth report on the state of Nigerian universities. We spoke with the chairman of ASUU at UNIBEN and he painted a frightening picture of the extent of decay of infrastructure and equipment in the university such that kerosene stoves were being used as Bunsen burner and that you cannot get ordinary chemicals in their laboratories. What is the state of your laboratories here?
The state of our laboratories here is okay. We’ve tried; we have built eight laboratories in Site 3. I don’t think we’ve degenerated to the extent that we use stove in place of Bunsen burner. We have most of all those things functioning in our laboratories.
What about your Department of Computer Science? Are there computers to teach the students because we were told at UNIBEN that the lecturer only comes to the class with a non-functional desktop just to show the students what a computer looks like?
In our Department of Computer Science, we have a computer lab with several functioning computers. We even have the ICT Centre with over 300 state-of-the-art computers. It’s in this campus; with standby generator. We also have e-learning in the library, with well over 100 PCs where students can get into the place, print whatever they want and be able to get knowledge and information. And in Site 3, courtesy of Tertiary Education Fund, we are building electronic examination centre; the type you see in Ilorin and Ibadan that can take about 1,000 students, especially those large classes like post-UME, Pre-degree exams, 100, 200 level exams. The students will just go there, they do their exams, may be in 40, 45 minutes or one hour; with a punch of the button, they get their results and it’s printed out. So, the human factor doesn’t come in where the lecturer will say I am marking, or I have finished marking and he keeps them to give room for what they call blocking and all that.
And in terms of accreditation, we have come a long way. When I took over as VC of this university about four years ago, we had about 68 per cent of our programmes fully accredited. But right now, since my ascension into the position, we can boast that we now have 93 per cent full accreditation. And myself and my administration, we want a situation where we want to drive this up to a 100 per cent by the grace of God before our exit in another 10 months. So, we are doing well; we are trying, both professionally and academically. We are trying to meet all the requests and demands for accreditation. Like in Pharmacy, we have a 100 accreditation but we are yet to get the PCN – that is the professional aspect of it. We’ve now written to them, inviting them because they told us to put some things in place and we are trying to put those things in place. So, they’ll be coming, hopefully, if they give a date in March, to come and look at the facilities that we have. We have full accreditation in our medical programme. The Teaching Hospital is at Oghara; if you’ve been reading the papers, recently, we had a feat recently when there was kidney transplant. If you get to the Teaching Hospital, it’s a state-of-the-art. It’s a teaching hospital that you need to go to rather than going to India or going to UK. And since that feat, the request for kidney transplant from Nigerians can be best imagined.
‘Those of us who are in the education sector know that whatever investment you put into education right now, you will reap it in no distant future… So, these institutions, they are going to mature with time. Even if you have few structures there, they are not going to be static’
‘…We can boast that we now have 93 per cent full accreditation. And myself and my administration, we want a situation where we want to drive this up to a 100 per cent by the grace of God before our exit in another 10 months’