The Vice Chancellor, Federal University Gusau, Professor Magaji Garba, says the institution gets support and funding to promote female education
The university is seven years old now. How is it faring under reduced funding by government?
Starting a university is not easy; it is very tasking. It requires a lot of funding and support from the National Universities Commission NUC) and the host community. The support from the host community is excellent, there is not much problem, but putting in the critical infrastructure, like office accommodation, furniture, laboratories, lecture halls and so on, is one of the top challenges as far as I am concerned.
And you know we are given a pro rata budget, that is, we are not treated as a new institution whose budget should be larger. So, that has really presented a challenge. But with help of God the Almighty and goodwill of many stakeholders, we are able to get accreditation and this accreditation needs many things like staffing, library, offices, laboratories etc. We have all our courses accredited. But there is the challenge of inadequate personnel of which you hardly get professors, readers and other lecturers to employ. We rely on sabbatical because a sabbatical staff is like a permanent staff.
But we have adequate staff now, including readers and professors; we have promoted and sent a hundred of them for training and they are coming back. But the challenge of funding still exists.
How many programmes do you run?
We had three faculties initially – Management and Social Sciences, Sciences and Humanities and Education. Last year Education was separated from Humanities so we now have four. So courses run in the Management and Social Sciences include Sociology, Economics and Political Science. In Sciences, we have Chemistry, Biology, Geology, Computer Science, and we have what we call Plant Bio Technology. Under Faculty of Education, there are Education Science, Educational Foundation, Guidance and Counselling etc.
We are bringing in three additional faculties this year. This is unprecedented in the history of the university because we are installing Pharmacy, Agriculture and Engineering. And we are going to admit students for these faculties in 2021.
Your university is located in an area where girls’ education is said to be facing challenges. What are you doing to improve the situation?
If you move around the university, you will see a lot of female students. We give female students priority in terms of admission and internal scholarship and we expose them to other forms of support outside. For instance, the wife of Kebbi State governor has offered N2 million every year for female education. The beneficiaries will receive their bursary payments this week.
There is a retired military general who is supporting female students financially but he doesn’t want us to mention his name. We are also working with the state government to have that as a project.
During your maiden convocation you mentioned on- the-job training for lecturers. Can you shed more light on it?
This is done through the TETFUND’s academic staff training and development programme. I can tell you that we are doing very well. In fact, we have spent over N500 million in that area. We paid N52 million for a PhD programme in the UK. We have about a hundred academics pursuing different programmes both internally and externally and we are still counting. We still have a favourable balance with the TETFUND and we are taking more. Recently, we got sponsorship for about 15 staff to go to US, some UK and some to Finland.
There are fears that after spending money on lecturers abroad, some of them wouldn’t want come back…?
Yes, there is such fear, but here we are lucky, they are honest as they like the place. They are coming back and they are contributing to the development of the institution.
How does pro rata budget affect your activities?
Yes, I complained to the minister. Even in my convocation speech I said it. I said there should be special ways of nurturing new universities. You can’t compare us with older ones because they have large internally generated revenue. Since the takeoff grant of N1.5 billion, it is only now that President Muhammadu Buhari approved N2 billion for each of the universities. If we are getting N2 billion every year we will be able to put in more infrastructures.
The university has not been fenced. How do you cope with security issues?
We thank God the minister has finally okayed funds for us to build the fence and you can see it is a very large area, 17,000sq kilometers.
What has been the level of support from the host community?
We have never had any issue with the people unlike in other places. In fact, we invite them to many of our programmes like Ramadan lectures and we employ their children. There is a very cordial relationship and I hope it will continue. That is one area that has made my stay here enjoyable.
What would you say about the prospects of the graduates?
When we were about doing the convocation, we did a student’s debate. The students exhibited high confidence and they spoke good English. I can tell you that the management was very happy with that. We are all confident that they will do well outside there.
You are occupying a hostel as administrative block. Is there any effort to relocate to your permanent site?
Of course. We have signed a contract for the erection of a three-storey Senate building with an elevator at the cost of N492 million and we expect the contractor to start work any time from now.
Source: Daily Trust
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