It has been a week of avid and fervent scholarly activities, tributes, book review in honour of a big masquerade, a colossus, the Distinguished Professor Peter Okebukola as he turned 70 years. Part of the programme was the presentation of a book ‘Pivotal Issues in Higher Education Development in Nigeria’ written by friends to capture Okebukola’s contributions to learning, education and pedagogy. CYRIACUS NNAJI writes.
The entire Lagos State University (LASU) community in various forms and styles has come out to show acknowledgement and appreciation to a worthy academic, a mentor and human resources and capacity builder, Distinguished Professor Peter Akinsola Okebukola as he clocks 70 years.
One of the activities was a Zoom meeting titled ‘Professor Peter Okebukola @70: Media Dialogue on Pivotal Issues in Higher Education which organized by friends and colleagues in his honour.
Speaking at the meeting Distinguished Professor Peter Akinsola Okebukola stated that he is ashamed to see Nigeria going abroad to beg for vaccine, attributing the scenario to the level of corruption in the nation.
The Professor was speaking in answer to the question of how to tackle issue of funding of education in Nigeria. He stated that the challenge of funding education is not just associated with Nigeria but a global issue. He however addressed the issue by saying that the first step in solving the problem of funding is to get the unit cost of training a student, adding that once that is established it becomes easy to source for funding.
He however expressed concerns that funding education in Nigeria is further compounded by the quantum of corruption in the nation, adding that money that ordinary should go into research that would catapult Nigeria into becoming a manufacturing giant is taken to Dubai and other foreign countries by corrupt individuals. “Corruption has made all that impossible as the money is taken to Dubai and other countries.”
The erudite scholar maintained that corruption has made development difficult in the nation saying “We must wrestle corruption down not just in the education section but every sector. I am ashamed to see Nigeria going abroad begging for vaccine.”
Okebukola thanked all those who contributed in one way or the other to make his birthday memorable especially the contributors and editors who made the book written in his honour possible.
Emmanuel Ologunorisa contributing from Akansa USA advocated the US model of categorization of universities, whereby universities are meant to award one class of degree or two. He said that America has over 4000 universities but they are classified in the sense that they do not award every degree. He said while some are awarding degrees in teaching, others award First Degrees, Masters, yet others award Post Graduate Degrees, adding that university system in the US is quality control.
Ologunorisa stated that even though some universities in Nigeria are trying their best, the quality of certificates being awarded in Nigeria universities are nothing to write home about.
In their preface to the book Pivotal Issues in Higher Education Development in Nigeria in honour of Prof. Okebukola for his contribution to education and humanity, erudite scholars Sola Akinrinade, Siyan Oyeweso, Samuel G. Odewumi and Anthony Kola-Olusanya came out to write “This book have been put together in honour of Professor Peter Akinsola Okebukola, OFR, who turns 70 years on 17 February 2021 and would be formally retiring from the services of the Lagos State University.
“The book is an appropriate medium for celebrating Professor Okebukola who is probably the most significant name in the Nigerian higher education landscape today.”
They said in the book that even since his appointment as Executive Secretary of the foremost higher education regulatory agency in Africa, the National Universities Commission, Nigeria, Professor Okebukola has remained a leading light in the growth and development of the higher education system. His influence and impact have transcended the country and continent to the global space having served the world higher education system in several capacities.
The issues interrogated in this book reflect the diversity of interests that have engaged Professor Okebukola’s own scholarship over the years. They also speak to his interests and diversity of influence.
Peter A. Okebukola, PhD is a Distinguished Professor of Science and Computer Education and Director of the World Bank-funded Africa Centre of Excellence for Innovative and Transformative STEM Education at the Lagos State University, Nigeria.
With specialization in science and technology training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Harvard University, both in Cambridge, USA, Okebukola is a Fellow of the International Academy of Education and between 1998 and 2007 was the African Representative on the Executive Committee of the International Council of Associations for Science Education. He is also a Fellow of the Science Association of Nigeria (SAN), Fellow and President of the Nigerian Association for Environmental Education and Fellow and past President of the Science Teachers Association of Nigeria (STAN).