Prof. Enase Okonedo, Vice-Chancellor of Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos, Nigeria has enjoined Nigerians to embrace other forms of tertiary education besides the universities. She stressed that polytechnic education including schooling in technical and vocational institutes are good for national development. Expressing concerns over indigent students being unable to access university education owing to increase in school fees at both federal and state levels, Prof. Enase noted that university education is not the only way to a successful career, citing instances where topflight university graduates take on professions or businesses that have nothing to do with their degrees.
Speaking recently in an exclusive interview with The Catholic Herald Weekly newspaper as The Herald Guest of the Month, the academic decried the popular view that university education is the only way to quality education. Prof. Enase said, “I think we have to accept the reality that not everybody will go to university. “But of course, the environment that we are in today puts a lot of pressure on people, sometimes, people are even deemed less educated or qualified if they didn’t go to university. And education can take different forms, there are polytechnics, there are technical and vocational training institutes. “
So, maybe we should de-emphasise university. When I used to speak about that, people will say, ‘It is easy for you.’ No, I really mean it. I have close friends who despite having university degrees, one runs a hairdressing salon and has made a living from that for so many years. My other close friend is a dressmaker. Nothing that they studied in school is related to that. Why waste four years and come out and do dressmaking, instead, why don’t you just learn the dressmaking from year one and then enter into that.
“Let’s stop thinking that university is the way. Of course, as Vice Chancellor, it’s in my interest if people come to university. People just are cut out for different things. Fielding a question on addressing the issues that has to do with our crumbling economy, unemployment and rising insecurity, Prof. Okonedo advised government to put in place necessary policies, rules and regulations for businesses to thrive. She maintained that the focus should be how to make the country a place that is fit for living and for businesses to thrive. Prof. Okonedo speaking further, added, “Making the country a place that is fit for living and for businesses to thrive, of course is a sweeping statement, but it cuts across several other things. When we talk about unemployment, it is really a lack of jobs.
How do we create more jobs? What are the things that can be done to stimulate the economy so that jobs can be created? Unfortunately, with the situation that we face right now, a lot of small businesses are really feeling the pinch. Remember in Africa, especially Nigeria, the informal economy is by far larger than the formal economy. “About 90 percent of businesses in this economy are small and medium businesses. These are the ones that can stimulate growth not formal one that is less than 10 percent. But for these people to stimulate growth, they need to be able to survive.
And to be able to survive, we need to look at the environment. Is there power that is affordable? Most times, people have to generate their own power. With the cost of fuel right now, small businesses are crippling. “There is the issue of multiple taxation that small businesses faces which is crippling. There is the issue of access to finance. Of course, micro-finance banks have come up now, but even then, they shot out of traditional finances business. Until all these are looked at and addressed, small businesses cannot thrive. And if small businesses cannot thrive and create jobs, then the vast majority of our people remain unemployed. “So, at the macro level, the government has to ensure that the policies in place are those that can contribute to the survival of businesses, and a number of things can fall into place.”