?No varsity strike in Jamaica for 20 years?
Can you explain how the Jamaican government funds university education?
The funding is through grants and annual budget the government provides. There is tuition which is about 20 per cent of what it takes to run the institution. The truth, however, is that there is accountability. You cannot have a situation where you have a budget and somebody just captures it. One, salaries are paid regularly. The buildings are properly maintained. When there is the need to paint, the buildings are re-painted. If it is not done, you know that somebody must be responsible, and that person will be questioned for negligence of duty.
Aside, there are contributions and donations that past students give their alma mater, which create a critical mass of resources which are used to endow chairs for research and projects. There is another component of it which we may be overlooking-and that is the tax break. Here (Nigeria) most people don?t pay tax or rather the rate of compliance is low. In the US for example, when you donate $5000 to your alma mater or engage in any philanthropic work, you get a tax freedom on that. Tax freedom means that you are not paying tax twice. We need to get to that level here. Instead of using money on owambe (frivolities), if we donate it to the university, it will be dedicated to research works on cancer, diabetics and all that.
Strikes either by workers or students are a major factor in Nigerian education. Is it the same thing in Jamaica?
We don?t have strikes. I?ve been in Jamaica for more than 20 years and I?ve never witnessed a single day that there are no classes or the universities locked down. If there is any break, it?s because of the act of nature like hurricane, earthquake, or the school may be out for a day or two and later pick up. Teachers don?t go on strike even though they have collective bargaining and all that. It is done in a structured manner because everybody recognises that each function of the system appreciates the fact that there is need for continuity. You don?t have a situation where students pour to the street demonstrating. If they have their grouses there are channels for ventilating them, ditto for the lecturers.
What of cultism?
We don?t know what that means because everything is transparent. As a student in Jamaica, you can question your lecturers if you feel the degree that you got is not worth it. You have every right to see your exam papers, to have it checked and have a second marker. In my department, we have a system where we double mark. When the first examiner has graded the script both essays and exams, another member of staff will again read and grade it to see if there is agreement. If the student in question is still dissatisfied with those processes, he or she can then proceed to the faculty or the university management and demand that his papers be remarked. When that is done, we then have a situation where the person properly fails or passed. There is no room for victimisation.
As regards funding in Nigeria it appears there is a missing link somewhere?
(In Nigeria), we have this belief that it is only the government that should invest in education; and that is because we believe the government has so much resources. And if those resources are put into research, there will be no problem. But what we have found out is that for so many years the government has failed. Go to many primary schools, the structures are so dilapidated and you?ll be very shocked to know that human beings actually school in this kind of environment. But the public needs to realise that education is the business of everyone, and the only way we can do that is moving away from that mentality of flamboyance.