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Polytechnics Remain Shut as FG, ASUP’s Hits Wall

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ASUP had declared an indefinite strike last Tuesday over alleged poor funding and neglect of the institutions.

However, the union has kicked against the appointment of principal officers for the six new federal polytechnics.

When THISDAY sought for an update on the ongoing strike, the President of ASUP, Mr. Anderson Ezeibe, said the union had not been invited for negotiations by the federal government.

He said since the last meeting they held on Tuesday with the Federal Ministry of Education, which yielded no positive outcome, the union had not been invited for talks again.

“You know we held a meeting with the Federal Ministry of Education last Tuesday but since that time, all we have been hearing was that there will be meeting but we are yet to get an invitation,” he added.

Also, it was gathered from a source at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment that the ministry can only wade into the matter if the Ministry of Education refers the issue to it for conciliation.

However, the dispute has deepened as ASUP has kicked against the appointments of rectors and other principal officers for the six new federal polytechnics, saying it did not meet the required standards.

In a statement by Ezeibe, the union said: “Our union’s attention has been drawn to a recent press statement from the Federal Ministry of Education announcing the appointment of rectors and other principal officers for the six new federal polytechnics situated in Enugu, Oyo, Cross River, Plateau, Borno and Benue states.”

The union stated that the appointments violated provisions of the Federal Polytechnics (Amendment) Act, 2019, adding that five out of the six new rectors were not qualified for the position having fallen short of the requirements captured in Section 8, 2 (a) (i )of the Act.

Ezeibe said the profiles of the appointees showed that five out of the six persons did not fit into the requirements of the law for the appointment of rectors in federal polytechnics.

According to him, these beneficiaries include the appointees for federal polytechnics Ohodo (Enugu), Ugep (Cross River), Shendam (Plateau), Monguno (Borno), and Wannune (Benue) .

“It is regrettable that the government, through officials of the Federal Ministry of Education has become principal violators of the laws governing the operations of Nigerian polytechnics.

“This latest assault is despite the contents of a recent ruling of the National Industrial Court in Abuja where the provisions of the Federal Polytechnics (Amendment) Act, 2019 was affirmed by the court and the Federal Ministry of Education and her officials undertaking to observe the provisions in totality.

“Despite the contents of the judgment of the court in NICN/ABJ/12/2020 involving our union and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Minister for Education and five others in a similar issue, our union had drawn the attention of the Federal Ministry of Education on the need to adhere to the provisions of the law in this appointment process more than a month before this recent naked display of impunity,” he added.

Ezeibe said part of the union’s current engagement with the government was to reverse the trend of administering polytechnics outside extant laws and regulations.

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UNICAF Sets Out Plan to Expand to 17 African Countries Following UN Call for Investment In Digital Education

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University - Investors King

The COVID-19 pandemic unearthed the fault lines for what could be a generational catastrophe in education.

Even before the pandemic resulted in school closures affecting over 1.6 billion students in at least 161 countries, more than 250 million school-age children were out of school globally.

In much of the developing world, the gap between the levels of learning that education systems provide, and the needs of students, communities and countries, has been steadily growing over the years.

Barriers to education in developing countries include political and security instability, costs, health and nutrition, distance to school, insufficient budgetary allocations to education, and poor-quality environments, content and processes. And now, even more school-age individuals are at risk of falling behind or dropping out of school permanently as the pandemic persists. This would widen inequality across an already unequal region with stark wealth, gender and social disparities, as well as stymie opportunity, innovation, and economic growth prospects—education is the cornerstone of building human capital.

In a recent interview with AfricaLive.net Dr Nicos Nicolaou, the founder and CEO of Unicaf, a leading higher education online platform with students in 158 countries, set out his vision for a more robust education sector supported by digital infrastructure.

“In August last year, the UN Secretary-General stated that the education sector must invest in digital literacy and infrastructure and look to evolve towards learning how to learn, rejuvenate lifelong learning, and strengthen links between formal and non-formal education,” said Dr Nicolaou.

“He suggested the need to draw on flexible delivery methods, digital technologies and modernised curricula while ensuring sustained support for teachers and communities.”

Optimising Higher Education

A sustained increase in demand for access to education across Africa is unavoidable as populations grow, and given the role of education in modernisation and development, it is critical that governments increase higher education opportunities.

“Central to the discussion on sustainable development is the imperative of equality in higher education opportunities. Universities should offer holistic and transformational education with high-level quality content. Learning should be stimulating, engaging and learner-centric, leading to successful outcomes for the learners. Universities should inspire learners to be global citizens, assume active roles in the society they live in, and contribute to a more peaceful and sustainable world,” says Dr Nicolaou.

“Taking into consideration that tens of millions of additional students will become of university age in the next decade and the fact that there are no plans to build hundreds of new universities in the continent, the only solution is online learning,” he adds.

“The skilful use of modern technologies can enhance teaching and learning effectiveness and, thus, may substantially contribute towards the goals and objectives associated with sustainable, inclusive growth and development.”

“Distance education can eliminate current barriers to higher education in Africa, imposed by space and time, and can dramatically expand access to lifelong learning. Using flexible delivery models, students will no longer have to visit a physical location at specific times and days. A modern higher education institution, such as Unicaf University, no longer has to be at any specific physical location but, through the use of technology, can exist anywhere, anytime for students who wish to access study materials and complete a particular academic programme fully online.”

COVID-19 Has Changed Education Forever

There has been a high growth and adoption in education technology around the world in recent years, with edtech investments of up to USD 18.66 billion in 2019, and projections for the online education market expected to reach USD 350 billion by 2025. COVID-19 has accelerated the transition to the wider use of technology in delivering education.

“Because of COVID-19 online learning expanded dramatically. Almost all universities had to shift to remote learning to serve their students. In a very short time, everyone had to shift from face-to-face teaching to online, using a variety of technologies. The pandemic provided the catalyst needed for universities to move online and to use digital platforms for teaching and learning,” says Dr Nicolaou.

“What was considered to be the future has been accelerated to become the present; and my expectation is that this shift is here to stay, in one form or another. Various technologies, which are employed for online teaching, will reshape learning, both inside the classroom and beyond, well after the present pandemic subsides. In the same token, regulators have realised how crucial online education is and started encouraging universities to offer online programmes,” he adds.

The Future of Online Education in Africa

Africa accounts for about 20 per cent of the world’s youth population (aged 15-24), which is also the fastest growing in the world; however, there is a dearth of quality and affordable higher education. School enrolment rates at the tertiary level stand at 8 per cent, according to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (https://bit.ly/3eGhkYq), significantly below the global average of 32 per cent. Online education has the potential to increase access to higher education, making it cheaper, more flexible and more accessible to a wider range of students, and that is what Unicaf does.

“Founded in 2012 and with headquarters in Europe, Unicaf is a leading higher education online platform with students in 158 countries, and also a scholarship programme, facilitating higher education studies at affordable cost. The state-of-the-art Unicaf digital platform provides access to quality university degree programmes and professional courses from reputable partner institutions in the UK, the USA and Africa, and is addressing an underserved part of the higher education market through an affordable and flexible online learning model,” says Dr Nicolaou.

The platform’s current partners (https://bit.ly/3eH3Snk) include Liverpool John Moores University (UK), the University of East London (UK), the University of Suffolk (UK), the University of California, Riverside Extension (USA), and a multi-campus Unicaf University in Africa—offering high-quality Bachelor, Master’s and Doctoral degrees at a fraction of the cost.

“During the pandemic, Unicaf has been able to demonstrate its capabilities and increase its reach. Unicaf’s state-of-the-art digital platform has helped thousands of students to study online towards an internationally recognised degree without being affected by lockdowns and other restrictive measures. Within the last 12 months, we have received thousands of applications from students interested to study through online programmes. This is additional proof of Unicaf’s dominance in Africa’s online education market and the strengthening of its brand and reach,” says Dr Nicolaou.

Spotlight on Africa’s Largest Online University

Developments in technology and changes to the global approach to teaching—including collaborative and project-based learning, mobile-friendly learning platforms, and adaptive personal learning—are not yet used at scale in Africa. Unicaf is expanding across the continent through a growing network of university campuses and learning centres offering blended and open learning options. Unicaf currently has a physical presence in 12 African countries and has plans to expand to five additional countries within the next two years.

“Unicaf and Unicaf University’s (www.UnicafUniversity.com) strategy is to continue expanding throughout Africa by obtaining additional university licences in new countries and enriching the portfolio of programmes they are offering. Along with its partner universities, Unicaf has already served more than 40,000 students, by awarding them over USD 100 million worth of scholarships to study for internationally recognised degrees at a fraction of the cost, and to positively transform their lives,” says Dr Nicolaou.

“Our software development team will continue developing new state-of-the-art technologies, aiming towards enhancing the existing technologies we use in our digital platform. Such technologies help all our operations become more efficient and more scalable,” he adds.

Unicaf’s platform provides students with several key benefits, including:

  • Flexible delivery allows students to accommodate work and family responsibilities. Everything students need to complete their studies is embedded into the platform, including a digital library, e-books and other learning resources.
  • Qualifications: Students can earn internationally recognised degrees from Unicaf University, or its British partner universities, at a fraction of the cost. It is accredited by the British Accreditation Council for Independent Further and Higher Education in the UK as an Independent Higher Education Provider. Students are therefore given the opportunity to earn degrees with international recognition and obtain valuable skills and credentials to enrich their professional qualities and help them advance in their careers.
  • Scholarships considerably reduce the cost of fees, and any remaining balance can be paid in easy monthly instalments.
  • Employment: Most students declare that they were able to find a better job, get a promotion in their current job and/or earn more money as a result of their studies with Unicaf. Unicaf University programmes are developed in collaboration with employers to meet their specific needs.

Accelerating Online Teaching Through Partnerships Between Universities and EdTech Companies

Unicaf has been a pioneer in international partnerships to provide opportunities for students in Africa to earn internationally recognised degrees for almost a decade. Dr Nicolaou believes that the success of such partnerships depends on “a shared understanding of the market, goodwill, close collaboration and shared interests and goals.”

The launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) this year will facilitate pan-African collaboration in higher education.

“With a population of 1.2 billion projected to reach 1.4 billion by 2040, Africa will become one of the biggest free trade areas with a very high commercial significance. This is good news for higher education too, and will heighten collaboration opportunities among universities in Africa in the areas of teaching, learning and research,” says Dr Nicolaou.

“For the African leaders of the future, Agenda 2063 sets out the need to refocus and reprioritise Africa’s agenda. Educating Africa’s future leaders is very important, as they are the ones who will strive to reposition Africa as a dominant global player. To support this goal, Unicaf continues to develop a suite of modern and affordable programmes, which offer specialist knowledge, underpinned by values-based ethical principles and practices.”

“Employability is vital for university students in Africa and is central to the mission and operation of Unicaf University.”

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Coventry University Group to Open Africa Hub in Rwanda

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Coventry University Group is to open a new overseas hub in Rwanda to support its links in Sub-Saharan Africa and help extend its corporate functions across the world.

The hub will open in Kigali to coincide with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in the capital in June. It is part of the university’s plan to develop a sustainable network of multi-faceted overseas offices. The ambition is to have a presence near to its stakeholders in key regions and follows the success of the Singapore and Dubai hubs.

The aim is to provide organisations and individuals throughout the world with regional access to the growing academic, research and commercial expertise that exists within all areas of the Coventry University Group.

The Africa Hub will serve as a base for Coventry University Group in the region with the aim of enabling new relationships as well as strengthening established ones.

The Africa Hub will promote the university group’s research, globalisation, enterprise and innovation work throughout the region through the development of closer relationships with embassies, government bodies, research institutes, universities and private sector entities.

The hub will be located in Kigali Heights, a mixed use development situated adjacent to the Kigali Convention Centre.

Professor John Latham CBE, Vice-Chancellor, Coventry University Group, said: “I am delighted by the progress we have made in establishing a representation office to support our work in Sub-Saharan Africa. The hub aligns with the UK International Education Strategy and will respond to the growth opportunity we have identified on the continent. Africa has a growing population largely composed of young people and economies that are among the fastest growing in the world. The Africa Hub will join our successful hubs in Singapore and Dubai to fulfil our strategic objective to be a global university delivering at a global scale.”

John Uwayezu, Country Director and Market Access Officer for UK Department for International Trade (DIT), British High Commission, Kigali, said: “I am thrilled about this regional hub; this is in line with DIT’s targeted plan of action to increase trade and investment flows between the UK and Rwanda. The hub will accelerate progress in human capital development. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest when it comes to economic growth and productivity; I congratulate the Government of Rwanda’s strong commitment to investing in people.”

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Kaduna State University Increases Fees For Non-Indigenes From N26,000 to N500,000

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The Kaduna State University has reviewed its tuition fees from N24,000 and N26,000 to N150,000 and N500,000, for indigenes and non-indigenes respectively.

The steep increment has been widely condemned by students; and across all social media platforms, with the Nigerian economy and most households still reeling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The management of KASU has confirmed the upward review of its tuition fees, adding that consultations are ongoing with stakeholders. The confirmation in a statement was made available to journalists by the university’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), Adamu Bargo.

Bargo explained that the upward review is due to the current realities and efforts to improve the standard of learning and research on campus. He added that the decision will also enhance the development of the university.

The spokesperson said that available records show that N400 million was being spent monthly and N4.8 billion annually by the Kaduna State government on payment of the university’s staff salaries.

He said that N25 million was also being spent as overhead monthly, while the university generates only N765.9 million annually.

“In the year 2020, there was the allocation of N10billion to the university meant for the execution of capital projects, but N5billion was spent on overhead and personnel cost.

“The upward review of the tuition fees is a difficult decision based on the reality of the present time.

“However, the university hopes to improve the quality of teaching and research activities as well as create a more conducive atmosphere of learning for staff and students,” Bargo said.

Students of Kaduna State University (KASU) rejected the enormous increase in tuition fees during a meeting with the students’ representatives, organised by the Dean of Student Affairs, Dr. Terhimba Wuam.

Abdulrazak Shuaibu, a medical student who spoke on behalf of the students, said that the tuition fees were increased from N26,000 to N150,000 for students in the Faculty of Arts, Management and Social Sciences.

Shuaibu, who is also a former President of Kaduna State Students Union, added that students in the Faculty of Medicine from the state will now pay N300,000 as against N24,000 while non-indigenes will pay N500,000.

He described the increase as “outrageous” considering the current economic hardship being faced by parents and the negative impact of COVID-19. He said that the students have rejected the increase and called on the state government to revert to the former fees.

“Currently, most students find it difficult to pay the N26,000 fees with a few dropping out of school eventually while some female students had to resort to prostitution to be able to pay.

“This is because the majority of us came from poor homes with our parents struggling to feed us and pay our school fees.

“Moreso, we are yet to recover from COVID-19 and the state government is increasing school fees. This is unfair and unreasonable,” he said.

He noted that although some of the students were enjoying the state government scholarship, the beneficiaries were less than 5,000.

“This also means that the government is giving us scholarships and collecting even more from us as tuition fees. We, therefore, reject the scholarship,” he added.

Also speaking, Mr. Adonalo Stephen, the Secretary-General, National Association of Kaduna State Students, pointed out that most of their parents were being sacked from the civil service, a development that has already thrown many families into economic crises.

Stephen, therefore, appealed to the state government to reconsider its stand and revert the tuition fee to the old rate so as not to deny many youths in the state university education.

Responding, the Vice-Chancellor Academy, Prof. Abdullahi Ashafa, acknowledged the tuition fee increase by the State Executive Council.

Ashafa explained that the university requires huge funding to efficiently provide the needed quality education and skills that would benefit the students and the society at large. He said that perhaps the tuition fee was increased to enable the school to generate the needed funds it requires to deliver its mandate.

He appealed to the students to be law-abiding and not to take the law into their hands in their quest to seek reversal of the fee increase.

Ashafa commended the students for the display of maturity and the choice of dialogue in presenting their concerns.

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