An international online Universities and Colleges ranking directory (www.4icu.org) in September 2011 published the list of top 100 Universities and Colleges in Africa, for the year under review.
The top 10 universities on the list were universities in South Africa and Egypt while other universities from low income states like Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Ghana, Morocco and even Sudan lead favourably against the over 120 universities in Nigerian except for some six Universities that appeared on the directory’s ranking.
The six Nigerian Universities that appeared in the top 100 were the University of Ibadan at 32nd position, University of Ilorin, 34th, University of Benin 40th, Obafemi Awolowo University Ife 44th, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria 62nd and University of Jos 70th position.
No Nigerian private university or college made the list, just as the University of Jos is the only university from the Middle-Belt that managed to be among the six Nigerian universities that made the list.
Similarly, the list of top Colleges and Universities in Nigeria for the year 2013 was recently published by the National Universities Commission with only four universities from the Middle-Belt making the top 20. They included; University of Ilorin, 6th, University of Jos, 7th position, Federal University of Technology, Minna 14th and African University of Science and Technology Abuja on number 20.
University of Agriculture Makurdi was on number 72, Plateau State University Bokkos, 65, Bingham University Auta Balifi, 64, University of Abuja, 61, Kaduna State University, 52 and Nasarawa Nasarawa State University 43.
From the foregoing, the need to examine the state of education in the Middle-Belt, Nigeria’s agricultural haven is very apt.
The Middle-Belt apart from the rampant security challenges that have bedeviled its existence for over a decade now has continued to face serious threats ranging from general economic backwardness to educational degradation among others owing to a number of factors.
It is however pertinent to note that the region during the early life of Nigeria played a very key role in the social, economic and political advancement of Nigeria. The headquarters of every developmental project was in the Middle-Belt as the Tin and Columbite of the Jos Plateau and the gold mines of Minner, Niger state sustained the nation’s growth and development until the discovery of oil.
The downfall of the educational base of the Middle-Belt can be traced to as far back as the second republic when the democratic government of that time began paying lip service to the issues of education in the region. While the core North progressed steadily in politics with the West growing in education and at the same time the East growing economically, the Middle-Belt has continued record set-backs in different spheres with education being on the front-burner. Indeed, no nation can progress without a stable educational foundation.
Strike actions and many other factors are some of the few problems militating against the development of the educational sector in the Middle-Belt, starting from the primary to the secondary then the tertiary level.
It is undisputable that a child who comes from a faulty educational background at the secondary school level may never make anything meaningful when he gets to the university or college. While governments have continued to pay carefree attention to the primary and secondary school sector, the stakeholders in the tertiary education sector have barely done enough to better the upper arm of the sector.
It is on record that tertiary institutions in Plateau state are about three sessions behind the academic calendar as a result of recurring strikes that have emerged with long lasting effects on the students. Kwara State recently had a similar case where students had to stay at home for about four months. Kaduna and Nasarawa states have had their own share of the cake while federal polytechnics nationwide commenced an indefinite strike action recently.
This development is not healthy for the nation especially as the FG envisages the year 2020 to place Nigeria among the top 20 economies of the world.
It is therefore important that the right steps are set in motion to salvage the situation and give the region its rightful place as far as education is concerned. We cannot afford to have half-baked leaders while hoping to be among the comity of developed nations.
Suffice it to say that the fall of one region in Nigeria could eventually lead to the downfall of the entire nation as all the six geo-political zones of the country have at least one thing that they benefit from one another.
Nigeria is ours to build and unless the right steps are taken at the right time, the situation will only continue to deteriorate and our future and generations unborn will live to suffer it.