Prof. Sola Fajana is the former vice chancellor, Joseph Ayo Babalola University (JABU), Osun State. In this interview with UJUNWA ATUEYI, Fajana, a professor of labour economics and human resource management decried the age-long neglect of the sector by successive governments, and how the deficits arising from the pandemic have bared the necessity of relevant research among other issues.
How would you assess the effort of universities so far in the fight against coronavirus pandemic?
Universities are universal institutions established by society to provide meaningful solutions to problems that beset societies and humanity in general. They enjoy autonomy, which is regarded as the veritable ingredient to enable them function optimally. The roles are basically tripartite: research, teaching and community service.
Teaching is the simplest aspect of this role set and it is the aspect that uninitiated members of the society erroneously take as the main work of university people. This perception of universities in some climes lead to their relegation, poor assessment of their potentials and their poor funding by some ill-informed political elites. In a recorded history of Nigeria, military rulers declared suggestions from academia as too technical and un-implementable!
The incidence of the ravaging novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has now fully exposed the misconception of the role of universities. The main mandates of these institutions are in the real research and community service. In Nigeria, the COVID-19 task force had employed their utmost to get us out of the woods. The response of society however simply reveals that there can never be a perfect system.
Consequently, the deficits thrown up by this ongoing event are obviously illustrating the necessity and importance of relevant research. The approach I would want to propose is not blame placing, but strategic problem solving and strengthening of the capacity of our systems to withstand strains and stresses in the future. It is perfectly within the capability and mandate of universities to render this function creditably. Nigerian universities have ample ability but lack enabling capacity.