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Exclusive Interview: We Have Built A World Class University In Four Years –Professor Egwunyenga

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Three Years Of Professor Egwunyenga @ DELSU

…Says His Administration Grew DELSU From 19000 To 34000 Students

Oasis Magazine recently had an exclusive interview with the Vice Chancellor, Delta State University, DELSU, Abraka, Professor Andy Egwunyenga.

He spoke on his achievements during four years as VC with less than a year to go before the end of his tenure.

According to him, he has fulfilled his vision for deciding to become to VC, saying within the time left, all he needs to do is perfect all he has done.

Read on!

Four years have passed, less than a year to go as VC; what comes to your mind Sir?

What comes to mind is to complete what we have started and fulfill the mission that was articulated. I have virtually finished. All I need to do now is dot the i’s and cross the t’s. Infrastructure has been delivered. We also have been able to expand and modernise the University in terms of infrastructure and programmes that we promised. A University of 19,000 (nineteen thousand students) is now about 34,000 (thirty-four thousand) within four years and I think we should get to 35,000 (thirty-five thousand). DELSU is now bigger and a more modern and competitive University. It’s one of the best in the country, no doubt …and amongst the very best of the state universities. It is a very peaceful and free university where students and staff members pursue their lives independently. It is one where all the courses are accredited. We have produced over 150 (one hundred and fifty) more professors. So, in the next 11 (eleven) months it’s just putting everything in perspective, doing our proper documentation and ensuring that we are able to peacefully get someone who will succeed and continue to move the university in that same trajectory of progress. I am just rounding and cleaning up. I am virtually dusting my table as we speak.

What has been the most exciting experience for you since you assumed office?

The most exciting experience for me as the Vice-Chancellor, is watching the things that I put on paper many years ago coming to reality. It is transmitting proposals and ideas into practical reality. Seeing day by day how the university landscape has changed completely and also seeing that despite how busy I am as Vice-Chancellor, that didn’t change my relationship with my colleagues. I still feel free to go to the staff club when I can and we talk freely like we did in the past. I didn’t feel so detached from colleagues even as Vice-Chancellor. I am very proud of the fact that I remained true to myself and we are just like we were many years ago. Nothing changed other than the fact that I am now at the driving seat and able to translate my ideas that I created as a critic, an activist and a younger person into reality.

Would you like to speak about challenges?

There are challenges of course. The biggest challenge is funding but we were able to transform that challenge into opportunities because we were able to convince not just the university community but to some extent, the general public that we have to pay more to get the required standard and infrastructure to meet the challenges of 21st century universities. Then, the challenge was having to increase the school fees and trying to make people see reasons that it’s not to punish or to make education expensive but to make education quite competitive and we have been to do that. Even when everybody talks about increase in school fees in my era, not many people will say that they didn’t see what the school fees was used for because more than 80% (eighty percent) of what you find on ground were done from internally generated funds. It is possible for you to collect school fees and use it for the purpose. Look at what is almost the biggest building in the university, Faculty of Management Sciences, was built within 11 (eleven) months and it was generated from school fees. We didn’t take funds from government. Look at the road we constructed. Instead of entering a whole university through one route leading to the roundabout, you can now branch off just by the gate to access other faculties. The road is almost 4km (four kilometers) and virtually the longest road we have in Site III in the university. These and many other buildings were built by internally generated funds. So, the major issue has been funding. But, when we got the money, we used it to do what it was meant for.

ALSO READ: Cotonou Degrees And Our Wimpy Education Policy, By Hassan Gimba

To some persons that think your administration kind of pushed away potential students from the university system due to the increase in fees, do you have any words for such?

I don’t think so. But let me say I have been in the university system for over 30 (thirty) years and there are always drop outs. There are many reasons for dropping out. Some could be due to poor academic performance, ill health, inability to pay school fees or not able to cope with the demands of higher education. We have seen that the percentage of those with inability to pay school fees has not become higher. Let me tell you, even when people are not able to cope in the university financially, sometimes it’s not the school fees per say. It is sometimes that even after paying the school fees, they are not able to maintain themselves, buy the things that they need and take care of their accommodation and all that and that is what actually causes them to drop out. So when they drop out due to financial reasons, they had already paid their fees. So, the fee is not just the problem at all and in any case, when we introduced this policy, we were very conscious of how we can reduce the burden on students. We introduced the student work study programme which allows students to still earn some money while studying. Also, we introduced instalmental school fees payment so that people can pay by installment… pay 70% (seventy percent) and later you pay the remaining 30% (thirty percent).  In addition to that, we now have a Delta State University Scholarship Scheme where 200 (two hundred) students who are fully indigenes, have their school fees paid by the university and we also have other bodies volunteering to establish scholarships programmes.  So, it’s not like the school fees is so high because at the end of the day, if we do analysis of it, we will find that for a whole year, someone has to pay #150,000 (one hundred and fifty thousand naira). If divided monthly, even when the person chooses not to come to school, what is used to maintain the person for a whole year is it less than that? So, if you think that education is expensive, then what is the alternative? We have to be able to take care of basic needs and it is about making our people to be able to prioritize correctly and to know that with students, the most important thing is how you sort the school fees. Even in those days, there were tuition fees but now there are no tuition fees; just take care of other things that they require but people paid. Communities, families, individuals even went to borrow money from community funds just to send their children to schools because they knew that it was a good investment. So, people should realise that education is a priority and instead of people going to (respectfully I must say) spend money on shopping for Christmas, meetings, etc they should invest it in their children. It’s something that they should put into consideration. But, in any case, we are conscious of that and we have tried very much to reduce the problem.

Finally sir, what is your New Year message to DELSU community?

My New Year message to DELSU is that we should continue and infact strengthen our beliefs and principles and be true to our mantra of excellence, knowledge, character and service. We are in the forefront of believing that we have built a world class university in the last 4 (four) years. Few things can attest to that. People will not forget that some of the most top African speakers in the world have come to DELSU. You are aware that Professor Patrick Lumumba was in Delta State University. You are aware that the Chief of Staff to the former president, Professor Ibrahim Gambari landed in a helicopter to give a lecture in Delta State University and we have brought the university to a level where it has earned respect. So my message to my colleagues is let us maintain this respect and make it irreversible and we hope that this year, we will be able to do many new things that we have not done before. When we meet by the last Wednesday of this month, everything will be put into perspective.

Thank you.

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