Many lecturers in the nation’s universities have expressed worry over the shortage of manpower in universities across the country, saying that the situation has posed a serious challenge to education system.
A survey by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in the South East Zone revealed that many lecturers were overworked as they now handled more courses because of short supply of academic staff.
Prof Ikechukwu Onyishi, Dean Faculty of Pharmaceutical Science, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), says short supply of academic staff, has resulted in lecturers handling more courses in order to close the vacuum.
Onyishi told NAN in Nsukka that the short fall was as a result of lecturers who have retired, some who died on active duty while some others traveled abroad in search of greener pastures without being replaced.
According to him, this has put pressure of work on few remaining academic staff as they now handle more courses.
The don explained that the problem was not peculiar to UNN but public universities across the country.
He alleged that the introduction of Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System (IPPIS) by the Federal Government had made it difficult for Vice-Chancellors to recruit new academic staff to fill the vacuum.
“Many lecturers have retired when they reached retirement age or years of service, some died on active duty while some others resigned, went abroad in search of greener pastures because of poor salary and benefits of lecturers in public universities.
“To address this short supply, government should allow VCs free hand to recruit and fill existing vacancies created by retirement, death and going abroad in search of greener pastures.
“Government should also restructure IPPIS in such a way to enable VCs to upload names of new staff recruited in their universities into IPPIS,” the dean said.
Also speaking, Prof Christian Opata, Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in UNN, said that until government showed seriousness on issues concerning education by implementing good policies, more academic staff would continue to rush abroad for greener pastures.
Opata, who is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of History and International Studies, disclosed that not only that lecturers were resigning and going abroad for greener pastures but many on government scholarships abroad to do their Masters or PhDs have refused to come back to Nigeria.
“This is because the condition of service and welfare abroad are far better than what we have here in Nigerian universities.
“I know many lecturers in my department on scholarship to do their Masters or Phds abroad who had finished but refused to come back.
“Yes, the number of retired academic staff and those who died have contributed to the short supply but the number of those who resigned, go abroad in search of greener pastures and those on government scholarship who after doing their Masters or PhDs but refused to come back are higher in number.
The ASUU boss said the shortage had been a big burden to lecturers in public universities as they now handled more courses as government had used IPPIS to make it difficult for Vice-Chancellors to recruit more academic staff.
“Education policy in the country says that one lecturer should handle 30 students (the ratio of, one lecturer, 30 students).
“But now, because of this short supply, some lecturers handle between 1,200 students and 1,500 students and above in the departments.
“As a result of this high number of students, lecturers are requesting for Computer based Tests (CBT) (that is questions and answers examination) in order to reduce the burden of marking thousands of exam scripts of students,” he said.
According to Opata, this short supply of lecturers in Nigerian universities had affected teaching and learning as well as quality of graduates from various institutions.
In Abia, Prof. Maduike Ezeibe of the College of Veterinary Medicine, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, said that the establishment of new universities in the country by both the government and private individuals was taking a huge toll on the number of qualified lecturers.
Ezeibe, a Professor of Clinical Virology and former Dean of the College, said that many lecturers, especially those in professional courses, had all abandoned teaching and gone out in search of greener pastures outside the Ivory Tower.
He said that the basic qualification for a lecturer is Doctoral Degree (Ph.D), adding that “it is difficult today to get enough Ph.D holders to go round the number of universities in the country”.
Ezeibe also decried the poor condition of service in the university system generally, describing it as a major challenge to teaching in the university.
According to him, a good number of qualified persons run out of the country and they do not bother to come back because they feel the condition of service is better abroad.
“There is need to improve the condition of service for lecturers in the university system. This is paramount.
“Government needs to encourage more people to pick up lecturing as a profession.
“Government should also award scholarships to interested persons to go for higher studies within or outside the country,” he said.
Also in Imo, a lecturer in the Department of Petroleum Engineering at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Mr Nnanna Okoli, said the shortage of lecturers in the country’s universities had led to increased workload for those still in service.
Okoli told NAN that the development had also led to the loss of the “zeal and passion” for the teaching profession as lecturers.
“All these factors have resulted in inefficient education system in the country.
According to him, the government should, as a matter of urgency, tackle the challenges of inadequate staff welfare and poor wages, if it hoped to arrest the continued exodus of lecturers out of the system.
“We still have to deliver on our job, despite the increased workload.
“We may have lost our zeal and passion for the job, but we owe it to our students to do our duty.
“We, however, wish that the government would do more to improve our welfare by paying us sustainable living wage,” Okoli said.
A member of the university’s management staff, who identified himself simply as Kingsley, told NAN that the university had initiated measures to deal with the problem.
He said that since the Vice Chancellors lacked the mandate to employ enough lecturers to bridge the gap, the remaining ones were being discouraged from leaving.
He said that because most lecturers leave the system after their study leave, the university authorities resolved to place a ban on study leave.
“While we understand that the situation on ground leaves a lot to be desired, we cannot afford to keep losing our professionals.
“We are currently understaffed. Our professors are retiring and we can’t replace them as soon as they retire.
“The only option we have is to encourage our younger ones to stay and grow on the job.
“We also hope that we receive approval from the Federal Ministry of Education to employ more lecturers,” he said.
However, the former Public Relations Officer of FUTO, Dr Chike Ezenwa, said the university had not been affected as much.
Ezenwa, who is now a lecturer in the Directorate of General Studies, said that those migrating are the younger lecturers, who had yet to make their mark in the academic world.
He said that while this may not be a cause for concern now, the exit of lecturers for greater fortunes should be checked “because it does not make for the country’s academic growth and development.
“The issue of how we have been affected by the shortage of lecturers is relative.
“There is no denying the fact that the problem exists. However, some institutions are more affected than the others.
“We still have our seasoned academics who do not have many years before they retire and leave the system.
“The ones who are migrating are the younger ones who have yet to make their mark in the system and this is a bad omen which should be discouraged.
“We had hoped that the ones who are leaving would take over from us when we retire but with the way they are leaving, we may not have enough hands to take over from the retiring generation of lecturers,” he said.
In Anambra, Prof Okey Aniebo of the Faculty of Agriculture, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University said the working condition of lecturers in the country was no longer motivational enough to get the best out of them.
Aniebo said that most lecturers in Nigeria could no longer sustain jobs and families because of the poor and irregular salary.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) official said the exodus of lecturers to foreign countries had led to reduced manpower and quality of research.
According to him, the university system is haemorrhaging, lecturers are leaving the country in droves and it has so many negative implications on work load quality of output.
“We cannot fuel our cars, we beg for rides to go to work because our salaries cannot carry our expenses, motivation is poor and the little we get is lost to inflation.
“So, those around are still here because they are still raising money to go or considering their families, you now see 10 persons doing the volume of work 20 people used to do,” he said.
Aniebo called on the government to implement the agreement with ASUU as well as review and pay earned academic allowance as a way of checking the ugly trend.
Also speaking, Dr Peter Okoye, immediate past Secretary of ASUU, described the problem of intellectual manpower loss in the universities as real.
Okoye said the eight months strike and the attendant nonpayment of salaries for the period triggered a wave of massive emigration among lecturers that left the university depleted.
“It is not in doubt that we are losing some of our best brains to foreign countries, it is a serious challenge.
This is the seventh day of the month, there is no salary but people are offered better and timely remuneration,” he said.
A senior lecturer at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), Dr. Chibuike Iyi, said that academic activities in the University had become more intensive and brain draining due to more workload resulting from understaffing.
Iyi explained that university programmes and lecturers became window dressed especially for accreditation due to lack of adequate funding.
Consequently, he said the challenges resulted in individuals’ changes in adaptation.
He said that poor salary renumeration was the sole reason lecturers migrate to foreign countries.
“A professor in Nigeria is earning less than N350,000 a month compared to his counterparts outside the country.
“Secondly, the retired and dead ones are not replaced with the few ones still in the country with the requisite qualifications.
“Political class have politicised the system with fragrant negligence to due diligence thereby encouraging mediocrity,” Iyi added.
In the same vein, another senior lecturer in ESUT, Mr Harold Jideofor, said the few lecturers were overloaded with many courses which was another problem affecting the students due to lack of coordination on the part of the lecturer.
Jideofor urged government to make approval on the credit units a lecturer should teach per week.
He advised the government to improve the working environment and salaries commensurate for someone impacting knowledge.
“Research grants and oversea conferences should be sponsored by government agencies,” he said (NAN).