Chukwuma Stella Nwakaego.
For Funmilayo Abe, a recent graduate of the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), the long-awaited end of her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) clearance finally arrived after what felt like an eternity. Months had passed since she had received her final results, and the stress of life post-graduation was beginning to take its toll.
Exhausted and drained, Funmilayo found herself in need of a much-needed break. It was during this time that she decided to take a stroll to a nearby suya seller. The promise of delicious food to soothe her frayed nerves was exactly what she needed to ease her stress. This small but meaningful break was just what she required to refresh her mind and soul for the challenge and adventure that awaited her in life beyond NYSC.
This lady got the Suya’ meat from a roadside Aboki but her appetite was quickly soured when she got home and unwrapped the meat to find a page from what appeared to be someone’s final year project. She was shocked and couldn’t help but scream “Is this a joke?” It was disheartening to see such an important research work being used carelessly as a meat wrapper. Despite the shock, Funmilayo managed to push past her disgust and dig into her meal. However, she couldn’t hide out the feeling of frustration at the state of research in Nigerian institutions.
Just like Funmilayo’s experience, many research projects conducted by undergraduates in Nigerian institutions go to waste as they are left to rot in libraries or storerooms, never seeing the light of day. Despite being a requirement for obtaining a degree, most of these projects fail to provide solutions to existing problems.
Despite investing over 16 billion naira in research funds for universities in the last three years, Nigerian universities are still lagging behind in research publications. While South Africa leads the way in research on the continent with 16.8% of the continent’s research publications, Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, only has 9.58%. This highlights the need for institutions to prioritize and promote research to improve the lives of citizens.
Funmilayo criticized the Nigerian government for their lack of investment in the system and cited the COVID-19 pandemic as an example. She mentioned that Nigeria’s political leaders travelled abroad to seek medical treatment due to the absence of functional medical facilities and research centers.
“It is disheartening to see students spend a significant amount of money, time, and resources working on academic research projects that end up being rendered useless. This is a huge setback for the country’s education system, as research is crucial for driving innovation and progress in all sectors of the economy.”
Despite the challenges, Funmilayo hopes for a better future and believes Nigeria can lead in technology, science, and innovation on the African continent if the government and other stakeholders invest more in research and development.
Johnson Olakunle, an alumnus of Adekunle Ajasin University, highlighted the common sight of academic research works, assignments, and questionnaires being used by roadside groundnut, suya, and popcorn sellers. He further explained that Nigeria’s deteriorating research state is attributed to various factors, including the lack of trust between lecturers and students.
Olakunle believes that the current state of students’ competence is not helping the situation. He therefore maintains that students need to be empowered with the necessary skills and knowledge to produce research of high academic standards, hence his call for collaboration between the town and gown. This collaboration, he suggests, will lead to the improvement of the production of relevant and quality research.
To achieve this, Olakunle recommends that stakeholders such as the government, research institutions, and concerned bodies should invest more in the Nigerian education sector. This investment, according to him, will empower students and lecturers alike to drive progress in the country’s academic and research endeavors.
Improper disposal of academic projects in Nigeria occurs when they fail to answer core questions, according to journalist and researcher Saheed Ibrahim. He notes that when a project is simply regurgitating existing research or studies, it is not contributing anything new to the conversation.
According to him, disposal of projects should not be the students’ fault but the universities who failed to adopt digitization in the 21st century.
“Academic projects should have a virtual database in the cloud in addition to their physical copies, according to recent developments in AI-related research. This would make them easily accessible to lecturers, students, and alumni, and ensure that they can be referenced regardless of year or relevance. It is important that universities provide sub-databases for each department on their website to support this approach.
“Academic departments should maintain virtual databases for lecturers, students, and alumni to access soft copies of academic projects. These databases should also be published on university websites to ensure that references can be made whenever necessary. Regardless of the reasons, year, or relevance, academic projects are valuable resources that should be easily accessible.
“With an increasing number of students submitting projects each year, outdated projects may be discarded, leading to a loss of valuable resources. For instance, the department I graduated from, we’re about 98, and now the department is admitting about 250 students, meaning during our own time, 98 students submitted research projects, whereas currently, 250 students will submit a project annually and the department has been in existence for over 10 years.
It gets to a point when the department is filled up with projects, they let go of certain ones because they may consider them outdated. Look at a department that has been in existence since 1980. If you want to write a project in 2023 now, you can’t cite a project of 1989 or 85 or even 1990. Nobody will accept it again” he added.
According to Engineer Benson Ojedayo, a lecturer at Ekiti State University, said some academic projects may be discarded because students failed to collect their copies after the defense.
“In the Nigerian academic system, students are required to submit four copies of their projects, one for themselves, the department, the faculty, and the school library. After ten years, the copies may be discarded, but they are not truly gone as they remain accessible for other students to reference in the library.”
He added that students may invest a significant amount of money and effort into their projects, only to have them discarded due to their lack of research purpose. To avoid this, he advised that students should consider pursuing innovative projects that do not have such limitations, allowing their work to remain accessible in the library for a longer period of time.
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