‘We intend to run a curriculum with ethical contents’

Alaba Akinwale

Vice Chancellor of the first Dominican University in Africa, Rev. Father Professor Anthony Alaba Akinwale, has disclosed that the university’s vision is to enthrone character building, rather than material consideration in its curriculum. The Boston University Doctor of Philosophy (Theology) degree graduate in an interview with SAM OLUWALANA also spoke on the clamour for restructuring in the country and gave a sweeping verdict on the exclusion of private universities from TETFUND

The owners of Dominican University have many others around the world. What is the inspiration for their interest in education?
THE Roman Catholic Order of Preachers, popularly known as the Dominican Order, has been involved in tertiary education since St Dominic de Guzman founded it in 1216. The Order has universities on every continent. The Dominican University in Ibadan is its first university on the African continent.

Eight hundred years ago, when St Dominic founded the Order, he saw the political instability and moral decadence in Europe as impediments to development. He also understood that the way out of societal instability and decadence necessarily passes through education. The inspiration of Dominican involvement in education comes from the conviction that education is the key to development. A developed polity is an aggregate of human persons of actualized potentials, and education forms human beings to develop themselves and their environment.

As it was in Europe at the time of Dominic, so it is with Nigeria and Africa in our own time. Today, in Nigeria, we cannot address the problems of insecurity, poverty and corruption if we do not fix education. The developmental needs of our society cannot be met without investment in education. Education is the mother of security and prosperity. I must say that our society will be more secure and better developed if we would invest more on education than we invest in running government bureaucracy.

You were chairman of project implementation committee of the university. What would you say is the vision of the founders?
It is a vision of integral humanism, integral education, and authentic development. By integral humanism, we mean the promotion of the dignity of the human person in his or her spiritual, intellectual, moral, and technical dimensions. By integral education, we mean education that elevates human dignity by forming the human person in these same dimensions. It is by forming the human person in every dimension of human existence that he or she is able to fully actualize his or her potential by working for the actualization of our collective potential.

The vision is African because education so envisioned, is like the traditional African cooking-stove, which is made of three stones, it stands on three feet. The three feet of integral education are intellectual formation or formation for truth, moral formation or formation for the good, and technical formation or formation for managerial competence. And the three feet stand on the ground of spiritual formation.

We must not reduce development to the provision of technical infrastructure. Development, and by extension education, is about the whole person. For this reason, development cannot be left in the hands of technocrats alone. It requires the formation of a new generation of leaders, men and women of multiple competence, present and actively deploying this multiple competence in every sphere of human endeavor in the search for the common good. Education today must include the acquisition of technical competence. At the same time spiritual, intellectual, and moral competence must be acquired. For while technical competence is necessary, it is insufficient.

Those who desire what is true, what is good must occupy the driver’s seat of Africa’s development, and what is efficient and productive. The Dominican University hopes to form future leaders, men and women of multiple competences, to occupy this seat and drive Nigeria and Africa to a brighter future. The Dominican University seeks to accomplish in Nigeria and Africa what the early Dominicans did in Europe.

Private Universities in the country have priced themselves out of the reach of the poor. What plans does your University have for indigent students?
The cost of education is not what can be fixed in an interview published on the pages of a newspaper. So many factors go into it—namely, the need for quality, the economic situation of students and their sponsors. At the Dominican University, we are conscious of the fact that good quality education is quite expensive, and that access to good quality education is very difficult for the economically deprived. For this reason, the Dominican University is already considering ways of providing support for intellectually endowed but economically deprived students. The Dominican University intends to offer scholarship to a limited number of its pioneer students. At the same time, a newly established university is also in need of generous benefactors.

Most of the youths in Nigeria are involved in crimes, like robbery, kidnapping and sorts. How do you think the Church can help in reducing these anti-social inclinations?
These and other crimes are symptoms of the state of politics and education in our country. If we fix politics and education we shall fix our society. The Church can play a vital role in reducing the wave of crime in our society by providing good education, the type of education I described earlier. It is about intellectual formation, character formation and technical formation. The Church can provide this by forming young people who will work for their good by working for the common good. Good education is not just about science and technology. That will be science without conscience, to use an expression I learnt from a Burkina Be historian, Joseph Ki-Zerbo; “Education forms the person to work for his or her own good by working for the common good, not by working in ways that are inimical to the common good.”

What plans do your university has in place to produce graduates of good characters?
The Dominican University intends to run a curriculum with ethical content. Education must inculcate values, not just techniques. Today, we have people who know how to use the computer to defraud, the so-called Yahoo boys and girls. Education with ethical content will significantly reduce their population, not by sending them to jail, but by forming them to be good and productive citizens, artisans of a new society. The Dominican University hopes to teach ethics and techniques, not one without the other.

What do you think about the clamour for restructuring by people all over the country?
Everyone is talking about restructuring. But only a few know what it is all about. We need to rethink how we relate with each other in this country. I see the issue of restructuring along the lines of three sets of questions. First, what ought to be the relationship between the government and the citizen? We have been running a system where government is more powerful than the citizen, where government is no longer at the service of the citizen. We need a system that makes government serve the citizen in a polity where every government functionary is accountable to the citizen.

Secondly, what ought to be the relationship between the three tiers of government—federal, state, and local—in Nigeria. At this point in time, we have a constitution that makes the federal government overbearing. We say we are running a federal republic. But this country looks more like an empire dressed in the confiscated robe of a federation. Everything comes from Abuja. Everything, including your driver’s licence.

Thirdly, what ought to be the relationship between the citizen and his or her fellow citizen? In concrete terms, it is not just a matter of protecting my rights from being violated by government; it is also a matter of protecting my rights from being violated by my fellow citizen.

These three sets of questions need to be addressed so that we can enjoy stability and development in our land. The way we address them will reflect in a constitution, a constitution that we make our own by way of a referendum and not by military fiat.

In a nutshell, restructuring is not necessarily about having six regions or thirty-six states. It is about rectification of relationships in Nigeria. If we have fewer or more states but fail to address these three sets of questions we will be left with the issue of minorities, which was an issue when we had three, later four, regions. If we would have the courage to discuss how to rectify our relationships we would come close to building “a nation where no man is oppressed” to use words of the third stanza of our first national anthem, “Nigeria we hail thee”.

What is your view about the exclusion of private universities from the TETFUND funds?
I consider it unfair, not just to the universities, but also to the students, and, ultimately to the society. It is discriminatory, and there is no cogent reason for such exclusion. We should find out how much government budgets for the education of each Nigerian student. Whatever that amount is, every Nigerian student should have access to it.

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