The Executive Secretary of, the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, has advised professional bodies to desist from the unhealthy competition with the NUC over the training of undergraduate students in the Nigeria University System (NUS).
He said this last Tuesday when the Commission played host to the President of the Institute of Chartered Chemists of Nigeria (ICCON), who was on a courtesy visit to seek collaboration with the Commission to rejuvenate the teaching of Chemistry in Nigerian Universities.
Prof. Rasheed informed the Institute that it was the responsibility of the NUC to lay down Minimum Academic Standards (MAS) for all academic programmes in the NUS; approve the establishment of the new academic programme as well as ensure that quality was maintained in terms of teaching, human and material resources of the programmes through accreditation.
He disclosed that the Commission has continued to open its door to professional bodies for collaboration in line with its mandate of leading the way in ensuring a quality university system that works for Nigerians.
In his words “We don’t train Chemists, we train graduates of Chemistry. I will advise that you latch unto these graduates, certify them and maybe provide some forms of additional training before you certify them. We are more than willing to collaborate with you; we would be willing to call meetings of Heads of Departments (H.O.D) of Chemistry in our Universities, very senior Professors who have made their mark in the profession, and captains of industries together so that we all can chart a way forward for the programme and the profession,” he said.
The NUC Scribe noted that Chemistry was the driver of the 21st-century industry and that no country in the World today, could thrive without viable and productive Chemists, adding that if Nigeria must survive the competitive world, it must reengineer the Chemistry profession in line with global best practices as it remained the bedrock to revolutionising the industrial sector of the country.
The NUC Executive Secretary stated that there was a need for the decentralisation of Chemistry at the university level and called on the Institute to suggest ways of improving the curriculum of the programme.
According to him, “At the university, we don’t teach the same general chemistry across programmes like Medicine and Sciences, therefore, for us to truly engender the change we desire, there is a need to decentralise the profession to ensure professionalism.
“I assure you that the commission would continue to work with you to achieve the Nigerian university of our dream,” he stressed.
In her remarks, the Chairman of the Council, ICCON, Prof. Fanna Inna Abdulrahman, described the Institute as a regulatory agency under the Federal Ministry of Health, established by ICCON Act CAP. I.12 LFN 2004 charged with the primary responsibility to regulate the teaching of Chemistry and the practice of the Chemistry profession in Nigeria.
She added that the timely visit to the Commission was to seek possible areas of collaboration and support to strengthen the teaching of Chemistry at the university level in the country.
The ICCON President noted that the Institute had taken cognizance of the fundamental and statutory mandate of the NUC and that it was the premise upon which the body seeks to advance and explore ways by which the subject of Chemistry can be fully professionalized ab Initio either at the pre-degree, undergraduate and postgraduate levels of studies.
According to her, the idea was not just to ensure the advancement of the subject but also to promote the core responsibility of the NUC which was transforming the universities to greater heights.
She said, “We are aware that knowledge is the global currency and as such, it is extremely necessary to harness the vast human and material resources within this profession in building our science base as a nation.”
Prof. Inna Abdulrahman explained that the subject of Chemistry is central to all disciplines ranging from science, arts, and humanities, among others.
She, therefore, proposed that a stronger partnership with the Commission would catalyse a phenomenal paradigm shift and accelerate the needed Research and Development in Chemistry for the growth of the Chemical industry which remained the largest industry in the world at the moment.
She informed the Executive Secretary that available data indicated that the lack of proper regulation of Chemistry has to a large extent inhibited the growth of the Chemical industry.
The President acknowledged that the triple helix model has postulated a synchronization of the academia, government and industry as key to the economic growth of any nation and as such the continuous disconnect of these three factors in the Chemistry profession underscored the urgent need for the visit, as a way of seeking the Commission’s support to impact on the country’s development.
She also noted with pride that about 100 Universities in Nigeria offer Chemistry or Chemistry related courses, remarking that annually about 3,000 students graduate from Chemistry or Chemistry-related disciplines at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
She pointed out that the Chemical industry lacked the impetus to reckon with the incredible manpower provided by the Universities as a result of the lack of regulation of the Chemistry profession.
Prof. Fanna said the commitment of the Institute towards addressing the issues of moribund or non-existent sub-standards or non-functional Chemistry laboratories at the universities was envisaged as a mechanism of excellence in making the Chemistry profession worthwhile. She added that through the triple helix model, the Institute hoped to promote the best practices of Chemistry programmes that would encourage entrepreneurship and progression in the practice of Chemistry in the 21st century.
“Our innovative approach is lucidly predicated on accentuating the nascent knowledge trends in Chemistry, especially through robust development of the curriculum, capacity and collaboration on the subject.
“For example, the Institute’s cosmetic project has developed a cosmetic formulation and manufacturing programme for the general public. The objective of the programme is to support the ever-growing educational needs of the players in the cosmetic industry and boost production in Nigeria.
“It will also provide opportunities for young graduates of Chemistry to be self-employed,” she stated.
Prof. Fanna further stated that the Institute had proposed the establishment of a Research & Development Centre which would provide a cutting-edge knowledge platform that would transform the profession especially young graduates of Chemistry through residency and research.
She said that the Institute’s Chemical Security and Safety Programme (CSSP) which was a flagship programme, was also designed to promote chemical safety and security to help Nigeria tackle emerging security challenges.
According to her, the Institute had also concluded plans to commence indexing Chemistry students from 100 levels in the Universities and other tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
The essence of the exercise, she said, was to monitor and improve the yearly intake and output of the Chemistry students through mentorship, career progression and knowledge-based initiatives.
She requested the Commission to consider for the Institute to be part of the accreditation team for Chemistry programmes in the Universities, and as well ensure that only chartered members of the Institute should members of such an accreditation team.
She also requested that Chemistry be considered a core course in the Centres of Excellence in Nigeria.
In her delegation were the Registrar/CEO ICCON Dr. Dukku Bappah; Head Membership & Training Department, Chemist Wilford Jwalshik as well as the Technical Advisors, Chemist Rita Micheal-Ojo, and Chemist Linus Aposu.