Though not a new concept, the fostering of a mutual relationship between universities and host communities will not only improve the living standard of the people but also teleguide the process of development of critical sector of the economy as every potential would be tapped to make Nigeria occupy its leadership role in Africa. This leadership will be a break away from the denigrated positions Nigeria University had filled over the years.
This was the thrust of the robust discussion at the second Biennial conference of pro- chancellors of state owned universities in Nigeria. The conference was a convergence of stakeholders in the academia and they attempted to divulge the theme of the two-day event of ‘Gown-Town Relationship: A synergy For National Development’ where it was surmised that the university existed primarily for the community to improve the standard of life.
They decried the situation where the universities in the country are failing in their roles of functionally develop the capacity of the individual citizens that pass through them as students and that of the communities in which they operate.
The conference chaired by the pro-chancellor of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Nkpolu, Justice Adolphus Karibi-Whyte and it held at the Amphi-theatre hall of the institution.
The first conference of the committee of pro-chancellors of state owned universities held at the Kaduna State University in 2010. At that session, it was a clear mandate that they would continue to familiarise with host universities, accentuate policy and understand the implication for national development.
Today, at this second session, the thinking is tilted to the overriding role the universities should play in pulling the doldrums of society to heights of growth and development, which requires a robust relationship with host communities to change both the fortunes as well as fast track sustainable progress.
To actualise this goal, universities should deploy results of researches carried out in the ivory towers as a sure way of strengthening collaboration in the dissemination of knowledge.
Justice Karibi-Whyte who is also the chairman of the committee of pro-chancellors said the days were gone when universities operated solo ignoring what happens in the society but should take a leading role in engaging government, the industry and the communities adhering to a national transformational model.
At the event the Rivers State Governor, Right Honourable Chibuike Amaechi was represented by the permanent secretary, Rivers State Ministry of education, Mr Rchard Ofuru who said the relevance of the university was when its research finding begins to make meaning to the artisan and other classes of the society. The Executive secretary, Nigeria University Commission, NUC, was also represented by Vice Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt, Professor Joseph Ajenka who reiterated that NUC now believes in institutional accreditation and ensure quality control of all staff of the university system. The vice chancellor, Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Professor Barineme Fakae made boost that his insitition was one of the twenty seven universities that had satified NUC standard in the country. These speakers agreed on the need to break away from the present way university affairs were run to a more functional pattern where university education is relevant to driving the needed industrial growth in the country.
In their separate papers on ‘Gown-Town Relationship: A synergy for National Development by Professor Kimse Koko, and ‘Communities in Town-Gown Relationship for National Development’ by Professor Elo Amucheazi said if the afore mentioned relationship is strengthened, the ensuring mutual benefits would include unimpeded access to revenues sources, boost personal income, enhance the security of lives and property as well improve the local capacity of the indigenous people in the communities.
At the interaction session, most speakers cautioned that if the university did not moderate its affinity with the communities; it would be distracted from its responsibility of providing a neutral ground for the acquisition of knowledge by all and sundry.