Dr. Mohammed Bello Magaji is a Nigerian lawyer based in Uganda where he lectures at Kampala International University, Uganda, East Africa.
Magaji, in a telephone interview said that lecturers sent to Uganda by Nigerian government under the auspices of Technical Aid Corps (TAC) every two years are mostly enjoyed by private universities in the East African country instead of public institutions as stipulated by law. He said the proprietors of those private universities, “smile to the bank as their core staff are being paid by a father Christmas called Nigeria.”
He also noted that there are cases of sex for marks in higher institutions in Uganda, but very minimal compared to Nigeria where some lecturers had been caught, arrested, prosecuted and sent to jail.
Magaji said, having served the federal government of Nigeria for over 35 years in various capacities and retired, he has the ambition to go round Africa on a teaching tour, which he is doing presently. The University Don said his last place of lecturing job in Nigeria was at the Police Academy, Wudil, Kano, after venturing into politics as the Kaduna State chairman of the Labour Party (LP).
He said, after obtaining his PhD in Law from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, he felt he has no limit to his desire and aspirations to achieve the highest level in the teaching of law outside the country, hence his sojourn in Uganda.
You have been in Uganda for some years as a lecturer. How are you coping with the academic environment there?
I’m glad to say that I am coping very well with the academic situation. This is principally due to the certainty in the academic calendar, target and time bound, relative peace and security and above all, students that are willing to learn. This is not to say there are no disruptions in the academic circle due to strike etc going by what is happening in Makererre University, but it is minimal and infrequent.
How do you rate Uganda educational development compared to Nigeria’s?
Uganda educational development is growing at a very fast rate. I have observed for four years; it has been tremendous growth both at the secondary and tertiary levels under the watchful eye of the National Council for Higher Education which is the regulatory body similar to our National Universities Commission in Nigeria.
Is there a similar almajiri system of education in Uganda as we have in Nigeria?
Education seems to be given some good priority and pride of place here in Uganda. An average Ugandan can read and write.The problem of school dropout or the almajiri phenomenon as we have in Nigeria does not exist here. Perhaps due to the priority given to education here at all levels and the community interest in education and also the fact that the country is smaller in size compared to Nigeria makes it easier to monitor the schooling system. But one thing I must say is that the educational system is commendable.
Back in Nigeria, there are cases of sex for mark in higher institutions where some lecturers are arrested, prosecuted and sent to jail. Is it the same situation in Uganda?
The menace of sex for grades as recently reported in Ghana and Nigeria is a general malaise in the educational system of most countries, Uganda not an exception. There is an ongoing case of a Professor in Makerere University caught in similar untoward menace. However as I have earlier mentioned due to the size of the country, their university population, the incidents here are minimal compared to a giant country like Nigeria. However one commendable fact here is that at the secondary level the government takes a very serious stand on the abuse of the girl child with serious penalties which has had a deterrent impact from a study my post graduate student of criminology conducted under my supervision
What is the percentage of Nigerian lecturers in Uganda?
I cannot give the percentage offhand, but there are a good number of Nigerian lecturers in Uganda. Apart from those in the diaspora like me, there are very many lecturers sent by the Nigerian government under the auspices of Technical Aid Corps (TAC) every two years. These form the majority of the academic lecturers in Uganda universities and they are doing a great job in the educational growth of Uganda. However, the Nigerian government should revisit the laws and the entire programme as these professionals are sent to mostly private institutions as against government institutions at great expense of the Federal Government of Nigeria while the proprietors of these universities smile to the bank as their core staff are being paid by a father Christmas called Nigeria. Assisting Ugandan government under this programme, to my mind, should be in close liaison with the government, which will identify the need areas and take some percentage of the financial burden.
What is your view about the brain drain syndrome considering the percentage of Nigerian lecturers in Uganda?
On the issue of brain drain, I must confess that it is real. This is because I can see a very brilliant crop of academicians here. Very hardworking and dedicated and sadly young and vibrant professionals who if they are to give half of the hard work they put here in Uganda into Nigeria, it will really be a giant of the world not only Africa. But behold, due to leadership, security and policy issues they left Nigeria for Uganda. I think if better policies and leadership issues are put in proper place, they may be encouraged to return home to Nigeria.
Don’t you think Nigerian government can pay you better than Ugandan university?
As for me, having served the federal government of Nigeria for over 35 years in various capacities and retired but not tired, I have had the ambition to go round Africa on a teaching tour, which I am presently doing.
On a lighter mood, when are you retiring to Nigeria, the land of your birth?
I hope to settle down back in Nigeria after a tour of some common law jurisdictions in African countries, teaching law. Don’t forget that my extended family is still in Nigeria and I am daily in touch with them. Overall ,Uganda is a very peaceful place with an accommodating and friendly people. I have never regretted making Uganda my first port of call in my ambition to share my legal knowledge around Africa.
NOAH EBIJE conducted the interview