KWASU: Pioneering Uncommon Tradition in University Education
Kwara State University (KWASU), Malete is the 34th state-owned university and the 95th university to be approved by the National Universities Commission (NUC) as a conventional university in Nigeria. It commenced academic activities on December 17, 2009. In seven years of its existence, it has achieved enviable progress uncommon even in older universities. This is because it has a unique vision to build a lasting legacy of impactful knowledge and service to the community. Visitors to the university have always wondered the spirit behind its drive and accomplishments within the short period of its existence.
In pursuance of its goals, the university meticulously assembled local and international manpower and developed ultra-modern facilities with high ICT intensiveness to make the institution a ‘world-class University’. The university sets out to be more than a typical university in Nigeria. Hence, it was designed to be a centre for community service and entrepreneurship. In a country where the fundamental values of volunteerism and community involvement are being abandoned, Kwara State University sets itself apart as an institution built around the community.
The university sees itself as a part of the community and is determined to make its impact felt by the community. To champion this cause, a Centre for Community Development was created for the purpose of mobilizing the community, setting assessment strategies, and identifying the needs within the community, so that lecturers and students can use their expertise to impact directly on the communities.
To this end, several communities around the university have felt its impact, in terms of enhancing their living standards through provision of facilities and amenities. The university complements its services to the community with the creation and approval of a Certificate Programme in Community Development. To date, KWASU remains the only university in Nigeria with a Centre for Community Development. This programme which it introduced is also the first of its kind in the country. It is a short course designed to explore both the structure and practice of community development around the world. Participants are engaged in critical analysis of different approaches to community development, their historical development and underlying assumptions. Through this, they have an understanding of issues that promote or deter the goals of community empowerment.
At the end of the programme, the students are expected to make contributions towards achieving community development agenda. This is aimed at instilling in them, the spirit of volunteerism and community service. And so far, the students have been doing well in solving the problems of the university’s host communities. For instance, the pioneer students of the programme ended long years of lack of access to clean drinking water in a remote village called Busamu-Akirima’nu in Moro Local Government Area of Kwara State. They came to the villagers’ aid by donating a hand-pump borehole to them. Before the students’ intervention, the villagers used to trek long distance daily to get water, which they shared with cattle, thus making them highly susceptible to all kinds of waterborne diseases.
Also, Kwara State University is the first university of its kind in Nigeria that has recognized the urgent need for a university education that is focused on value re-orientation towards self-employment and job creation. The identification of this need led to the creation of the Centre for Entrepreneurship in the same year the university came into existence. The Centre for Entrepreneurship is aimed at preparing KWASU graduates to identify and recognize opportunities through appropriate re-orientation towards job creation. The university works with the students to propose and implement projects that address a community or social problem. As the students graduate, the university partners with them in implementing the various projects. The university also created a start-up fund that is accessible to students for this purpose.
It is also interesting to note that at the time KWASU started Entrepreneurship programme for its students at all levels, no university in Nigeria was doing it. But two years into the programme, the Federal Government came out to make it compulsory for all Nigerian universities, hence KWASU now provides expertise in this area of training to other universities. Every year, KWASU hosts Directors of Centres for Entrepreneurship from other universities to share knowledge. The university is also collaborating with the Kwara State Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development to introduce entrepreneurship education to all secondary schools in the state. This is driven by the need to make the state number one in the field of entrepreneurship education in Nigeria.
The university did not stop at that, it also instituted a B.Sc./B.A. (Ed) Degree in Business and Entrepreneurship Education, in line with training in entrepreneurship education. The takeoff of the degree programme in the 2014/2015 academic session was historic in Nigeria, as it further attested to the university’s leading role in the nation’s entrepreneurship education. The programme is meant to provide the required manpower for the teaching of Trade Subjects introduced by the Federal Government into the curriculum of the Nigerian Secondary Schools. The university has taken it upon itself to prepare competent teachers for the teaching of the Trade Subjects (entrepreneurship education) in response to the lack of competent teachers to handle them.
The KWASU story has always been a unique story of optimism, achievement and constant striving. KWASU also made history as the first university in Nigeria to be accredited by the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) to run a degree programme in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. By this action, KWASU has put Nigeria on the map as a nation where aerospace Engineering scholarship is taught at the university level. In a country where there is a deafening clamour for airspace system manned by qualified and competent aerospace engineers, KWASU has positioned itself as an institution capable of training the best manpower who can guarantee air safety in the country. To prove its commitment to this goal, the university signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) on Wednesday, September 30, 2015.
Areas of synergy with the NAF cover, among others, technology transfer on the development of aircraft parts and models, exchange of students, technical and academic staff members for the purpose of training, research, teaching and the presentation of special courses capable of guaranteeing further scholarly cooperation in Science and Technology between the university and the NAF.
At KWASU, special attention is paid to research, particularly at the undergraduate level, with a view to making the students problem solvers even before their graduation. To facilitate the smooth running of this initiative, the university established a Centre for Undergraduate Research which on Wednesday, December 4, 2013, kicked off Undergraduate Research Day. Since then, the programme, which celebrates the research efforts of the students, has been holding every semester. The students across the six colleges of the university compete very intensely for grants from the university through their research proposals.
They undertake research based on challenges in the community and their research output is turned to entrepreneurship ventures. During the Research Day celebration, the students showcase innovative projects, products and services that translate to community development.
As stated by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. AbdulRasheed Na’Allah, while delivering his speech at the 4th Convocation Ceremony of the university, scientists in the Materials Science laboratory of the College of Engineering and Technology “are actively researching on Cancer detection and treatment, development of new generation solar cells and energy storage devices. For the cancer research, Multi-layer and biodegradable implantable devices and also devices with thin layer magnetite nanocomposite for extended localized cancer drug release are being investigated with emphasis on breast cancer. The work is in advanced stage and animal trials will commence soon. In energy, the focus is on high efficiency Perovskite solar cells and flexible electronics. Light emitting devices (LED) with low turn-on voltage have been developed. For energy storage, super capacitors and high energy density batteries are being explored.
“These research works are being carried out in collaboration with the Sheda Science & Technology Complex, Abuja; the African University of Science & Technology (AUST), Abuja; and Princeton University, New Jersey, USA. It is worth noting that KWASU Materials Science laboratory has hosted several visitors including a postdoctoral, PG and PhD students from Nigerian universities, providing an enabling environment for their research work. In this regards, four Postgraduate students from AUST are currently in KWASU for their experimental works.”
Moreover, the university also stands out as the only institution in the North Central Geopolitical zone of Nigeria with a degree programme in Tourism, Hospitality and Events Management. The programme is aimed at preparing students for a wide-range of professional and advanced educational opportunities to which graduates from other Nigeria’s institutions are neither qualified nor prepared, in terms of theory and practice. KWASU can boast of experienced and well-qualified teaching and non-teaching staff in the School of Tourism. Aside its linkage and collaboration with Thailand – one of the world leading countries in tourism – the university also developed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Cape Town University, South Africa in the area of tourism development.
Furthermore, in tune with its vision of always being at the top, the university has initiated community broadcasting through radio and television, the first of its kind in the country by launching both radio and television broadcasting at the same time. All necessary equipment and outside broadcasting van have been procured, while the radio arm is ready to go on air with the test transmission on June 4, 2016 during the 4th Convocation.
The university does not just operate from the local confine. From inception, it demonstrated commitment to the internationalization of its programmes, faculties and curriculum. To this end, it established the Centre for Innovation and International Studies. While the university plans to expand its study abroad locations, it currently has a partnership with Thammasat University in Thailand; Korean Advanced Institute of Technology (KAIST), South Korea; Columbia University, New York, USA; University of the State of Bahia (UNEB), Salvador, Brazil; Texas Southern University, Houston, Texas, USA; Royal Aeronautical Society and a host of others.