AN INTERNATIONAL ICON PRESENTS PARADIGM SHIFT IN CONCEPTUAL FRAME WORK AND ORGANISATION OF AFRICAN UNIVERSITY AT AE FUNAI
Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike, Ebonyi State on Thursday, May 2, 2019, organised an inspiring and thought provoking lecture titled: African University of the Future: A knowledge Enterprise for Articulating And Incubating Radical Solutions To The Formidable Challenges on the Continent by Reverend Father Godfrey O. P. Nzamujo, a reputable Professor of Engineering and Director of the Songhai Centre, Porto Novo, Benin Republic.
Prof. C.C.C. Ejike, Dean of the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, who presented the welcome address on behalf of the Chairman ,Committee on Inaugural and Public Lectures, Prof. Joy Igbo urged participants to feel free and embrace the call to develop appropriate and adaptive institutional framework for a continuous generation, sharing and appropriation of ideas, knowledge and skills to harness the rich and diverse cultural heritage in Africa as championed by the guest lecturer, Father Nzamujo, an illustrious son of Africa.
The Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof. Chinedum Nwajiuba, in his opening remarks, acknowledged Father Nzamujo as a world original thinker and practitioner of change for his global vision of sustainable development.
Prof. Nwajiuba reeled his purposes for establishing link and partnership with the guest speaker and the Songhai farm to include, the desire to establish a long-term action oriented relationship with Songhai that supports the university’s core mandate of teaching, research and community service; desire to specifically create relationship that will be institutionalized in a manner that the university can train new generation of graduates who can create jobs and not job seekers; desire to open a bilateral relationship for students’ training; desire that Songhai will provide technical support to implement what he saw in Porto Novo, and what Songhai has across the provinces of Benin Republic, as well as Africa; desire to have a binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) that ensure this relationship is cemented; and most critically, the desire to achieve a positive shift in the pervading attitude to work, life and living which is summed as miseducating Nigerian youths, manifesting in sweet without sweat, benefits without responsibility, wealth without work, and a general mentality of entitlement.
The Vice-Chancellor admitted that our society is on the verge of major changes which by wisdom should teach us to focus on human resource rather than on natural resource since the population of Nigeria and Africa are shooting high at alarming proportion.
The Vice-Chancellor mentioned that AE-FUNAI has begun the right approach towards solving societal problems by eliminating alternatives to practicals in science and technology courses, embarking on vigorous language enhancement programme to brush students on the deficits in writing and communication skills and most importantly, the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Employability has been stimulating students to generate business ideas and to produce tangible goods with high unique selling points.
In his presentation, Father Godfrey Nzamujo, averred that the relevance of African Universities with regard to our present day challenges is becoming very doubtful and has chronicled to unimaginable scope and complexity. He said that universities have failed in their original calling in academic culture that rather than restructure institutional operations to generate new competences and conceptual frameworks to effectively embrace these challenges in real time, perpetuate existing organizational structures and practices and retreat, instead, they resort to relaxing at the comfort zone of abstract knowledge.
He fluted that African universities have three (3) major areas of concern that should be well harnessed, which include knowledge generated from the university; transaction which should serve as tools and new culture which represents new world view and that these three are symbolized by the head, hand and the heart, which go a long way to determining breakthrough or breakdown of African mission. He maintained that African professors are prophets and should be able to see the horizon and see what others are not seeing, understand what is around us and where we are coming from (Basic science) and develop basic tools (technology) and use those tools to produce goods and services. He reiterated that we either breakthrough or breadown.
He noted that Africa is at crossroads and needs to embark on the project of recasting its university system having leverage knowledge, creativity and innovations. He recalled the Motto of the University of Bologna established in 1088: “The nourishing mother of the studies”, where knowledge remains the undisputed key to emancipation, cultural, spiritual and socio-economic development. He mentioned that Africans are transiting into a period where intellectual capital, brainpower, is replacing financial and physical capitals as key to our strength, prosperity and well being.
He charged these citadels of learning in Africa to rejig and retool the knowledge enterprise to become the fulcrum for societal transformation. He posited that we are living in a post-modern-science era where there is a definite paradigm shift resulting from modern sciences and other sources such as quantum physics, micro and molecular biology, cognitive sciences among others that provide us with fundamentally different and refreshing frameworks on our human dynamics and that of our planet.
Prof. Nzamujo opined that a systemic paradigm has emerged with completely new and different technological orientations. And these can be tackled using a combination of synergy, symbiosis, complementarity, collaboration and suplementarity in the university system. He maintained that even though we are deep into the post-modern science era, we are still navigating with an old map since no specie, sub specie blocks can exist and survive on a separate sustainable unit but what survives and remains sustainable is the organism-in-its environment. He added that any organism, a unit, department, state, tribe etc. that works and thinks only in terms of its own survival will invariably destroy its environment and, will thus destroy itself he stated however, that we must remember that nature knows how to takeout predators.
The professorial clergy further posited that from the systems point of view, the unit of development or survival is not the entity (humans, animal, fish or crop) at all, but rather a pattern of organization developed and adopted by any of these entities in its interaction with its environment.
He observed that as the new sciences and technologies are forcing us to abandon the linear and mechanistic world view, a systemic world is emerging and being consolidated at the same time by ever integrated platform of the new technologies they inspired. He said that our efforts in trying to solve systemic problems have remained a piecemeal but rather suggests that systems view of life will be collectively embraced by our scientists, engineers, political and corporate leaders who can imagine radically different kinds of products and services emerging from new integrated platform of technologies, from artificial intelligence (AI), biotech, sustainable Agriculture, health care to space technologies etc. He strongly affirmed that this will be the principal mission of the new African university. “Every university should be a laboratory of this adventure, this project of a new society-a functional extension space to incubate new creams of human resources with the passion, creativity and innovative drive to animate this “new human space-La Montee humaine” project”.
He concluded by suggesting ways of creating new weapons of mass construction by finding answers to questions and use them to develop technologies inspired by nature where programs had already begun by Biomimicry- an exciting new field of engineering and design even as he charged scientists and engineers to form an interdisciplinary team to analyze detailed chemistry and molecular structures of nature’s most complex materials to use them as models for new biotechnologies. He warned that Africans should stop creating solution where there is no question. “We should stop creating unemployment by training people for the jobs of yesterday”.
He took time to demonstrate to the captivated participants life and activities in Songhai farm ranging from modern agricultural production, recycling technology, environmental management, hospitality and tourism etc. It was a conglomerate in a garden. Opportunity was given for interaction with the audience through questions and answers session.