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When Amina Ibrahim, an indigene of Baruten Local Government Area of Kwara State completed her secondary education in 2017, she looked forward to gaining admission into the university to pursue her dream of becoming a certified nurse.
According to Daily Trust investigation, the following year, she registered for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) but was denied admission despite securing the cut off mark.
“I sat another UTME and failed, but I never gave up. Then I made another attempt for the third time and passed. I was very happy when I received my admission letter to study for a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from the Zamfara State University (ZAMSUT). I even hosted a small party in our family compound before proceeding for matriculation,” she said.
But no sooner had the footsteps of family members, friends and well-wishers who came to celebrate with her for securing a university admission faded, than Amina began to feel frustrated.
“My happiness for securing admission into the ZAMSUT turned into bitterness because it soon dawned on me that I had entered ‘one-chance’. After my matriculation I have not been stable in school as an undergraduate.
From 2000 we spent almost two years away from the school due to the coronavirus palaver.
“Then I realised that the school depended only on visiting lecturers because they don’t have permanent academic and non-academic staff,” said Amina, who is now in 200 level.
She is just one out of the many students of the Zamfara State University who are worried over the deteriorating state of affairs in the institution. Another student, who also reads Nursing, lamented that they had found themselves in a rather bad situation.
The 200-level student who spoke on condition of anonymity said the state government was playing politics with the university.
“Zamfara is the only state in the country that didn’t have a state university before it was established by the immediate past governor, Abdulaziz Yari. When the current governor took over, he suspended the university before reopening it.
“During our first semester, we suffered. There are no permanent lecturers and the visiting ones who come from time to time are not even paid. It is obvious that the governor is not serious about the university because since he came into office he has neither rendered any financial assistance nor visited the institution,” he said.
Another student of History and International Studies said she found it strange that the university, which was established in 2018, still operated from a temporary site and yet to employ permanent academic and non-academic staff.
“We only have visiting lecturers who come to teach us three times a week. Even at that, they usually rush us in order to go back to their primary areas of teaching, as a result of which we don’t have value for our money. There is also mass failure as a result of this arrangement,” she lamented.
Findings indicate that the state university is among the over 50 universities currently owned by state governments across the country. It was established in 2017 during the second tenure of ex-governor Abdul-Aziz Yari Abubakar and was opened for admission in 2018.
The former governor was said to have created the institution because Zamfara was the only northern state without a state university at the time. Checks further revealed that a primary school was converted at Talata Mafara for the takeoff of the university.
Daily Trust gathered that although the National Universities Commission (NUC) had approved the establishment of the university as the 162nd in the country as of 2018, it is yet to be accredited.
Following its establishment, students were said to have been enrolled in the 2018/2019 academic sessions taught by academic staff whose employment was contract-based while the students took the first-semester examination successfully in 2019 before a transition of power.
Among the over 25 courses offered in the university, which is currently at its 200- level are Public Health, Nursing, Physiotherapy, Mass Communication, History and International Studies, Mathematics and Computer Science.
Following the voiding of the 2019 elections in Zamfara State by the Supreme Court, Bello Matawalle, who was the candidate of the then opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, became the governor. He was said to have set up a strategy and development committee that reviewed all the works that were executed by the previous administration.
Among other functions, the committee, chaired by Professor Yusuf Adamu Tsafe, was to advise the new governor on the smooth takeoff of the school.
Other members of the committee were Prof Yahya Zakari Abdullahi, Alhaji Musa Ahmed Bungudu, Jalaludeen Ibrahim Maradun, Malam Gazali Shehu Ahmad, Dr. Bashir Maru Maru and Fati Nahuche, a lawyer.
It was gathered that despite the committee’s recommendation in favour of the university, the governor was initially averse to its continuation. However, following mass protests by concerned individuals, including parents and students of the institution, the government reopened the school in 2020 and appointed some principal officers, namely Prof Mu’azu Gusau as vice-chancellor; Bashiru Mafara as registrar; Usman Bungudu as bursar and Aminu Abdullahi as director of academic planning.
However, in 2021, Prof Gusau handed over to the current vice-chancellor, Prof Yahaya Zakari Abdullahi and moved to the Federal University, Gusau, where he is currently working, also as vice-chancellor. He declined to speak on the status of the university when contacted by our reporter.
Documents obtained also indicate that the committee had recommended the appointment of academic and non-academic staff as earlier recommended by an implementation committee under the chairmanship of Prof Lawal Suleiman Bilbis (the current vice-chancellor of Usumanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto).
Similarly, the committee recommended the sum of N3.6 billion for a successful takeoff of the university and N100 million monthly subvention as running cost.
While vowing to revamp the education sector in the state, Matawalle reportedly implored the new appointees to discharge their duties diligently, promising to give the institution all the required support “to meet the demands of a new age and become a world-class university.”
However, our findings reveal that for the past two years, the Zamfara State University has been operating from its temporary site, even without academic and non-academic staff. As a result, all the functions of the institution that are expected to be carried out by the relevant management staff, such as deans, heads of departments and examination officers are being performed by the visiting lecturers, who periodically come from other universities across the country.
Investigation revealed that the university could not recruit permanent staff and even pay the temporary ones (visiting lecturers) due to the failure of the state government to release the monthly sum of N100million overhead cost that was recommended by the strategy and development committee.
There are fears among some educationists that the NUC may shut down the university which is yet to be accredited.
Meanwhile, the Zamfara State Government has blamed the situation in the university on the immediate past administration, saying the takeoff committee was neither given any clear terms of reference nor was it given the financial wherewithal to execute any initiative.
“For the record, the immediate past administration in the state secured the NUC licence for the establishment of the state university. However, it may interest the general public to note that only the site of the university was identified and secured in Talata Mafara and contracts for the development of facilities were awarded at hyperinflated costs to cronies. There was no management staff, academic and non-academic staff for the institution,” Ibrahim Magaji Dosara, the state information commissioner said.
The commissioner said all the processes for the recruitment of 265 academic and 300 non-academic staff were in an advanced stage.
“Interviews have been conducted for most of the applicants. They are awaiting the last stage of the final screening. The governor has also approved the release of N60m owed the part-time lecturers,” he said.
Similarly, SaharaReporters’ investigation in March revealed that the university had been operating with an abysmally low number of academic and non-academic staff members for over two years.
The report noted that the school’s management, which was established in 2018 during the administration of Abdul-Aziz Yari as governor of the state, had only four permanent staff members despite having over 1,200 students and offering at least 18 courses.
Apart from a vice-chancellor, registrar, bursar, and director of academic planning, who were employed in 2020 by the administration of the incumbent governor of Zamfara, Matawalle; the university had been using visiting academics from other schools with mostly master’s degrees to function as deans, departmental heads, examination officers and assume other important roles in the institution.