04.11.2013 - Africa Department

Leading Nigerian Private University awards ADG Africa

Ekiti, Nigeria 21 October 2013: The Afe Babalola University (ABUAD), a prestigious private institution of high learning based in Ekiti State in Nigeria, has awarded Ms. Lalla Aicha Ben Barka, Assistant Director-General for UNESCO’s African Department a Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) degree in acknowledgement of her long service and commitment to the development of education in Africa.

The award was given to Ms. Ben Barka during the University’s maiden convocation held on 21 October 2013 at the campus in Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria. The convocation ceremony was also attended by a number of senior Nigerian officials who included Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria who was also awarded an honorary doctor of science degree.

Afe Babalola University was established in 2009 by Chief Aare Afe Babalola, a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos and Chairman of Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigeria Universities and member of the Club of Rectors of Europe. It is located on 130 hectares of land at an altitude of over 1500 feet above sea level which provides cool and ideal climate of learning and sports activities. It is the only university in Nigeria, which prior to the issuance of provisional license by the Federal Government of Nigeria, moved to its permanent site and constructed magnificent College buildings and College Hostels, Staff Quarters and equipped with modern teaching facilities including E-learning platform and electronic boards within eight months.

In her keynote address at the University’s Convocation, Dr. Ben Barka gave an overview of the evolution of higher education in Africa noting the earlier contribution of such prestigious universities as Dakar, Ibadan, Makerere and Fura Bay which was later eroded by various policies including structural adjustment programmes that rendered higher education a luxury that African countries could not afford. “Structural adjustment policies led to severe reduction of government spending on higher education with a significant negative impact on the sub-sector,” she observed. She observed, however, that in the 1990s policies have changed in favor of higher education which UNESCO supports. “It is in that new context that, UNESCO’s higher education programme activities was also presented along with UNESCO’s holistic approach to education. Dr. Ben Barka highlighted that UNESCO provides political and technical expertise and support its member states in their efforts to achieve education for all and MDGs and other agreed upon global development agenda”.

Dr. Ben Barka commended the economic achievement of Nigeria which she attributed to its highly educated human resource, noting that “Nigeria has the highest number of Ph.D.s and engineers in Africa, and also graduates from technical and vocational training institutions.” She reiterated the importance of private partnerships with the public sector to improve education provision in Africa and commended ABUAD for its excellent facilities and faculty that will ensure high quality graduates.

In her acceptance speech, Dr. Ben Barka underscored the importance of education to enable the societies remain competitive in a changing world. “The world is changing very fast and the levels of education have gone up considerably across the globe. Thus, even as we celebrate what we have accomplished, we must continuously raise the education and skills level of the people so as to be globally competitive, as individuals, as organizations, and as a country,” she added. She commended ABUAD for what it has accomplished in the four yours since its establishment to become one of the prestigious, private universities in Africa. She affirmed UNESCO’s support and strong interest to collaborate with ABUAD University through the regional offices in Abuja and all the sectors.

Professor Hassana Alidou, Director UNESCO Abuja, accompanied Dr. Ben Barka to Ekiti. Together they had a working session with the Vice Chancellor of the University in order to determine areas of collaboration. They also visited the First Lady of Ekiti State Dr. Erelu Bisi Fayemi, the co-Founder of African Women Funds in order to sollicite her active involvement in the gender and transformative leadership programme implemented by UNESCO and also her support for UNESCO in Nigeria. The meeting was very productive and the outcomes include joint the development of joint programmes with respectively ABUAD and the First Lady’s Office.

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