Alumni associations invest in HE infrastructure, equipment

Several government-run tertiary education institutions in Nigeria with crumbling infrastructure have been getting facelifts through the interventions of their respective alumni associations at state, national and global level.

For years, the need to improve the infrastructure of public universities has been a bone of contention between the Academic Staff Union of Universities and the federal government.

And the failure of the government to release NGN1.2 trillion (about US$2.6 billion) revitalisation funds, as part of an earlier agreement it reached with the union, has forced academics to go on strike 16 times – cumulatively running into about five years during the past 23 years.

But alumni associations, whose members comprise prominent politicians, religious leaders, entrepreneurs, academics and other professionals, have been stepping up to plug many of the gaps by raising funds to execute projects that impact their alma maters.

The University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) in Borno State is a beneficiary of such alumni generosity. The university has been battling power outages for about two years because electrical installations supplying power to the institution were vandalised.

But, recently, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT, Abuja) chapter of the UNIMAID Alumni Association installed a 20kVA solar system to light up the school library.

The chairman of the association in the FCT, Baba Shettima-Kukawa, told University World News that another 10kVA solar power is nearing completion to guarantee 24-hour activities at the library. He said the association’s target is to install 200kVA in phases to power the whole campus.

“We are all aware of the funding challenge in the university. UMAID has had inadequate power supply for almost two years and the university runs on diesel-powered generators. There has been a steady increase in the cost of diesel from NGN260 two years ago to up to about NGN900 per litre now.

“The alumni association deliberated about the issue and launched the 200kVA solar power initiative in March 2022 at our maiden annual general congress. So far, we have been able to install 20kVA of solar power which cost about NGN13 million. This is to enable students to study in the library at any time of day.”

Shettima-Kukawa maintained that the project would help the university management to save money on fuel and generator maintenance, and channel its limited funds into other pressing needs.

He said the association is reaching out to alumni through jingles, videos, flyers and text messages for support to complete the NGN120 million electricity project.

“We have thousands of graduates from UNIMAID and, if we get 5,000 members to contribute NGN25,000 each, we will get the project completed,” the chairman added.

Hostel built, cancer centre ongoing

After building a 54-bedroom hostel worth NGN200 million for postgraduate students at the University of Ibadan (UI) in Oyo State, the UI Alumni Association (UIAA) intends to set up an NGN2 billion cancer diagnostic centre at the university college hospital, the medical arm of the institution.

The UIAA former national president, Dr Kemi Emina, said the hostel would cushion the effects of the government’s inadequate funding of the institution.

“The hostel was completed in 2018 to mark the 60th anniversary of the university. I urge graduates of UI, who are doing excellently in their chosen fields, to not forget their alma mater,” he appealed.

The president of UIAA worldwide, Professor Elsie Adewoye, said the fundraising for the cancer diagnostic centre began in March, 2022 and members are responding positively, adding that the centre is aimed at stemming the mortality rate of the disease in Nigeria due to late diagnosis.

Adewoye said the association is also soliciting the support of individuals and organisations to make the project a reality and scale up diagnosis of the disease at the early stage.

Nigeria has one of the highest cancer mortality rates in the world, with 124,815 cases recorded in 2020 of which 78,899 people died, the World Health Organization’s Global Cancer Observatory disclosed. And 10,000 new cases and 7,000 deaths were recorded from 1 January to 2 February 2023, as reported by Nigerian Tribune.

“The question may be asked why we have chosen to intervene in cancer, and not other diseases. Why not HIV and AIDS, for instance, or the twin threats of diabetes and hypertension, or even sickle cell anaemia, which has been described as a disease of the black race? [It is because] cancer has emerged as a leading cause of death annually and globally,” Adewoye said.

UNILAG alumni’s interventions

To meet some of the infrastructural needs at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), its alumni association renovated a shopping complex on the campus with the support of Zenith Bank.

The facility, now renamed the ‘UNILAG Alumni complex’, houses small businesses that provide goods and services on the campus.

Vice-chairman of UNILAG Alumni, Lagos Chapter, Mathew Alabi, said the association also built lecture theatres in the university through generous donations from former students.

“They [the alumni] include former and serving state governors, the vice-president of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, successful entrepreneurs and religious leaders. We don’t really have any problem raising funds. All we need to do is to convince the alumni about the projects we want to put up in the school and they will make donations.

“The alumni have built structures in the university, including a lecture theatre at the Mass Communication Department and supported indigent students. We are also reaching out to businesses in Lagos for the development of the school. A businessman donated five brand new buses to the school recently,” Alabi told University World News.

He said the association is working towards finding a lasting technological solution to the delay in processing transcripts (academic results) of former students, particularly those seeking admission for postgraduate studies abroad.

He said: “Many students have missed admissions due to delay in releasing their transcripts. The alumni association met with the vice-chancellor recently and discussed the issue. We are trying to make the necessary provisions to end the delay.”

Ex-students provide potable water, electricity to OAU

Alumni of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State, are also throwing their weight behind their alma mater.

The global publicity secretary, OAU alumni association, Akeem Amodu, said the body has existed for over five decades and contributed to the development of the institution by providing infrastructure and creating a conducive learning environment.

He said: “The association and individual members have contributed to the development of the health centre, halls of residence, boreholes, the installation of electricity and solar panels in the university.

“We have generated funds through the alumni centre that have been ploughed back into the institution in various areas of academic, administrative and infrastructural needs.

“Alumni in the diaspora are also making interventions in their various departments and faculties by rehabilitating laboratories, libraries and classrooms in the university.”

Amodu promised that the association will continue to work in synergy with the university management to ensure the institution delivers on its mandate.

Alumnus donates medical equipment

In September 2022, a medical scientist based in London, United Kingdom, Dr Adetokunbo Ogunfemi, donated equipment worth “over NGN100 million” to a newly established health centre in his former school – the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro in Ogun State.

Ogunfemi, while presenting the medical equipment in the presence of the institution’s governing council members, said the items will benefit both students and management.

“One of the pieces of equipment is for the detection of cancer. There are also microscopes for the detection of microorganisms and microbes. The microscopes can be used to detect malaria parasites, test low blood, anaemia, food poison, diabetes, low sugar, among others. The polytechnic just opened a new hospital and I hope they will be able to use the equipment properly,” he said.