By Ade Martins-
Nigerian lawyer and founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Chief Afe Babalola has come under heavy criticism over his donation of 10 million pounds to establish a learning centre at King’s College, London.
The educationist said the donation will go into the establishment of the Afe Babalola African Centre for Transnational Education in King’s College, as part of his efforts to ‘enable young Africans to access education and opportunities which they would otherwise not be able to have.’
At the official rate provided by the Central Bank of Nigeria, £10m is over N5.6bn
The Afe Babalola African Centre for Transnational Education, the institution to be established, will be specifically designed to enable young Africans to access education and opportunities which they would otherwise not be able to have.
It is believed the scheme will include special arrangements to sometimes reduce entry requirements for disadvantaged African children, though there has been no official word on the precise framework within which it would work.
As a big donor to the college, the university lecturer will have plenty of leverage on how many of his target group will gain entry into the prestigious school, even if they fall short of the usual entry requirements. While , Europeans pupils will also benefit from the scheme, mr. Babalola is expected will also play an overseeing role on how his money is spent.
In a statement on Friday, King’s College said the new centre would offer blended and online programmes, and also offer post-graduate level modules which can be brought together to create professionally recognised qualifications from diplomas to master degrees.
The statement said Babalola’s donation would provide scholarships alongside other funding partners, to support interested and qualified students.
“A bespoke programme for Africa will be developed in partnership with the University of London and an alliance of leading African universities,” the statement reads.
“Modules will focus on topics that give talented young people society-relevant knowledge and skills that can improve their own lives, their communities, and their futures – such as law, health, engineering, peace and security, and leadership.
On his part, Babalola said the project was inspired based on his ability to remotely secure a degree from the University of London as he did not have an opportunity to attend physical classes.
The senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) said literacy was the solution to many societal ills, adding that the project was in line with his passion for providing quality education.
“Education is the unquestionable panacea to ignorance, poverty, extremism, religious bigotry, and tribalism among other vices,” the SAN said.
“My contribution to this programme is a way of reciprocating what I benefitted from the laudable and unique external degree programme of the University of London in the 1960s without which I certainly would have ended up an unsung farmer or at best the secretary of the local motor union.”
Shitij Kapur, president of King’s College, applauded Babalola’s initiative saying the new centre was timely and would strengthen ties between European and African education partners
“More than 450 million African youth are between the ages of 15-35, with less than 10% of enrolled in post-secondary education, making the issue of access to quality education all the more urgent,” Kapur said.
“We are delighted that Aare Babalola’s donation provides a valuable opportunity to strengthen and grow our work with partners in Africa and deliver transformative education within the region.”
The university founder’s ambitious act of benevolence was also met with criticism in some quarter of social media.
Reacting to the development, a number of social media users berated the senior advocate for splashing such a humongous sum abroad despite the poor quality of education in Nigeria.
Twitter user Esonwunne Loveday tweeted, “considering the present state of education in Nigeria;wouldn’t it had been of necessity and needful when u scale the preference,If Afe babalola had invested such in any university in Nigeria.Ekiti state University?”
Mkpe Abang said, “Why doesn’t King’s College London instead invest or contribute to Afe Babalola’s educational institutions in Nigeria? Misplaced priorities”