By Mujeebat Idris
Crescent University, Abeokuta, Ogun State, South West Nigeria is one of the flagships in private education in the country. Founded in 2005 by former Judge at the International Court of Justice (IJC), His Excellency Judge (Prince) Bola Ajibola, SAN, CFR, the institution has positioned itself as a centre of academic and moral excellence both nationally and internationally. In this interview by Crescent Studios, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Ibraheem Gbajabiamila bears his mind on girl-child education, corporate social responsibility, zero tolerance for drug abuse and other issues. Excerpts:
Can you tell us your background?
My name is Prof. Ibraheem Gbajabiamila, the vice chancellor, Crescent University, Abeokuta, Nigeria.I was born in Lagos. I had my primary and secondary education both in the UK.I attended the University of London for my first degree in Microbiology. I then stayed on for my PhD in Virology and got it in 1984, then stayed on as a research fellow.I worked for about 30 years before being recruited by His Excellency Prince Bola Ajibola to work for Crescent University about ten years ago.
Why have you chosen to work with Crescent University?
To contribute my quota to the mission of the founder of the university. When Judge Ajibola retired from the International Court of Justice at age 70, he thought about investing in education as his contribution to the society.After establishing the primary and secondary education, he also started Crescent University in 2005 when the official license was obtained from the National Universities Commission (NUC).I support the need to develop our nation through education.
The motto of Crescent University, Abeokuta is “Citadel of Academic and Moral Excellence”. How can you justify this in the operation of the institution?
I think the motto is apt.It encompasses the vision of the proprietor that he wanted an academic excellence institution. But more importantly he wanted students that are morally upright and sound. And again, part of challenges in public universities is cultism, rowdiness and total lack of focus by some students. So, the idea that a university established on a firm moral basis is necessary. If you are coming here, you are coming to be a rounded human being. We have a number of programmes that are included–an academic plus, Global Citizenship and moral injunction opportunities. So, in the end, when a student graduates from Crescent University, he is not only academic excellent but also in character. It is that character that the moral excellence is about. I think we have achieved both.And that is what attracts parents to us.Since we are a fee-paying institution, parents want to make sure that they spend their money appropriately and to ensure that they get value for money.
Most of your first class products are female.What accounts for this?
This is a national and international phenomenon and ours is not any different. Over the last ten sets, female students have performed excellently well at Crescent. Again, with my international experience, this is the same pattern all over and we always asked and debated why is this the case?So, without fear or favour, we can say that the female students work harder; they are here for the primary purpose. As a result, they achieve that purpose. So, when you go to any graduation internationally–in Malaysia, Singapore, London, and various other places like the USA–and you now look at the profile of the students, you get the same result. And of course, it is a welcome development in Crescent University because if you work hard and achieve results, somebody else should not complain if they have not done so.Therefore, the gender issue has been knocked on the head because in the old days, parents might feel that getting education for a female child might be a waste of money because she was going to be somebody else’s wife. Most of the parents now know that a child whether male or female is important. I saw a programme recently on one airline that all the crew members were females–the pilot and the flight officers. It is an inspiration to the girl child because in some parts of the country, they may not feel it’s worthwhile investment.The Proprietor, Judge Ajibola, in setting up of Crescent University, is in the mission to increase opportunities for the girl child. And the first intake of the university, females were less than 20% while males were over 80% but now the situation has been reversed because fifteen years later, female students are now in the majority and the perfomance remains high.The university has a conducive environment where female students can thrive without molestation. At Crescent, the girls work very hard, get the desired result because there is an enabling environment; they are committed to their studies because they understand that their parents are making sacrifices for them to be here.Our law graduate, Zainab Akinde got a first class at the Nigerian Law School recently. Another female graduate from Mass Communication,Rafiat Gawat got a first class with us and also went to Robert Gordon University in the UK where she also got a distinction at Master’s level. This is a validation that our first class is truly world class.We have a catalogue of others doing wonderfully in employment and further studies around the world.
Has Crescent University, Abeokuta recorded any feat since your assumption as vice chancellor?
I am proud to say that we have a number of firsts. The most important for us in terms of academic excellence is to have all our programmes validated by the NUC which is our regulatory body to have 100% accreditation. This is an important feat in terms of the regulation of the university system. You can either get denial, interim or full accreditation. The real goal for any institution is full accreditation which means that it will be five years before they come back again. And to come out with results that we have achieved is a feat for the university. For example, our Mass Communication got 93.5% while the least programme scored 81%. We need 70% to get full accreditation. So, that is an achievement and a testament to our staff who have worked hard to achieve and maintain this standard that the proprietor has always wanted in academic excellence. So, we can essentially say through the NUC accreditation that we are a centre for academic excellence.
Drug abuse is one major challenge with the youth globally. How is your university checkmating the tide?Has Crescent witnessed any major incidence?
I first want to agree with you that drug abuse is a major national and international problem. It is something that is destroying communities and it has walked its way into tertiary education. It is distraction to academic endeavour. When we say drug abuse, when people have not got access to drug, they have improvised. And information being provided on the internet has allowed some people to experiment with unsafe drugs which has led to many deaths and tragedies for parents. As a faith-based university, we take this issue very seriously. We have clinic where we do drug testing to ensure that anybody flouting the rules will be expelled from the university because what parents are paying for is academic and moral excellence which is our academic plus. Academic plus and drug abuse cannot go together. So, we have zero tolerance for that.In our matriculation oath and all the counseling that we do, students know that it leads to expulsion. Thankfully, we have not had the kind of issues that happen in public universities especially where students are living outside the campus. If you are living with a landlord, you cannot tell your neighbours not to smoke.As a result, students may be exposed. Our policy is for all the students to be resident on campus. So, opportunities for drug taking by students are curtailed.
What has Crescent University contributed to Corporate Social Responsibility of its immediate environment?
All over the world, any community where there is a university, by virtue of that university existence, the community will benefit either through employment or business opportunities. The Proprietor of this university has continued to sponsor a number of students on scholarship annually. We have had different cases.Our best graduating student in 2018 was going to drop out at 200 level because her parents could not afford to carry on with payment of her fees.So, she rewarded her parents by getting a first class and one of the night Cumulative Grade Point Average. He also provides scholarship to members of the community. Crescent University is the major employer in this community.
Do you admit based on religion?
Education must be for all. At Crescent, we welcome everybody irrespective of their religious beliefs. We have a mixture of staff and students which is the vision of the founder that you must not exclude somebody for any other reasons for academics. If you are good enough and you are able to meet the standard, you are welcome here.