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You are here:Home>>Strategic Research & Analysis>>AUN: A Nigerian University for the Future
Friday, 30 August 2013 14:13

AUN: A Nigerian University for the Future

Written by Dr. Margee M.Ensign
Graduating students of AUN Graduating students of AUN photo: newsdiary



In the northeast corner of Nigeria, a small private university is persevering in its mission to be Nigeria’s Premier Development University.  Dedicated to the education of Nigeria’s next generation of leaders, with a commitment to economic and social justice for all, the American University of Nigeria (AUN), Yola, has just graduated its fifth class--on schedule, and in spite of the political challenges in the area.   I would like to share what AUN is doing to help create in Nigeria a brighter and more prosperous future, and suggest the role that Nigerian higher education must play to ensure that future.


Today, Nigeria needs the idealism, talent, commitment, and courage of its youth.  Today we all need appropriately educated young people to take on the challenges of an increasingly crowded, complex, and often troubled world.

There will be nothing easy about being a citizen of the 21st century.

Fundamentally, a university is all about informing people.  A university informs its students and it informs its society and the world.  So the interesting question, the vital question, is what do people need to be informed about now, in this world, in this place? What information is needed?  What skills?


Since its founding as Africa’s first Development University, AUN has been refining our answer to that question.  We have been re-thinking what it means to be an African university for the 21st century.

Let me focus on three things that have become particularly distinctive about our role in what Ms Hunter-Gault has rightly called ‘Africa’s Renaissance’:  community service, sustainability, and the move to e-sources.


From the beginning, AUN with faculty and students from over 25 countries, has felt the need to be actively involved in the local community, and to have our students involved there.  Community service is now something that all AUN students participate in—helping in health clinics, in banks, in schools, in libraries, in orphanages.  One of the things we have learned in the field of development—at great cost--is that book learning isn’t enough.  Unless you actually experience the problems faced by the people you want to help—the schools without books or desks or sometimes even roofs, the clinics without reliable medicines—you may come up with the wrong questions and the wrong answers. Thus community service is now central to the process of “informing” our students.


Our involvements with our communities have been wide and varied. The Students Empowered Through Language, Literacy and Arithmetic (STELLAR) Project was designed to harness the knowledge, creativity, and civic-mindedness of the AUN student body to provide critical assistance to primary school children in Adamawa State. In partnership with Jolly Learning Ltd, and the Adamawa State Ministry of Education, we will run a pilot programme implementing the Jolly Phonics early literacy curriculum in six local primary schools beginning Fall (August) 2013. Jolly Learning will provide textbooks, classroom materials and teacher training while AUN will facilitate logistics, monitoring and evaluation. If successful, the programme will be extended to all primary one classes in public schools throughout Adamawa State.


Considering the peculiar security challenges facing the North-east Nigeria, AUN has played a leading role in inculcating a peace and resolution culture by sponsoring the Adamawa Peace Council (APC) designed to foster peace and harmony. And in collaboration with the local CBOs, AUN has undertaken a community wide development initiative that provides free basic computer ICT training to primary/secondary school teachers, unemployed youths, students, farmers, small business owners and government employees. The AUN Women Development Centre offers core courses in women studies and interdisciplinary courses on health and violence against women.


The generosity of our Founder, His Excellency Atiku Abubakar, whose singular and unique dream and vision has made all of this a reality. This is a man who has committed personal resources, time and energy in granting assisting the underprivileged acquire functional education through various scholarship schemes. AUN offers numerous scholarship schemes to deserving students.

Our students go out into the world to see what is happening, combine that with what they are learning in the classroom, try to formulate new answers to the challenges we are all facing, and then go back out to test them in the real world.  It is a life-changing experience for most.  The have come to truly know.  And to care.

Something else the world has learned very painfully is that development which does not care for its environment can cause more problems than it solves.  In spite of all China’s success, for example, people in Beijing are now frightened of the very air they must breathe.


We have therefore plunged into one of the most innovative programmes in “sustainability” in Africa.  What this means is that we must learn to care for, and restore our natural environment even as we improve the lives of people who live in it.  We must care for the land and the water and the air.  We must find ways to re-cycle our garbage.  We must come up with new solutions to our environmental challenges so that we can live and prosper on earth.


AUN Pix 2013 600 Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President and founder of American University of Nigeria, Yola (AUN) and American Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Terence P. McCulley at the 2013 AUN graduation dinner in Yola, Adamawa State with Dr. Margee M.Ensign, President of AUN.

Here at AUN, in our usual hands-on way, we are teaching ourselves, our students, and our local community how to live more responsibly on the planet.  We plant trees to prevent erosion.  We recycle plastic waste into building materials.  We recycle water so that it can be drunk once again.   We find new ways to conserve energy.   Of course, we involve our students in every project so that they learn responsible stewardship of their land, and of their planet.


Finally, one of the ways we are preserving resources is to move from paper to electronic information sources as the backbone of our community.


Since its founding, AUN has been a wireless campus.  All students and faculty have computers.  Now we are building the first truly wireless library in all of Africa. This saves trees and forests just as it saves transportation fuel costs.  A true e-library (and in this we are far ahead of almost all American and European universities) brings the best and latest knowledge and research from all over the world right here to Yola, Adamawa State. It is an astounding technology and it is changing everything.  Here at AUN we are at its cutting edge, a model for Nigeria and the world.  We have a library of the future just as we aim to be a university for the future.


Traditionally, all good universities have been central to preserving and transmitting the best that has been thought and known, of passing on the priceless cultural heritage of their civilisations to a new generation.  Traditionally, all good universities have fostered the creation of the new knowledge called for by the times.  Our times are particularly challenging and fast moving, so our universities have to be especially creative and nimble.


At AUN, our hope is to be of service to the country and to Africa, while providing our students the skills and knowledge to thrive and to lead.  We look forward to working with all Nigerians in helping to forge a brighter future.


•Dr. Margee M.Ensign, President of AUN, is a professor of politics and economics.

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