Monday, 12 October 2009

Computer giant, UN expands scheme to stem ‘brain drain’

MORE than a dozen universities in Africa and the Middle East will benefit from a joint project between the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and United States computer company Hewlett-Packard, which seeks to provide the technology and tools needed to stem the migration of graduates and reduce the ‘brain drain’ from the regions.
Building on the successful pilot phase of the project, which benefited institutions in Algeria, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Zimbabwe, 15 universities will be involved in its expansion that will also include schools in Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Senegal and Uganda.
The ‘Brain Gain Initiative’, set up in 2003, allows schools to collaborate with experts worldwide in innovative education and research projects with the help of advanced grid and cloud computing technologies — hardware and software infrastructure — that clusters and integrates high-end computer networks, databases and scientific instruments from multiple sources to form a virtual environment. It seeks to quell the exodus of academics and scientists, who have the potential to contribute to the development of their home country.
“We have suffered in the past from our best talents leaving Senegal to further their careers elsewhere,” said Ibrahima Niang of Senegal’s Cheikh Anta Diop University (UCAD), one of the beneficiaries of the scheme during its pilot phase.
“This project helps us to plug into the world of research,” he said. “We can build connections with colleagues in other countries, which benefit our own work, and this link also provides an opportunity for our own academics and researchers to further their careers from Senegal.”
UNESCO and Hewlett-Packard hope that 100 universities can be reached by the initiative by 2011 with the help of additional partners.

SSANU, NASU shut UI gates, force everybody to jump fence
THE Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non Academic Staff Union (NASU) made good their threat when they shut down the University of Ibadan (UI) last week. Not even the gates of the university were spared.
Throughout last week, whoever gained entrance into the premier institution had to jump over the fence to find his or her way in.
The high point of this interesting scene was when a professor had to jump over the fence.
Many students had gathered at the gate early on Monday with the hope that the strike would be called off, the students had returned in large numbers to start preparation towards the second semester examination that was suspended when ASUU went on an indefinite strike.
A member of NASU, who spoke with The GuardianLIFE, on the condition of anonymity, said, “imagine the Federal Government giving ASUU 65 per cent increment, while giving NASU just 25 per cent. This is unacceptable.”
Another added, “as far as we are concerned, the universities will not be opened, we have just started; let the students go back to their homes, because we will make the university ungovernable.”
A principal officer of the university had condemned the closure of the university gate, while promising the university community the all efforts is geared towards resolving the industrial dispute.
In a related development, the UI branch of ASUU arising from its congress held on Wednesday, October 7, had agreed unanimously to put the strike on suspension for two weeks.
This much, Life Campus gathered at the Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan where the congress was held.
Arising from its NEC meeting, the ASUU president had called on all branches of the union to call its congress and discuss the Federal Government’s proposition.

SSANU, NASU vow to continue strike

By Kayode Bello
Following the intervention of the Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, in the strike action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) three months ago, the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), have vowed to continue the strike action unless the Federal Government called them for negotiation over their demands.
This was made known in Ibadan during the week when the unions locked the gates leading into the University of Ibadan (UI) to express their grievances over the segregation tactics of the Federal Government. According to the NASU Chairman, UI Chapter, Olusola Fatoki, the Federal government’s invitation for negotiation ought to have been extended to other unions who embarked on strike for similar demands.
“But unfortunately, what we heard from the Presidency is that they are not going to invite the non-teaching unions because they are not relevant in the system. We would let them know that there is no way ASUU can only operate alone in the system.” Nonetheless, Fatoki affirmed that they were ready to continue the strike unless the Federal Government resolved to negotiate with them.
In a related development, the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has disclosed that the branch congresses of the union would decide whether the strike action should be suspended or not as confirmed by Dr. Ademola Aremu, ASUU Chairman, UI Chapter.

Skills festival at LASPOTECH
A FESTIVAL for Vocational Skills was staged recently by the British Council, in partnership with the Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH) and Highbury College Portsmouth, UK, as part of efforts to provide high quality vocational education and skills training for youths in Lagos State.
Held October 8-10 at the Ikorodu Campus of LASPOTECH, the Festival of Skills, is an activity meant to publicise and market the proposed Vocational Skills Village that will be sited at the Lagos State Polytechnic, Ikorodu Campus.
As part of programmes for the festival, there was a road show on Thursday, October 8. The train took off from LASPOTECH, Ikorodu Campus. The official launch of the Village held on Friday, October 9, while demonstrations, master classes and shows were staged yesterday.
Briefing journalists on the event, Registrar of the Polytechnic, Princess Adetope Kosoko, said the idea for the project started in 2006 when the Tenders Board of the Polytechnic received the Chief Executive Officer of Highbury College, Mrs. Stella Mbubaegbu; who had come to discuss possible areas of collaboration between Highbury College and Laspotech.
After a series of understudy and visits to explore areas of collaboration, she said a memorandum of understanding was signed in the area of development of skills in Lagos State, particularly in the area of Plumbing, Electronics, Plastering, Building, Construction, Hospitality trade, hairdressing and others.
“The idea of the skills festival is to create awareness and enlighten the public of the wonderful opportunity available to them to acquire skills by undergoing training in line with British standard. The idea is to enlighten the public on the proposed village as well as solicit the support of other corporate bodies. The Vocational Skills Village (VSV) is an initiative borne out of the quest of the Polytechnic management to find solutions to the dwindling technological standard of the nation. The village when finally completed will serve as training and re-training ground for persons inclined towards vocational and technical skills,” she said.
Also, plans are already on to commence partnerships with industries in the technical and vocational sector, which would also work with the polytechnic to ensure that persons trained at the VSV are absorbed into the labour market. These include Briscoe Motors, Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI) and the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, (LCCI).
Rector of the Polytechnic, Mr. Ayodeji Iginla said “ We are expecting both the unskilled and already skilled to take part in the programme. Highbury has a very high technological drive supported by high digital technology techniques that we will find beneficial and apply in most of the things we do today. Everyone can benefit from the programme whether literate or semi literate. Our goal is to ensure that those who will pass through this programme go through informed apprenticeship as well as prepare them for self employment or use in the industry”.
He advised that Nigerians should take advantage of the programme to learn how to use modern technology to work perfectly in their various fields.
According to him, the country will in future depend less on certificate qualification but rather on hands- on-skills that bring rapid development to the country.
To ensure that the training received at the centre meets up to global standard, the Polytechnic has also explored its partnership with Highbury College, Portsmouth, UK by sending some its staff to the college for advanced trainings, which will be displayed during the Festival of Skills and which will serve as the basis for the training to be received at the VSV on completion.

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