The Federal University of Health Sciences Azare (FUHSA), Bauchi, is one of the specialised universities established by President Muhammadu Buhari with a takeoff grant of N5 billion to close the huge gap in the doctor-patient ratio and in medical research and production of pharmaceutical products.
The varsity, which is sited at the former College of Administrative and Business Studies of the Tatari Ali Polytechnic Campus, started academic programmes in five areas: medicine and surgery, dentistry, nursing, nutrition and dietetics, as well as radiography, the Daily Trust gathered.
The university matriculated 760 pioneer students for the 2021–2022 and 2022–2023 academic sessions on January 17, 2023.
The Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Bala Mohammed Audu, at the matriculation, said both the National Universities Commission and the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria have given written, express authorization to it to commence admission and training of medical students with an initial intake of 100 students.
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He revealed that the university is working with the National Agricultural Land Development Agency (NALDA) and other partners to ensure it becomes an international hub through the establishment of an industrial park for nutritional products that is sustainable and competitive in both local and international markets.
“No university in the North East is currently accredited for this programme. It holds a huge entrepreneurial potential; a springboard for nutraceutical and agri-preneurship.
“It is a means of sustainability and financial independence for the university, and we hope the graduates will be self-reliant and employers of labour rather than jobseekers,” he said.
When our correspondent visited the school, he observed that academic activities were in full swing, with students receiving lectures at various lecture halls.
Also, construction work is still ongoing, with engineers and labourers at different points within the premises of the institution, carrying out renovation and reconstruction works, while others were at the site for the construction of new structures.
Despite the smooth takeoff of academic activities, however, investigation revealed that the new university is facing a series of challenges, which include a porous and unprotected environment that exposes students and lecturers to security risk.
Other challenges are inadequate academic and administrative staff as well as accommodation for additional lecture spaces and lecturers.
Some students, who spoke to Daily Trust, said the porous state of the campus makes them apprehensive as they mingled with other residents. Some of them are staff of the polytechnic that are yet to vacate the housing estate within the institution, they said, adding that they were constituting a nuisance to the university community.
However, a student, who gave her name only as Maryam, said they are happy with developments in the new university.
She said all the female students who are residing in three different locations have been moved back to the school hostel at the permanent site.
“The only challenge now is the remaining people on campus who are not part of the university community,” she said.
Also, a male student who doesn’t want to be named told our correspondent that everything was going smoothly at the university except for the presence of some people who were neither students nor part of the institution.
“These people are hosting a notorious drug spot that attracts young men from Azare township at night and are constituting a security threat to the university,” he said.
When contacted during the visit, the V-C, Professor Audu, in an extensive interview with Daily Trust, confirmed the challenges raised by the students.
He said, “Our greatest challenges so far include security. As you can see, the campus is very porous, and our boundaries are very open.
“We are in the North East, an area where the security situation has challenges, and we are very worried because we are housing a team of over 700 students and over 200 staff from different parts of the country.”
While noting that the security of the campus and the safety of staff and students are serious issues that they need to address to provide an enabling working environment, he said they need to erect a perimeter fence to complement the number of security personnel in the varsity.
The second pressing challenge, according to the V-C, is getting the required number of personnel, particularly academics.
“We are going into the various aspects of our training by the next academic session; we definitely need more academic staff to be able to provide the necessary kind of tuition so that we graduate the best quality healthcare providers for this country and beyond,” he said.
“We also need lecture spaces and students’ hostels because a shortage of these will pose a major challenge to us. So we are soliciting the government to come immediately and begin building additional hostels and accommodations for lectures and laboratories.
“In particular, we need to ensure that we have a standard building for the Faculty of Allied Health Sciences, which is going to accommodate up to 10 academic programmes or more,” he added.
The VC also noted that they need to build the Faculty of Clinical Sciences, which is the final stage of the NBBS programme, adding that they also need to ensure that the central administration of the university is built, which is the Senate building, as well as a purpose-built library, which is critical to the development of a university anywhere in the world.
On the journey so far, the VC explained that the earlier available funds enabled the university to carry out certain basic and fundamental issues to start its programmes.
“Perhaps the single most important is the staff funding to enable the university to employ the academic staff critical to the programmes as well as the administrative and other supportive staff, which has enabled the smooth takeoff of these programmes,” he said.
He said that with another JAMB, they should be preparing to take the third batch of students in the five programmes, adding, “We intend to start another batch of five or more academic programmes, which will bring our academic programmes to 10 or more.”
The Senate is still working on the possibility of doing that, but it will be restricted by the availability of spaces and vacancies that will be given by the office of the Head of Service of the Federation to recruit additional academic and administrative staff to ensure that we takeoff additional academic programmes,” he said.
The V-C, however, disclosed that applications to the university for the last two sessions were overwhelming, saying, “we have not been able to take up to 10 per cent of the number of candidates that apply; maybe we take just two per cent of the students who apply. So we need to expand on admission quota but there are lots of limitations.”
On infrastructure, the V-C said: “We inherited quite a number of structures that were built by TETFUND, but they were not built for the purpose for which we wanted to use them, and quite a number of them were already dilapidated.”
He said the first category of funds was to remodel the structures to suit the new purpose for which the campus will be used and the second part is to renovate the structures, and the renovation, to a very large extent, is almost 80 per cent complete.
“We have started using three of those structures that were renovated and remodelled. The Science Units, the Twin lecture theatre and the girls student hostel have already been put to use while renovation is still on with the remaining structures,” he said.
“The second part of the infrastructural funding has to do with the building of two key faculties that would accommodate the students in their next stage of training. These are the Faculty of Dentistry and the Faculty of Basic Clinical Sciences, and these are structures that were started from the foundation, and they’re at the roofing stage and these are very gigantic structures by any standard anywhere in the world,” the VC further stated.
He noted, however, that TETFUND has been able to provide funding for the infrastructural development.
Our correspondent noted that the university only has one large lecture theatre and four medium-sized ones, but plans are underway to build more structures for lectures.
According to the V-C, “We need larger lecture theatres so that we will be able to take over 500 students at a sitting, and we definitely need a 1000 size lecture theatre, which most universities have.
That is something that is very critical to our next stage of development, and we are going to make a case, and we are sure that the federal government will listen to us and make adequate provisions.
“In fact, the critical investment that has already been made is enormous, and we can see the dividend is already paying with the number of students coming from all parts of the country who are already benefiting from the training.
Basically, this is where we are, and we hope we are going to grow larger and larger each year,” he said.
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