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We are working to save indigenous languages from extinction – Prof. Pate

Professor Umaru A. Pate is the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Kashere (FUK), Gombe State. In this interview, the professor of Mass Communication…

Professor Umaru A. Pate is the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Kashere (FUK), Gombe State. In this interview, the professor of Mass Communication spoke on the move to unbundle mass communication course and efforts towards saving indigenous languages from going to extinction and more.

It has been a year since you assumed the office of vice chancellor, how has the journey been?

Alhamdullilah, we have been able to improve on what we have found on the ground as well as try to consolidate on the record we have made in the university. When I came-in I promised to build on what I have found and also intend on focusing on six major areas.

Firstly, academic and physical development, secondly, improving and sustaining standard and quality in the system, third, to strengthen our relationship with the host community that is the town and gown, four, focusing on staff and student welfare, five, improving on our Information and Communication Technology (ICT) visibility and the sixth about resource mobilisation.

We have been able to do some things under all these areas. And so far, we have reason to be grateful and to Allah and also thank the owners of the university, that is the federal government for all the support. Then here one can mention specifically stakeholders like the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), the Gombe State Government, the National Universities Commission (NUC) and our staff and students and of course the host community. They have all played significant roles in helping us to sustain peace and tranquility in the campus.

Did you introduced new courses and programmes that would help the students competitiveness in contemporary Nigeria?

Yes, both at the undergraduate and the post-graduate level. At the undergraduate level, we have been able to obtain the approval of the NUC to commence seven new programmes. We have courses like Mass Communication, Procurement Sciences, Entrepreneurial Sciences, International Relations and a few others.

So, we are comfortable with that. Secondly, we have been able to split some of our programmes, we have additional faculties. For example, faculty of humanity and social science are now two faculties. So, in that aspect there is progress. We also have a plan to start college of medical sciences. And again, at the post-Graduate school we have been able to commence new programmes at the masters and the post-graduate diploma levels. We are also grateful to get the approval of the NUC and JAMB to increase our enrollment quota, in line with the additional departments that we have established.

What is the level of preparation for the take-off of the Campus Radio Station?

We have gone very far in that respect. TETFund is supporting us to establish a Radio Station as well as a TV studio to support our training in mass communication. And already we have gone very far and as I am talking to you the mast of the radio station has been erected and we are expecting the studio equipment to arrive from the manufacturer through the contractor within the first quarter of the year. And once the equipment are in and we are also able to get our license from the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), our radio station will hit the airwaves. We are optimistic that before the first half of the year, our radio station will be in air.

And for the TV studio, we may not necessarily apply for the license to broadcast but the TV studio will be completely set up, where we can record, edit and facilitate training for students, particularly for those that are interested in broadcast. So, in that respect I think we have made good progress and we thank TETFund for coming to our aid in that regard.

Definitely the radio with the broadcast facilities will facilitate our intention to introduce a new programme in Mass Communications. As you may be aware the federal government has unbundled the programme and instead of having Mass Communication alone, we now have eight new programmes.

And is it the intention of the university that in the course of time to establish our own faculty of communication with the additional departments, so that we could be like any other university that trains for a Bachelor of Sciences in Journalism, Broadcasting, Public Relations, Advertising, Development Communication, Media and Information Studies and all of that. So, we are working quietly towards that respect.

How were you able to get funds for all these projects and programmes, despite the economic challenges in the country posed by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Well, we thank God that despite all the difficulties and the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government through the TETFund has sustained its effort and remains committed in funding the institutions, especially for our capital projects. And some of the projects I have talked about are coming from the TETfund as well as some of our stakeholders that are gracious enough to assist us like the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the North East Development Commission (NEDC), they have been helping us with interventions and also through the offices of people like Senator Muhammad Danjuma Goje, the Gombe state government, who are also helping us in their own way in the development of the university and we remain grateful for all of that.

You are leading a move through the MacArthur Foundation to revive translation of local languages in broadcast stations. What is the motivation behind this?

This has been part of my engagement while I was at the Bayero University, Kano (BUK), and I am still associated with it through the MacArthur Foundation. We have been focusing on the issues of indigenous language broadcasting, to see how we can improve on what exists and how we can use our indigenous languages particularly in broadcasting, to promote things like investigative journalism, advocacy and issues of corruption and all of that.

It may interest you to know that despite our claim to be indigenously conscious the amount of time we devoted to indigenous languages in our broadcasting stations is relatively low and we need to do more. And there are a number of reasons why you see that sometimes our broadcast media organisations have been reluctant to allocate a lot of air time to local languages.

First, they look at the political economy of broadcasting in these languages. They tell you that advertisers sometimes are not willing to sponsor programmes in local languages. Then they look at the availability of the competent staff who can translate and broadcast in some of these languages.

Then we have the proliferation of these languages, by the time a radio station says it is going to devote even if it is just an hour each to the number of the local languages available in a state, they may end up taking over almost all the airtime broadcasting in the local station. And particularly for the private stations, they need money to survive and if advertisers are not interested in broadcasting through these languages, it becomes a challenge for you. So, there are a number of issues which I believe we scholars are addressing at a number of conferences. And we are also discussing the instrumentality of our curriculum to address them in our various institutions.

So, it is an ongoing thing and MacArthur has been quite supportive and helpful in promoting the activities and particularly to see that the quantum of programming in our indigenous languages is increased for many more people to buy into it.

Can you shed more light on the partnership between the FUK and the UNICEF?

You know that the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is a major stakeholder for maternal and child health in this country and particularly in our region. They have been playing a very big role particularly in child health and institutions like our own can be a very good partner for them. We have the resources in terms of personnel, we can help them in promoting some of the things they do and equally we can mainstream some of the great ideas that they have and some of the resources available into our courses to promote child health and protection of children right and all that. So, UNICEF is right to seek our partnership. We are also right because we need each other, we can have an efficient relationship that we can promote what they are doing and also enhance the content of our curriculum.

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