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Next month, the English Department will be holding the Ife English Language, Literature and Communication conference; what actually is the essence of the conference?
For a long time now, the department has not hosted any conference, and the essence of the forthcoming conference is to create knowledge and disseminate it, as well as provide a forum for people to come out with the findings in their research.
The conference provides platform for academics to disseminate the fruit of their labour or research. That is basically what the conference is out to achieve. It is also an opportunity for academics to rub minds. So, it creates the opportunity to meet people whose works you have read but have not met. Academics can also make contacts at the conference, and that can result in an opportunity for one to be invited to contribute to a book project, attend another conference or even apply for research funds or grants.
The theme of the conference is Language, Literature and Communication in the Globalised and Digital Age; does this have any role in national development?
The vital role of language in human society cannot be overemphasised, because without language, nothing happens. In creating culture, we need language; in dreaming dreams, we need language, and in realising dreams, we need language, because we need to communicate with people; to pass instructions, organise work, to teach, to inform, and to do so many other things. For communication, we are all aware of the revolution taking place in the world of communication, and that is as a result of the boom in information technology (IT), and we are all making use of these new technologies, although they have their positive and negative aspects. When I look at dumped computer carcasses at the Maintenance Yard here, I don’t think people, especially those working there, really know the effect on human health and on the environment. So, we need more information on the use of these new technologies. They are definitely good, but people should be adequately informed about their negative aspects as well. It also seems to me that the telecommunication companies are not giving Nigerians good service, and this is part of what we will explore at the conference and come out with recommendations that will enhance the operations of the service providers.
There are three scholars who will be speaking at the conference — Professor McPherson Azubuike, Professor Remi Raji-Oyelade and Dr Suleiman Salau. What criteria did you use in selecting these scholars?
What we first looked at is availability. No matter how sound a scholar is, if he is not going to be available when you are holding your conference, then you cannot get him to come and deliver a keynote address. Also, another important aspect is the areas of research. The conference has three key components, that is, language, literature and communication, so each keynote speaker will address participants in their area of specialisation.
The English Department is as old as the university itself, and over the years, you must have produced a number of graduates who are currently doing the department proud in their fields of human endeavours. Can you give some of such people?
Even though we do not have a programme in Mass Communication in the university, the department has, however, contributed immensely to the world of journalism in this country. I can boldly say that it is journalism that took away the pillars of the department in the days of old. I could still remember people like Biodun Jeyifo, G.G Darah, Bayo Williams, Abike Dabiri, Dele Adesina, and many others.
We have many new universities in the country at the moment, and these new institutions tend to poach the academic staff of the existing universities. Don’t you think this will affect the quality of teaching in the existing universities?
Certainly, this will affect the quality of teaching, because the established universities are not even well-staffed, so when the few hands that are there are also poached to teach in these newly-established universities, then there will be problem.
In fact, the National Universities Commission (NUC) is turning academics into a market place by asking the universities to produce a certain number of doctorates every year, but it is not done that way. The things we need to produce a doctorate are not in place. The postgraduate colleges are not adequately funded. Most of our libraries are not adequately-equipped. We have language departments that have no language laboratories; so the system in Nigeria is becoming education by magic. It was in the news some time ago that OAU has been given N3billion, but up till date, nothing has been done to the projects that were approved, of course, our language laboratory should also benefit, but we have not seen anything, and that is the pattern in almost all the universities. The government is saying universities should generate funds internally, but the university is a place where we generate knowledge, utilise it and transform the knowledge into by-products for the benefit of the society; but when the government now says that universities should be producing bottled water for sale, then we are turning the universities into something else. The university is only expected to conduct research and generate new knowledge.Share