Fatima Batul Mukhtar, former Deputy Vice Chancellor of the North West University (NWU) in Kano, a professor of Botany, with bias for Plant Physiology, the current Vice Chancellor, Federal University, Dutse (FUD) in Jigawa State, one of the two women recently appointed in that capacity, told MOHAMMED ABUBAKAR in Abuja that she was more than ever ready to confront the challenges facing the institution head-on, insisting she does not feel intimidated in the midst of men, when it comes doing her work.
As a woman from the core north occupying this position, do you feel intimidated?
(Laughs) No, I don’t feel intimidated at all, because I have been working for several years now and I have been used to being alone in the midst of men and I have always gained the support of the men. They have never looked at me as a woman.
For example, I rose through the ranks in my teaching career in the university, starting as Assistant Lecturer through to my current professorial position and I headed all the units/departments that were related to my field, inkling being a Dean.
Honestly, I enjoyed the support of every other persons and majority of them are men. Besides, I have the support of my family and friends, so I really don ‘t feel threatened at all. I know that God is with me, because wherever I am and whatever I become, it is His doing and I am confident that He will not take me to a palace where I will be abused.
Is your growing up a part of your self-confidence?
I guess so, because all I knew was studies. From the very beginning, I was focused. I knew what I wanted and I pursued and got what I wanted.
So, it has always been with the assistance of God, because I lost my parents very early and I grew up with my grandparents, who did not interfere.
I recall that my father was permanent secretary in education in Kano State before he died in a plane crash, so I was aware his parents knew that he wanted us to pursue education and they did not interfere.
I attended boarding schools from primary up to university at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. I can only say that I was focused and knew what I wanted. I did not know anything about business; the only I knew is studies, so are my siblings.We were 10 in number and out of all of us, nobody has below a Masters degree and we are all doing well.
What were the challenges you met on the ground when you assumed office as vice chancellor?
The challenges are many, actually. Let say that my predecessor has done quite well during his stay in the five years of the establishment of the university, because it was during his period that all the structures you have seen were put on ground.
But despite that, there are numerous challenges. One, you can see that there are some uncompleted structures that are actually capital intensive. We don’t even have a single road network in the university and there is also the problem of drainage, such that during the rainy season, the university gets extremely flooded and people find it difficult to navigate through the campus with vehicles, not to talk of walking on foot.
We sympathise with the students, who need a path to walk to the classrooms, library, clinic, everywhere that gets flooded. We see this as a major challenge in the university.
Secondly, we have a challenge of accommodation. The university started on a temporary campus and now, we only have one hostel each for the males and females, and the university is growing rapidly.
For a new university like ours to have a population of about 25,000 students in only five years of its establishment, I think it is very big and it is a big challenge accommodating the students.
So, majority of the students live outside the campus. Most parents don’t like their daughters to be outside the campus, but there is nothing we can do about it.
By September, we are going to admit a new set of students and new session would commence, but we don’t have places to accommodate them, because hostels are capital-intensive projects and are yet to be completed.Unless we get the funds to complete the two hostels, there will be a big problem. Inadequate office accommodation and lecture rooms are also major challenges. Because of the increasing population, you have to recruit and increase programmes and offices are not available.
What are the new things you are bringing on board as vice chancellor?
Since I came in, I tried to establish the university structure. The universities are mostly run on committee system and this should be encouraged.But when I came, I discovered there were many committees that were redundant and some non-existent. For example, there was no committee on academic staff training and development, ICT committee and many others so it was one of the first things, I did.
Then again, there are units that needed to be on ground, but which were not. For instance, even though, there was Academic Planning and Quality Assurance, but there was no director, so I quickly appointed a director.
I restructured the unit into Academic Planning, Quality Assurance and Academic Support and appointed heads to each of the divisions and since then, they have produced the strategic roadmap for the university, which we are trying to vet.
They have also gone ahead to work on the Academic Brief, as well as preparing for accreditation visit. They prepared for resource verification for the College of Medicine that just finished last week.
In addition, even though there was a directorate for Public-Private Partnership (PPP), but it had not taken off. So, I restructured it and appointed a director and establish three units also, all with heads, and consequently, we have already started enjoying the benefit of that.
For instance, a mosque being constructed is as a result of the activities of that unit and we have some philanthropists doing other projects, such as laboratories, furnishings and so on. We have also restructured the Consultancy Unit to make it effective and we have a director and different divisions now.
As you know, we do not have any internally generated revenue (IGR); we are totally dependent on government and we need so many things in the university, which the government many not be able to provide.We cannot continue to continually depend on government; we have to something to assist ourselves. So, they are trying to see how they can come in and help the situation.
Talking about infrastructure, the general complaints from the TETFund is that most universities, for one reason or another, have not been able to draw down their intervention allocations. What is the situation in your school?
TETFund does not go into hostel and road construction on campuses. So, these two major challenges are out and have to be the responsibility of the Federal Government to provide.
But in the other components, which TETFund intervenes, if you go through the campus, you will discover that most of the structures on ground carry the label of TETFund, showing that without TETFund, this university would not have been anywhere or grown as it is now. So, we can attribute the success of the university to TETFund intervention.
Besides, we have accessed a lot of our intervention funds, because during the course of the last interaction we had with TETFund officials, we have seen areas we have not accessed and why, but suffice it to say that most of our normal interventions have been completed. The only thing remaining now has to do with research, which, according to the agency, this university is doing well. Regardless, we still have funds there un-accessed. Same for sponsorship, but staff are being screened.We are going to access all in the 2016/2017 session, because we have decided to merge the two together.
How much support do you receive from older institutions, such as the Bayero University, Kano (BUK), being your immediate neighbour?
BUK is like father and mother to this institution, because we have receiving a lot of assistance from there, in terms of staffing. The vice chancellor there is always willing to let go of his staff to come and assist us to establish this university, because he knows that we need experienced staff and whenever we go there for even financial assistance, he renders.
For instance, during the pre-NUGA games, we went there for assistance and he assisted us in cash and kind, because we used some of their sports gears. Also, during our convocation, he assisted, so whenever we go to BUK for assistance, they are always ready to oblige us. For this, we remain eternally appreciative of the kind of father-figure role they play for this university.