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PROJECT TOPIC- PROGRESSIVE TRENDS IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF BIOLOGICAL SCIENCE IN NIGERIA

PROJECT TOPIC- PROGRESSIVE TRENDS IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF BIOLOGICAL SCIENCE IN NIGERIA

 

INTRODUCTION

I like to start by saying that I am certainly delighted to have been invited to serve as Guest Lecturer for this year’s Eni Njoku Memorial Lecture at my
alma mater, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. More particularly, my participation in today’s event marks a special home-coming for me and my
dear wife, Professor (Mrs.) Viola Adaku Onwuliri. As some of you do know, both of us were students (and products) of this Faculty of Biological Sciences, where I read and graduated in Zoology, and she did also in Biochemistry.
We are therefore very grateful to the Vice-Chancellor Professor Bartho Okolo – the VC of Lions and Lioness and the organizers of this important
Memorial Lecture; and especially the Dean, Professor Obioma Njoku for inviting .me to serve as the Guest Lecturer for this 10th edition in the Lecture
series. Furthermore, it is no doubt very considerate of him to have granted me a free hand in the choice of a topic for this Special Lecture. With this
indulgence, I was tempted to reflect on my youthful days as an undergraduate student at Nsukka, and the indelible impacts made on my mind by the devoted guidance of my teachers, many of who were mentored by the great Professor Eni Njoku and other pioneer Nigerian Biologists.
With the benefit of hindsight, I feel encouraged to note that the Science of Biology, and indeed Biologists (pure and applied), have come a long way
in this country. The substantial interests in the subject, and its numerous sub-disciplines, have propelled active involvement of many brilliant
scientists, over the years, leading to some striking growth and consolidation of the Biological Sciences in our country Nigeria. This therefore informs my
choice of the topic for this Lecture i.e. “Progressive trends in the development of Biological Sciences in Nigeria”.
The aim is to attempt a modest over-view of the journey so far in the quest for planting and nurturing the Biological Sciences in this great country. In so
doing, we should feel encouraged to peer into the potential harvests that await us, now and in the future, should we remain steadfast in the task.
For convenience sake, I have decided to address the topic in a sequential manner, taking account of the different stages of development, as we can
see presently.

PROJECT TOPIC- PROGRESSIVE TRENDS IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF BIOLOGICAL SCIENCE IN NIGERIA

 

FOUNDATION STAGE (Pre-Colonial and Colonial Period, 1901-1960):

The earliest records of the study of Biology and aspects of the Biological Sciences (albeit under “Nature Study” “Health Science” and “Agricultural
Science'”}, date back to the first quarter of the 19th Century, i.e. following the establishment of Primary and Secondary Schools under the Colonial
Administration in Nigeria. The earliest teachers of Biology were expatriates and some of the resident Missionaries, many of who helped to groom
pupils in Schools and Colleges, and prepare Science tutors in the then Teachers’ Training Colleges.
This was the trend between 1920 and 1940. Between 1941 and 1960, a number of specialized Science Schools and Technical Colleges (now
Polytechnics) were established in the country. These offered the scope for more in-depth and subject-specific training in the Biological Sciences and in
Science and Technology subjects generally.

Provisions for Higher School Certificate in Science Subjects (including Biology, Zoology, Botany, Microbiology, and Biochemistry), plus Diploma training in Colleges of Technology (e.g. at Yaba, Enugu, Zaria etc) opened the avenue for the grooming of professional biologists and other young scientists. During the period also, the University College Ibadan was established in 1949, as a Campus of the University of London. The College started with a few Faculties, including the then Faculty of Science which had distinct Departments of Botany and Zoology, alongside Departments of Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics.

Again, the pioneer teachers of Zoology, Botany and Microbiology were essentially expatriates, with a negligible sprinkling of Nigerians (and other Africans) holding junior ranks in the Lectureship Cadre. Among this privileged crop of early Nigerian Lecturers was our dear and celebrated mentor Eni Njoku, who as a youngman was fortunate to gain a training opportunity at the University of Manchester England, where he read Botany and graduated with First Class Honours in 1947, and later secured his Master’s degree in 1948, and Ph.D (Botany) from the University of London in 1954. Between 1950 and 1960 some of the local staff had the opportunity of further In-service (or Overseas) Postgraduate training to earn M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees that equipped them for a teaching career at University level. Among such privileged Biologists then were S.A. Onabamiro, John C. line, Afolabi
Toye, and J.B.E. Awachie all of who subsequently became eminent Biology Professors.
As for the subject focus in the Colonial era, the basic studies at Primary, Secondary and Higher School Certificate levels was to introduce school pupil’s and other trainees to the rudimentary elements of Biology, and thenceforth to the types and classification of organisms, the principles of plant and animal anatomy and physiology, and the rudiments of ecology, pest control, agriculture, hygiene and sanitation. This scope of teaching dictated the thrusts in Schools Curricula and books used by the early trainees.

EXPANSION STAGE (Post Independence Period; 1960-1980)

PROJECT TOPIC- PROGRESSIVE TRENDS IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF BIOLOGICAL SCIENCE IN NIGERIA

 

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