Government, Others Urged to Engage Elite Mathematicians in Tackling Challenges
To leapfrog Nigeria to scientific and technological advancement, there is the need to form a think-tank of top-level mathematical professionals to offer advice on the domestic application and use of mathematical tools in solving problems in government, business, and industry. (https://goo.gl/1RPUR6)
This, amongst others, was the recommendation of a faculty in the Department of Mathematics, Covenant University, Professor Samuel Azubuike Iyase, while delivering the 14 Inaugural Lecture of the University on Friday, March 23, 2018.
Speaking to the topic, ‘Mathematics: A Platform for Leapfrogging into Scientific and Technological Advancement’, the Professor of Mathematics said that his focus was on how to use mathematics as a platform in reducing the scientific and technological gap existing between the developed nations and Nigeria within the shortest possible time. He averred that the fundamental problems since Nigeria achieved independence in 1960 have been development-related, and an important feature towards engendering development is the establishment of a strong science and technology base with the aid of mathematics.
While bemoaning what he described as the poor state of mathematics education and mathematical research in Nigeria, Professor Iyase said that teachers of mathematics are both underqualified and poorly motivated; mathematics curricula were often inspired by corrupted corresponding western models; examinations determine the worth of mathematical knowledge; and memorisation and rote learning is mostly the determinant form of teaching among others.
He asserted that in order for Nigeria to come to grips with these difficulties and to overtake or be at par with the advanced nations, the country must not walk but run and leapfrog in the area of education. “To do this, she must develop strategies like Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan (countries famously dubbed the Asian Tigers) that would significantly give rise to excellence in education in general and mathematics in particular,” he said.
Nigeria’s goal, according to the inaugural lecturer, is to develop a critical mass of mathematical scientists who can advance Nigeria in the frontier of science and technology in a possible short period.
Highlighting the impact of mathematics in scientific and technological advancement, Professor Iyase said that scientists and engineers were only able to harness the power of electricity as a result of the formulation of key mathematical models; that engineers can design highway networks that balance transportation efficiency with resources constraints using mathematical techniques; and that household appliances like microwave, ovens, and others are all direct efforts of scientific and mathematical research done many years ago. He added that the impact of mathematics is also felt in water supply, space exploration, the design and effective operations of radio and television, the growth of the Internet, health medicine, automobile, and the computer.
The inaugural lecturer emphasised that mathematics education is the driving force for scientific and technological advancement and to achieve this objective, there is the need for massive injection of funds for the mathematical sciences; leaders must have a bold and long-term vision of the role of education in society and economy; and there is the need to focus attention on the strong link between education and economic development.
Also, he stressed that the nation must bridge the enormous gap between policies and their implementation at the school level; academic standards should be as high as anywhere else in the world; and the federal government should compel multinational companies to reserve a certain percentage of their profits to support research in mathematics and the basic sciences.
In his message to the gathering, which featured the Covenant University Management, the Senate, faculty, staff, students, and distinguished guests, the Chancellor and Chairman Board of Regents of the University, Dr. David O. Oyedepo, posited that inaugural lectures should be about weighty issues, groundbreaking and relevant knowledge that would transform the society. He added that it must be about espousing new knowledge that would affect the course of mankind and to that extent, inaugural lectures need not be read; the knowledge should be so much part of the lecturer so that he can deliver it extempore.
Pastor Niyi Beecroft, who represented the Chancellor, congratulated the inaugural lecturer, Professor Samuel Iyase, for a job well done. He said that the focus should now be on how the nation can begin to use mathematics to address her pressing problems like the waste management in Lagos, the perennial bickering over the results of national censors and elections, and endemic corruption.
Citing the introduction of the Bitcoin as an example, Pastor Beecroft said that the technology was introduced to address the problem of governments suddenly taking decisions to alter the buying power of a currency. “The challenge, going forward, is for our experts to use something relevant to solve our own problems,” he stated.
Earlier in his remarks, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Shalom Chinedu, representing the Vice-Chancellor, Covenant University, Professor AAA. Atayero said that the 14 inaugural lecture was unique in many aspects as it was the first time a Professor of Mathematics was delivering an inaugural lecture in Covenant University. Noting that the importance of mathematics in all spheres of human endeavours cannot be overemphasised, Professor Chinedu assured members of the audience of an educative and impactful lecture.