Nigeria may soon be faced with acute shortage of teachers of mathematics with dire consequences for education, science and technology. A Professor of applied mathematics, Olusegun Olotu sounded the alarm bell while delivering the 123rd inaugural lecture of the Federal University of Technology Akure, FUTA on Tuesday March 16, 2021.
The don said the shortage of teachers and lecturers of pure mathematics is not peculiar to Nigeria and its University system but a global phenomenon that must be addressed very urgently. He warned that pure mathematics will soon vanish as time progresses if concerted efforts are not put in place to acquire mathematical knowledge and apply that knowledge painstakingly with cognitive reasoning and patience. He said deliberate efforts must be made by the managers of the education sector in Nigeria to groom new teachers and lecturers of mathematics to take over from the aging and retiring ones.
Olotu spoke on the topic, Seeking Best Options to Life Problems: Extended Conjugate Gradient Algorithms for Constrained Optimal Control Problems. The don said the topic of the inaugural lecture comes from a branch of mathematics called Optimization Theory which means to obtain a best result from a given list of alternatives under given circumstances. He reiterated that without algebra, differential equations, real analysis, functional analysis, optimization theory and other areas of pure mathematics, application areas such as engineering, science, economics, medicine, social sciences and technology will not exist.
According to him, Mathematics is the foundation stone for every science subject and that many times we apply mathematics consciously or otherwise in our daily life activities. He said the inability of Nigeria to compete globally will always remind us of our negligence and deficiency in mathematics.
Olotu advised that young mathematicians should be encouraged by providing scholarships, locally and internationally, and sensitizing industries to accommodate them as venues for the applicability of all those undefined terms in pure mathematics. He also recommended employing adequate staff, providing conducive environment in terms of mathematics laboratories, encouraging best graduates to avail themselves of job opportunities in the education system and applying the lecturer-students ratio, 1:30 as steps that will ensure the efficient study of pure mathematics. He said universities worldwide should encourage Mathematics departments by equipping mathematics laboratories with modern hardware and software facilities and theses laboratories should be manned by competent professionals whose duties will be to assist students in problem solving sessions.
Professor Olotu said graduates should apply themselves to studying the much-needed area of mathematics as stipulated by the department and supported by the management to qualify them for job opportunities as they may arise. He harped on the beauty of the efficient teacher student ratio as this will enable the lecturer know academically deficient students and take appropriate actions to assist them. He said to achieve this every large class must be reduced to smaller sub classes, there should also be quiz every week to test the knowledge and understanding of the students and all quizzes will sum to 100 points as one of the assessment criteria for the semester grade. The lecturer said if the above suggestions and others that the management of the sector deemed fit are considered, students will benefit immensely, thus enhancing the reputation of our universities globally. He also urged the government and all stakeholders to adequately fund universities for effective learning and research.
Speaking in his capacity as chairman of the occasion, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Joseph Fuwape described the lecturer as an erudite scholar and commended him on the cerebral delivery of the lecture adding that the lecturer had shown prodigious contribution to knowledge.