The first edition of the summer school organised for students of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, by the institution in partnership with Jean Monnet Module Programme, ended on Friday, in Lagos.
The programme, which is tagged: “European Union-Africa Connectivity Project,” had 40 200-level UNILAG students as participants who experienced a hands-on demonstration of the European Union system’s processes and procedures.
The students were assigned to different countries and political parties in the EU and its parliament to adopt these countries as their nationality and study their peculiarities during the summer school.
The Project Coordinator and Professor of Economics on the campus, Olufemi Saibu, said “many European countries have several institutes of African studies where they gain an understanding of Africa but that Africa has very few centres or institutes of European studies to understand Europe,” he said.
Mr Saibu recalled that in 2018 and 2019 in the course of interacting with scholars from Italy, they agreed to explore opportunities that are available in the EU programmes.
“This initiative is important because whatever career you pick up in this world today, what happens in the global environment would affect it. So we feel that exposing students to these programmes gives them greater opportunities to explore across the globe,” he said.
In her remarks, the UNILAG Vice-Chancellor, Folasade Ogunsola, commended the students for their presentations, urging them to never let go of their values as Africans.
Mrs Ogunsola said; “There’s nothing wrong with you as Africans, we know our values. I think what we now need to be is proud of them. The problem is that we’re not proud of our values. So I want to say as we work with Europeans or Americans, we should know who you are.
“So I wish you all the best and I want to challenge that we will bring up the Nigerian policies of internationalisation and I hope you study them as well as you’ve studied this.”
Also in his comment, the Bulgarian Ambassador to Nigeria, Yanko Yordanov, applauded the students for their performance, recounting how proud Bulgarian is with Nigeria on different projects.
He said the EU recently initiated two major initiatives, saying in December, Bulgaria signed a key agreement with the National Institute for Pharmaceutical and Medical Research on resources needed to develop locally-made vaccines in Nigeria.
“So Europe has concluded that Africa is no longer somebody we have to help. It’s an equal partner for strategic partnership and friendship,” he said.
Mr Yordanov further noted that Bulgaria has already embarked on a programme for the exchange of tomato seeds with Nigeria.
He said: “So in Plateau and Taraba states, we are already cultivating Bulgarian tomatoes on your soil. And it’s interesting enough because nobody in Bulgaria believes we are cultivating Bulgarian tomatoes in Nigeria.
“The agricultural potential of your country in Africa is glamorous. It can change the whole dynamic of food security on earth and I’m sure that it’s a matter of time before Africa will be the food security hub in the world.”
Also speaking on the cooperation between the EU and Nigeria, the Senior Officer at the Delegation of the European Union in Nigeria, Esme Stuart, said it focuses on economic, political and social developments which date back to 1976.
“And here at the EU delegation in Nigeria, we work closely together with the Nigerian government and member states to implement the priorities of this extensive EU Africa partnership, which is called Team Europe.
“So it’s the team of European countries working together here in Nigeria and all countries across the world because the EU has delegations in almost every country worldwide,” she said.
Ms Stuart further noted that the EU has a big portfolio for Nigeria with current funding of about 1 billion Euros which is equivalent to N500 billion to execute projects on three priority areas of education, health and social protection.
She added that the EU has a key focus on youth and gender equality, citing the EU Youth Sounding Boards, “which is a group of 25 young Nigerians that advise us and help us to make our programmes more relevant and more interesting to young people.”
Commenting on the summer school, she said that it is one of the collaborations between Nigeria and Europe, which is funded under the EU Erasmus programme, a key flagship programme of the EU.
She noted that one of the most well-known elements of the Erasmus programme is its scholarship, adding that there was a record number of over 200 students from Nigeria who won the scholarship.
EU-Africa Connect Project is a University of Lagos (UNILAG) three-year programme, which is under the EU-Erasmus plus Jean Monnet Action for Higher Education Modular programme, comprising summer school, research workshops, Mock EU parliament sessions and a final international conference on EU-Africa Connectivity.
The programme is designed for university students seeking careers in international relations and diplomacy.
According to the university, the aim is to generate a new pool of resource persons who can advocate, promote and project the EU policy goals and agenda for the global community, and in particular in Africa, correct the stereotypes and build a new understanding of the promotion of EU-AU Partnership.
In the first three years, the summer school will run at least once per academic year before being transformed into a centre of excellence where the summer school will be sustained permanently and institutionalised.
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