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ABU Zaria Golden Handshake with China: Transferring Railway Engineering Technology to Nigeria II, by Professor MK Othman



“3+2” program is an excellent innovative formula aimed at fast tracking the process of two engineering degrees from two distinguished universities in two different international languages, which are spoken by more than half of the World population.  The two universities are mindful of maintaining quality of the degrees and thus, all necessary measures are properly put in place to ensure high quality of international standard for the two-degree programs under the “3+2” program. Can ABU and CSU achieve “3+2” program based on their track records of academic quality and standard? Answer to this question is emphatic “yes”.
This affirmative answer is pronounced considering, the historical perspectives and enormous technological and educational contributions of the two universities to their individual nations; ABU to Nigeria and SCU to China. What are the enormous contributions of South Central University (CSU) China to the development People Republic of China? I am certainly not competent to answer this question correctly, however, significant part of the answer can be found from various literature sources under global information system.
Central South University is located at Changsha town in Hunan province, central south of People Republic of China. CSU is categorized under class “A”, double first Class University by Chinese Ministry of Education. The university was metamorphosed as CSU 18 years ago (in the year, 2000) as a product of amalgamation of three former universities. Each of the three universities was a high-class university in her right. The three universities were Hunan Medical University (HMU), Changsha Railway University (CRU) and Central South University of Technology (CSUT), respectively.
Briefs on each of these three universities present a vivid chronological picture of excellent academic performance in research, teaching, learning and community service. It started as Central South University of Technology (CSUT), hitherto known as Central-South Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. As CSUT, the university had ten schools and six departments, 52 research institutes, 35 undergraduate majors, 39 master discipline programs, five primary doctoral programs, 18 doctoral disciplines, five postdoctoral scientific research centers, four national key disciplines, six national and provincial (ministerial) key laboratories;the then CSUT library building occupied an area of 22,000m2, storing 1.84 million books and more than 6,400 of all kinds of Chinese and foreign periodicals. CSUT recorded several academic feats, for instance, from 1981 to 2000 when it was merged with the other two universities, it made a total of 786 important scientific research achievements, out of which, 680 received national and ministerial recognitions and awards.
The second is Hunan Medical University (HMU), which was a multi-disciplinary and multi-specialty medical university running at multi-level and in various forms. It was characterized by high teaching quality, high scientific research level and excellent medical technology. Then, it had fifteen schools and departments. The Schools were those of Basic Medicine, Public Health, Nursing, First Clinical Medicine, Second Clinical Medicine, Third Clinical Medicine and Continuing Education School. In addition there were three affiliated hospitals, 83 labs and eleven research institutes for studies on all kind of diseases and their medications. There were alsoone national laboratory on medical genetics, two regional laboratories on mechanism of carcinogenesis and cardiovascular research, three postdoctoral research stations on basic medicine, clinical medicine and biology, seven national and regional research and training centers on medical instruments and equipment, surgery of liver, gall and bowel, medical hyperbaric oxygen and hospital infection control. The three hospitals had a combined bed of 2,600 authorized capacity, which were categorized as “third-grade class-A” hospitals, and won a rating of “Top 100 Hospitals” in 1999 in China. Again, HMU had a student population of 9,043, which included 284 doctoral students, 478 master students, 5,123 undergraduates and other part-time adult students and self-taught students. The faculty comprises 8,583 members, 6,744 in-service and 1,839 retired; of the in-service staff, 335 persons have full professors of different disciplines, 796 persons had associate professors while 2,018 other rank of academic staff of various disciplines of the academic programs. There were 4,996 auxiliary professionals engaged in teaching, scientific research and medical treatment. Again, there were 752 administrative staff members and 1,101 supporting staff members. In addition, there were two distinguished scientists with international reputation, Prof. Yao Kaitai, a illustrious member Chinese Academy of Sciences and Prof. Xia Jiahui, a celebrated member of Chinese Academy of Engineering. The contributions of these personalities made significant impacts medicine and engineering far beyond Asia, Europe and passed across America and Africa. There were also three State Council Discipline Appraisal Group members; Yao Kaitai, Xia Jiahui and Liu Yunsheng, respectively. It had 23 disciplines authorized for the doctoral degree and 46 disciplines authorized for the master’s degree. There were enormous human and materials resources that were assiduously used for the university and nation’s progress.
The last of the three was Changsha Railway University (CRU). CRU was initially named Central South College of Civil Engineering, which was founded in 1953. Then, the university had 1,737 teaching and administrative staff members, including more than 800 teachers, more than 300 professors and associate professors, two academics of Chinese Academy of Engineering, sixteen doctoral supervisors and fifteen national and provincial (ministerial) young and middle-aged experts with outstanding contributions. Among them, there were famous scholars of great academic achievements, including Prof. Liu Baochen, a member of Chinese Academy of Engineering, foreign academician of Polish Academy of Sciences and expert in geomechanics and engineering, Prof. Zeng Qingyuan, a distinguished member of Chinese Academy of Engineering and bridge expert, and Prof. Hou Zhenting, an international Davidson prize winner and mathematician. The university had 9,332 students, including 6,229 full-time undergraduate students, 297 doctoral and master degree candidates, and 2,806 undergraduate and junior college students of correspondence courses and night schools. For over forty years, the university had graduated more than 30,000 graduates with various degrees and certificates in different disciplines at various levels.
As can be seen, all the three universities were similarly large with vast resources at their disposal and excellent historical contributions to the development of China and humanity. These were the three universities, which were fused into CSU of today. Logically, the historical academic feats achieved by the three universities during their lifetimes are automatically subsumed into the historic perspective of CSU. Consequently, CSU is rightly reported to record many “firsts” in academic excellence and technological breakthroughs. The first Atomic bomb, first submarine, technology that took first man in the orbit and first Jumbo jet in the history of China received significant, if not, majorly contributions from the research outputs of eggheads in CSU. This giant Ivory Tower housed internationally acknowledged scientists like Prof Chen Guoda who developed scientific theories of structural geology and movement of the earth crust, which have been globally adopted as theory of tectonics. There was another prominent medical scientist, Tang Fei – Fan, a professor of microbiology, an USA Yale University trained scholar who was the first to culture Chlamydia Trachomatis agent in the yolk sacs of eggs in 1957, which paved way for the treatment of a dreaded sexually transmitted disease “Chlamydia”. Before then, Fei – Fan was able to develop Chinese penicillin, serum and yellow fever vaccination. Yet, another globally acclaimed scientist was Prof. Xia Jiahuiwho developed the first Chinese gene clone for nervous deafness in 1999. Again, the first successful birth of embryo transfer test – tube baby was achieved in the university’s medical school on 24th April 2016. Presently, CSU won first prize of Chinese national Science and Technology award five times from the year 2000 when the three universities were merged to become CSU. This is a rare feat in a country with a population of one-quarter of the entire World population. This is why the university played host to 16 top global nations or states’ leaders from 2005 to date including President Xi Jingping who visited on 4th November 2013. On community service, CSU is also performing excellently well, one good example is that the university assembled medical team who came to Sierra Leone in Africa and assisted in addressing the menace of Ebola as a volunteer service.
CSU was the university courted by ABU Zaria and eventually consummated the marriage of progress and high academic innovation called “3+2” program, which will certainly revolutionize the entire transportation system in Africa. For this to happen, Nigerian and Chinese leaders have to provide necessary impetus and supports to allow the laudable program bear fruits. Finally, kudos has to be credited to the two distinguished personalities behind “3+2” program, Prof. Ibrahim Garba, the tireless Vice Chancellor of ABU and Prof Tian Hongqi, the President of CSU, an iron lady and distinguished engineer/scientist. My congratulations go to the 45 pioneers – beneficiaries of “3+2” currently in Changsha town, China receiving their baptism in Chinese hardworking culture and innovative thinking for survival.
Professor Othman is the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.

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