It is a known fact that the educational sector in Nigeria has been bedeviled with a lot of challenges that have refused to go away.
Deteriorating infrastructure evidenced by poor training, staffing and resources, rapid personnel turnover, unrest in the form of student riots and universities staff strike action have all combined to weigh down the educational sector over the years.
The implication of all these challenges is that the country has been producing graduates that are unemployable.
For instance, the 2016 Bureau of Statistics report stated that 38 per cent of the population of Nigeria that falls within the employable age are unemployed and 65 per cent of Nigerian youth face unemployment as at September 2016.
While the rate of unemployment may be very high in Nigeria, it is shocking to know that there are jobs everywhere but majority of the unemployed graduates can’t fill them because they don’t have the required skills.
Among measures put in place to address the challenges facing tertiary education in the country is the establishment of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund). The agency was initially established as Education Tax Fund (ETF) by Act No.7 1993.
In 2011, the law establishing the Fund was amended through Tertiary Education Fund (TETFund), Act No.16 which refocused on only public Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education.
It is indeed an intervention agency charged with the rehabilitation, restoration and consolidation of tertiary education in Nigeria.
Since its establishment, TETFund’s goal has been to tackle five key challenges that have dampened the standard of education in Nigeria which are; Essential Infrastructure for Teaching and Learning; Institution-Based Research; Research and Publication; Academic Staff Training and Development.
At an interactive forum with stakeholders in Lagos State recently, the fund said in terms of essential infrastructure for teaching and learning, the educational sector is marred by poor lecture rooms, poor lecture theatres , poor staff offices and unequipped laboratories, among others.
According to stakeholders at the forum, “The educational sector lacks innovative research activities which has pulled down our level of advancement as a nation and has also affected the future and development of this country. Also, scholars still make use of manuscript instead of books.
“Worse still, most of the beneficiary institutions fail to comply with TETFund Guidelines which leads to time loss due to unnecessary back and forth communications.This is one of the reasons for the low access to funds by the benefiting institutions.
“As for capacity of academic staff to write research proposals, many lecturers are unable to access the fund’s research grants due to their inability to present good quality Research Proposals for funding.”
In the area of political inference, stakeholders said most beneficiaries select their vendors/contractors on the basis of political patronage thereby leading to shoddy or outright abandonment of projects. “It is not unusual to see some state governors forcing contractors on the state-owned institutions without any regard to their ability to perform,” it added.
In a bid to reform the sector, the Executive Secretary, TETFund, Prof. Suleiman Bogoro, said the mission of the fund is to provide focused and transformative intervention in Public Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria through funding and effective Project Management.
Bogoro said the fund has intervened by its Annual Direct Disbursement to institutions who lack funding for physical infrastructure to get rid of the tertiary university premises looking like a glorified secondary school, which is one of the core mandates of the fund.
He said it is very encouraging to state that the intervention by TETFund under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration for the year 2016 is the highest ever in the history of the fund.
Aside its intervention for the provision of physical infrastructures, the fund has been up and doing in terms of providing support for capacity development of academic staff, where scores of academics are currently undergoing higher degrees in universities in the country and abroad.
“The Buhari’s administration tripled the funds due to insecurity crisis in the northern states which affected Maiduguri University and TETFund had to support hugely by reconstructing the buildings in the institution to enhance learning in the university. This tripled the amount of fund allocated to universities for physical infrastructure,” he added.
Another intervention by TETFund includes bench-work sponsorship for those pursuing science based Ph.D programmes in Nigerian universities to carry out research work in foreign institutions with advanced facilities, says Bogoro, adding that for the 2018 intervention year, each university, polytechnic and colleges of education was allocated N230million, N119million and N135million, respectively.
Also, between January 2012 when the scheme commenced to March 2019, he said a total of 24,385 have been trained under the programme.
In the area of Library Development Intervention, the Executive Secretary said TETFund Library Development Intervention is intended to ensure availability of books, periodicals, equipment and other reading resources in the libraries of public tertiary educational institutions with emphasis on e-resources in line with global trends for which substantial funds are made available for this purpose.
He said between 2015 to 2019, universities in Nigeria were given about N13 million; polytechnics were given close to N5 billion and college of education were given close to N4 billion for Library Development.
For the first time in Nigeria, Bogoro said seed money of N3billion was set aside by the federal government through TETFund to encourage academics undertake cutting research for national development in the areas of Power and Energy, Employment and Wealth Creation.
“Since inception in 2011, 113 research proposals that were adjudged fund-able by a committee of Experts have enjoyed funding from TETFund. As at date, almost N3 billion has been spent on this intervention. Also, N1billion has been allocated to the fund, making it a total of N4billion.
“In 2019, intervention Budget, an additional N5billion for Research to enhance education has been provided in boosting research works which is one of the core activities of tertiary institutions,” he added.
Bogoro said Board of Trustees of the Fund approved the enlistment of 17 institutions within the period under the review after meeting all the requirements for enlistment.
The newly enlisted institutions, according to the Executive Secretary are Nigerian Army University; Ondo State University of Science & Technology, Okitipupa and First Technical University, Ibadan.
Air force Institute of Technology, Kaduna; Binyamin Usman Polytechnic,Hadejia; College of Education, Billiri, Gombe State; College of Education,Kangerem Bauchi State; College of Education, Lanlate, Oyo State; Federal Polytechnicm Ukana,Akwa Ibom State
Others are Gateway Polytechnic, Sapade, Ogun State; Ogun State Institute of Technology, Igbesa; Ogun State Federal Polytechnic,Ile-Oluji,Ondo-State; Oke-Ogun Polytechnic, Saki, Oyo-State; Ibarapa Polytechnic, Iwollo, Enugu-State; Oyo State College of Agriculture and Technology, Igbo-Ora, Oyo-State.
He, however, said that bridging the gaps in the Nigerian educational system would require widening the revenue base, building human capacity, embarking on workshops for stakeholders, setting aside funds for training of Academic Staff on Research Proposals Writing, among others.
Bogoro is however optimistic that with sustained tax collection, diligent appropriation and prudent management by the fund and its beneficiaries, TETFund will continuously strive to attain the status of a world -class education intervention agency.
Culled From Leadership Newspaper