How best can FG fund university education?

Published November 21, 2018

  • Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi (National President, Academic Staff Union of Universities)

There was a seven-man committee set up by the Federal Government in September 2017, comprising  lecturers,  to look at revenue sources for funding  public universities.

The committee was set up to look at alternative sources of funding tertiary education.

That report was submitted to the Minister of Education  late 2017, but we have not heard anything about it. This is why we have to keep reminding the government about these recommendations because they are already in a report. And we trade in documentations.

Through our continuous demands, the Federal Government set up the Tertiary Education Trust Fund to cater for education.

There are several sources through which the government can get funds for university education. One, you talk about tax evasion. Two, there are direct stolen funds being recovered. The country has had revenue losses through careless handling of oil productions. Where is all the recovered loot?

That is why we believe that the government should not concentrate on oil prices alone to fund education. It is shameful for the government to tie the future of tertiary education in the country to one commodity – crude oil. There are several other revenue sources which we have recommended to the government to explore.

  • Senator Emmanuel Anosike (Ex-Chairman, Committee of Chairmen of Governing Councils of Colleges of Education)

The problem of funding education generally, not only  universities, will become a thing of the past when every stakeholder plays his part. First, those in government must believe in the education sector and commit to doing the right things.

How can a director in the Ministry of Education have two, three, four children all schooling abroad and you expect the sector to receive a serious attention?

How can the funding of education be considered a serious issue when most government officials send their kids abroad or keep them in private schools?

Yes, the private sector has a role to play, industries also have a role to play but when you have industries that can hardly meet the cost of production because of the infrastructural deficit and unfavourable business environment how can they play their roles?

  • Prof. Tunde Fatunde (Department of French Studies, Lagos State University, Ojo)

Nigeria has the resources to properly fund education.  Reducing the amount of money wasted on politics and politicians will be a good start. If a large chunk of the money spent on politics and politicians is channeled towards education and vocational training, the state of university training in Nigeria will greatly improve. We have the resources,  the problem is the misplacement of priorities by those who hold political office. If we don’t address this challenge, we may be heading towards the kind of situation we have in Afghanistan. After all, the poverty rate today in Nigeria, according to globally acclaimed reports, is currently the highest in the world.

This is the 21st century, a century where education and vocational training are key to development and the greatness of any nation. Those countries that have invested in education and vocational training in this century,  which is ruled by information technology and knowledge economy;  are the countries that would be forces to be reckoned with in terms of how their societies would develop.

In other words, raw materials alone would not drive development. Japan has no raw materials but it has invested in education and vocational training over the years and the results are there for the world to see. That is the way we must go. When it comes to university education, some people say the recommendation by UNESCO that 26 per cent of the national budget for education does not exist. If it does not exist, we can make it exist because, one, Nigeria now has 13 million out-of-school children – the highest number globally; two, about half of our population of over 180 million can neither read nor write.

If we invest in education and vocational training, the children that are out of school and the adults that cannot read and write can easily be a formidable force to be reckoned with in the Nigeria of the 21st century.

  • Prof. Ayo Olukotun (Professor of Political Science)

There are a few suggestions on how best the Federal Government can fund university education. One is to annually allocate more money to education. In the past four years, education has not received up to 10 per cent of the country’s annual budget. So, the funding efforts begin with more budgetary allocations to education. This is the first thing the Federal Government should do.

Also, the Federal Government needs to respect agreements that it voluntarily entered into with labour unions. What is going on in our country  with the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities is fallout of unimplemented agreements. What is going on now is a carry-over from the 2009 agreement by the Musa Yar’Adua administration from which the Federal Government has backtracked from or treated with levity.

The issues are reappearing because the issues were not dealt with. The Federal Government should have studied its options and within the context of its resource profile before entering into such agreements.

But for the government to backtrack or plead inadequate resources at this point is being clever by half in my own opinion.

Although ASUU does not believe in increment of fees because of the old philosophy of free education, at some point in time we have to confront the reality of funding. We should ask whether the universities should be allowed at some point to renegotiate their fees. I am not talking about hijacking or a dramatic increment of fees. But other developed countries also have this problem – funding higher education is a global issue, not a Nigerian phenomenon alone.

Without dramatically raising fees, because Nigeria is generally a poor country, we can begin to look at renegotiation of fees in tertiary institutions against the background that many parents can still afford to send their children to expensive secondary schools. They pay like N200, 000 and so on, but when it comes to universities, they claim they are poor.

So, what I will suggest is a discriminatory policy to sort out those who can afford it and then assist the poor ones to get ways to raise the money. This area needs to be explored intelligently.

  • Prof. Abdulrasheed Na’Allah (Vice- Chancellor, Kwara State University)

There are many ways. Government can start by ensuring that subventions are given as and when due. All ministries and departments involved should be mandated to release these funds in a timely manner.

Government should also make grants available for research especially in areas such as agriculture, water resources management, defence, and external affairs and so on. There must be funds dedicated to research. Each of them should regularly encourage competition in the area of research and open it to academic staff of universities.

The findings of such ventures can be commercialised and funds generated can be ploughed back into the system in the form of grants.

This will create healthy research activities that will focus on national development and promote healthy competition among lecturers.

Industries and international organisations in Nigeria like airlines should be encouraged to set aside funds apart from what they contribute to TETFUND which has greatly created programmes that are supportive of the university system.

There should be other ways in which industries in Nigeria can be mandated to work with research institutions as well as universities to enhance national development. When new products are brought, there must be evidence that universities in Nigeria are part of the development. It is not acceptable that people just go abroad and bring in new products for consumption without local input.

We should have a piece of legislation to encourage foreign firms seeking to bring in consumables to corroborate with Nigerian research institutions.

Universities should also be encouraged to source for funding. Public institutions should be bold and courageous enough to invite public-spirited individuals and parents to make contributions.



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