The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) has described its existence as a saving grace for the survival of public universities and two other levels of tertiary schools in the country.
The Executive Secretary of the fund, Prof Sulaiman Bogoro, gave this description at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) Akoka while delivering the 2019/2020 annual lecture of the university’s School of Postgraduate Studies, last Thursday.
He said sustenance of public universities in the country today would have been very difficult without TETFUND financial intervention efforts, but attributing this development to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) which initiated the establishment of the agency many years ago.
According to him, the appropriation funding windows from the government for our public universities have failed the country and that is my honest position.
Speaking on “Funding postgraduate education and research in Nigerian universities,” Bogoro recalled that TETFUND was established to give financial support when and where necessary to both the state and Federal Governments in financing their tertiary schools from colleges of education, polytechnics to universities.
But that the situation on the ground year-in and year-out according to him is that TETFund has taken over the responsibility of government in this regards by being the largest funder of public tertiary education in the country.
He said a trip to any of the public universities for example would confirm this position as TETFund sponsored projects including those under construction scattered all over the place while hardly any new ones from the government.
He said aside from physical infrastructure development and equipment, the agency is also committing a huge amount of money yearly to scholars’ research activities that are national based or institutional-oriented, academic staff training and development, scholarships, conferences, journal publications, and so forth.
He said it would not be out of place based on the TETFUND huge involvement in public universities, or polytechnics or colleges of education in the country should they be named after the agency.
He pointed out that TETFUND was particularly passionate about seeing postgraduate scholars engaging in problem-solving research activities across fields including health, engineering, environment and industries, saying this is the way the country can progress appreciably.
He said that was why the agency increased its National Research Fund (NRF) from N6 billion for eight years to N5 billion yearly two years ago and now to N7.5 billion.
“Now, we have proposed additional increment to Mr President for approval,” he added.
While commending UNILAG as one of the universities in the country that take research activities very seriously as many of its faculties including the vice-chancellor, Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, are winning research grants from local and international bodies including TETFUND, he said TETFUND would continue to support postgraduate education and research.
In his own remarks, the chairman of the event and Chairman of MTN Communications Nigeria, Dr Ernest Ndukwe, appreciated the role of higher education in Nigeria by supplying high-level manpower to the economy.
He disclosed that up to 95 per cent of the MTN workforce across levels are Nigerians and products of the Nigerian education system and that they doing well.
Ndukwe, however, pointed out that quality research and innovations in various fields would certainly boost the economy, asking the government and private sectors to fund researchers with meaningful proposals.
In their separate addresses, UNILAG VC, Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, and the Dean of School of Postgraduate Studies, Prof Alabi Soneye, said UNILAG attached great importance to the annual lecture since commencement in 2008 bringing in high profile Nigerians including former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, the General Overseer of Redeemed Christian Church of God; the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi; Mr Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Works and Housing, among others as guest lecturers.
Prof Ogundipe said the university sees research activities just like two other core mandates of teaching and community service as its heartbeat because of their great impacts on the economy.
He said but funding is vital in conducting societal problems-solving research and asked TETFUND, international organisations, corporate bodies and individuals to give universities and scholars more supports in this regard.