Prof Peter Okebukola

By Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti

Former Chief Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission(NUC), Prof Peter Okebukola, has hinged the poor recognition accorded the country’s universities globally on poor funding by governments and corporate organisations.

Okebukola urged governments and private individuals to dedicate their resources to the funding of education to address those challenges making it difficult for the universities to attract global recognition.

Okebukola said this weekend in a paper entitled: ‘Can the Bones Rise Again? A Peep Into the Revitalisation of the Nigerian University Reform’, which he delivered at the Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti to mark the institution’s 23rd convocation ceremony.

The former NUC boss added that the university system would continue to encounter failure in Nigeria, until the menace of poor staffing and insecurity among others were dealt with before the country can rise to stardom in its higher education reform.

He said it was pathetic that Tertiary Education Trust Fund(TETFUND) established by the federal government to provide funding could only give financial supports to few universities, while others were allowed to develop at slow pace. He described this as a serious impediment to the growth of universities in the country.

Okebukola called for radical curricula reforms by NUC to promote the new ideal of entrepreneurial education that would make students self employable and relevant in the labour market .

He said: “Nigerian universities are having a lot of challenges, but that of funding was the denominator. It has caused (low) power supply to our universities, poor ICT network, low students’ enrollment and poor
infrastructure.

“50 percent of the institutions in Nigeria complained about epileptic power supply. Many of them rely on alternative power supply such as generating sets. This has resulted in gross increment in the cost of running universities.

“About 37.5 percent of the institutions perceived the lack of support from the government through TETFund as a major setback in financing the development of infrastructure and they also complained of multiple taxation.

“Survey also showed that about 50 percent of the universities complained that the universities have low enrollments, because many of the students could not afford the cost”.

He said the country must tackle the cankerworms of insurgency in the
Northeast to make the institutions in the area safe for Nigerians.

Speaking about the need for the country to carry reform of its curricula, Okebukola said: “There is an ongoing reform of higher
education under the auspices of the NUC, NBTE, NCCE

“One of the drivers of this effort is the realisation that in the next ten years, the jobs that will be available for products of the higher education system at the level of the nation and globally will be quite different from what we have today.

“The current curriculum is aimed at producing graduates for the jobs that are available yesterday and far from addressing future needs. The reforms are being carried out to respond to the jobs of the future and this is important in Nigeria’s context”, he said.

Okebukola , however, said Nigerian universities would rise again if the reforms could be sustained and private sector was encouraged to take interest in funding education in partnership with governments.