Funmi Ogundare reports that with the recent approval of N161 billion intervention funds through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund to public institutions in Nigeria, stakeholders think that government should go beyond TETFund intervention funds to reposition the country’s tertiary institutions
Penultimate week, the federal government approved a N161 billion intervention fund, through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) to 219 universities, polytechnics and colleges of education to enable them build critical infrastructure for teaching and learning, as well as staff development.
The approved sum was allocated to the eligible institutions for 2019 intervention activities in accordance with the provisions of the TETFund Act of 2011, consequently, each public university, polytechnic and college of education is expected to get an allocation of N785,832,700, N536,703,502 and N510,084,900 respectively.
Sixteen new institutions that would receive part of the funds were also enlisted. They are: the First Technical University, Ibadan, Oyo State; College of Education, Lanlate, Oyo State; College of Education, Kangere, Bauchi State; University of Medical Sciences, Ondo State; Onto State University of Science and Technology, Okitipupa; College of Education, Biliri, Gombe State; Ibarapa Polytechnic, Eruwa, Oyo State; and Ogun State Institute of Technology, Igbesa.
Others are Gateway Polytechnic, Sapade, Ogun State, Air Force Institute of Technology, Kaduna State; Enugu State Polytechnic; Federal Polytechnic, Ukana, Akwa Ibom State; Federal Polytechnic, Ile-Oluji, Ondo State; and Binyamin Usman Polytechnic, Hadejia.
The TETFund Executive Secretary, Dr. Bichi Baffa while addressing journalists in Abuja, reviewed the 2018 intervention activities, stressing that the beneficiaries for the New Year must adhere to the operational guidelines of the funds and ensure transparency in their implementation of various projects.
Some of the guidelines for accessing TETFund intervention funds by institutions include: been enlisted by approval of the Board of Trustees (Bot) of the fund to qualify as a beneficiary of its intervention funds. The institution must be recognised by the relevant regulatory body; NUC, NBTE or NCCE, which evidence should be available both with the institution and the regulatory body for citing.
The institution must also have been established by law via an Act of Parliament or Edict of the State House of Assembly and signed into law by the president or state governor as the case may be; academic activities such as students’ admission, teaching and learning must have commenced at the institution.
The prospective institution shall formally apply to the fund to be enlisted as a beneficiary. TETFund shall also visit to verify that academic activities have commenced and thereafter recommend to the Board of Trustees (Bot) for enlistment as a beneficiary; following approval, the institution shall be enlisted and formally notified.
On the focus and TETFund intervention categories, beneficiaries are expected to submit project proposals upon which the funds would be applied. TETFund requires that such projects must be in line with the beneficiary institution’s core mandate and should be relevant to teaching, learning and research, including improving the learning and teaching environment.
Baffa said the fund fully implemented the 2017 revised guidelines for accessing intervention funds by beneficiary institutions in 2018, to ease the processes of submission and approval of project proposal for the various intervention lines of the fund, adding that this contributed significantly to beneficiary institutions delivering their 2017 intervention projects within the specified cycle.
Giving a breakdown of the education tax collection for 2018, he said, “As at November, 2018, the education tax collection stands at N200,793,193,208.54. This shows an increase of 25.47 percent over the previous years’ collection of N154.9 billion. The growth in the education tax collection is a clear confirmation that Nigeria’s economy has recovered from the avoidable recession it was plunged into by the previous administration.
“The increased collection, will obviously translate to a bigger allocation for public tertiary institutions and therefore more projects, scholarships and more research funds.”
Baffa said disbursement of funds between January to December 2018 to universities, polytechnics and colleges of education across the various intervention lines falls to N133.84 billion, adding that the fund reaped the benefit of the 2017 project proposal defence and access clinic for institutions in 2018 with about 97 percent increase in access of intervention fund by beneficiary institutions.
However, some institutions are confronted by the challenges in either assessing or utilising the funds. One of such challenges is the absence of capacities in the institution to initiate projects.
The President, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Professor Biodun Ogunyemi confirmed to THISDAY in a telephone interview that the problems confronting the institutions are multifaceted, one of which is deficit of supply.
He said over the years the federal and state governments have abandoned their primary responsibility of capital development for institutions, adding that the old and new projects on campuses particularly in the last 10 years are mainly those provided by TETFund grants and needs assessment intervention funds.
“Most of the time, what TETFund does is to assist in the area of capacity building and infrastructural development, staff training for higher degrees and provision of lecture rooms, staff offices and laboratories. All over the country, we actually have deficit of supply and TETFund has been making its own impact, but if we actually want to reposition our university, we need to go beyond TETFund.
He affirmed that the country’s institutions need a rapid response to the demands for infrastructure, equipping laboratories and stocking the libraries so as to ensure an enabling environment for scholars to deliver on their mandate.
Ogunyemi, who is a lecturer at the Department of Curriculum Studies and Instructional Technology, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, disclosed that TETFund has always being there as an intervention agency, a brain child of ASUU, which it proposed in 1992 when the union negotiated with government.
“TETFund has from 2005 been making it easy for universities and other levels of tertiary education but the funds intervention has not significantly addressed all the problems confronting them. We recognised the existence of TETFund when we asked government to conduct needs assessment to public universities in 2012, so government acceded to our demands because they said they couldn’t believe our report on rot and decay that we needed to go out and verify before we could talk about revitalisation.”
Ogunyemi said the exercise in 2012 had culminated to the agreement between the union and government in 2013 to massively inject funds into the university system outside of TETFund in order to address the problem of rot and decay.
A rector of a polytechnic, who prefers anonymity, said his institution is trying its best to overcome the challenges in as much as the state government is not living up to its responsibilities.
According to the rector, “We believe that whatever comes from the TETFund intervention is our right, but when they call for a stakeholders meeting, it’s always time consuming, which most times delays congress, the risk from traveling from Lagos to Abuja is also there. Recently things are changing, it took them time before the Bot was constituted, we hope that with a new board on ground, things will move as expected.”