The Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, has called on the federal government to adequately fund tertiary education in Nigeria.
Rasheed made the demand at the 2023 National Reunion Conference of Obafemi Awolowo University Muslim Graduates Association (UNIFEMGA), at the Obafemi Awolowo University, on Saturday, in Ile Ife.
Rasheed’s lecture was titled; “Funding of tertiary education in Nigeria: Issues, trend and opportunities”.
The NUC boss, who was represented by Prof. Shehu Ado, a Consultant to the school regulatory body, said that the major issues affecting Tertiary Education is gross underfunding which affects teaching, learning and research.
According to him, tertiary education is grossly underfunded and government needs enough money to inject into the system.
Underfunding, he said, is one of the bane of education development which has contributed to the low standard of education in the country.
“The universities are producing graduates who lack skills for employment and creative ability. There is need for universities to generate income to complement government efforts. The sector cannot be funded alone by government.
“There is an urgent need to invest in university education, urging that state and private sectors should invest in the sector for national development. The university management also needs to be more prudent in their spending.
“Brain drain in our university system is caused by non-conductive learning and teaching environment and some other issues and these need to be corrected,” he stated.
According to him, in the past, university teachers did well as the Naira was strong and good but today it is not.
He stated further that inadequate funding, obsolete equipment, and constant disruption of academic calendar have been described as part of the challenges facing tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
The Executive Secretary said while government needs to increase funding, institutions should endeavour to identify other areas where they could get funds to continue their works.
“I was surprised when a Youth Corper was asked to give the full meaning of NYSC and he couldn’t. This exemplified the deteriorating state and quality of graduates produced by our universities.
“Amongst other issues affecting our Tertiary Education is archaic curriculum which ought to be redesigned by injecting realities of time as the world is moving on a rapid note, lack of skilled workers, graduate with no skill and self confidence.
Also, Malam Yusuf Ali, SAN, who Chaired the occasion, said that government alone cannot fund tertiary education.
Ali added that Nigeria needs to look at other funding parameters to be used to generate funds and added to endowment funds, scholarships and payment of fees.
“Nigerians send their children to foreign universities and pay huge school fees. People pay exorbitant fees in secondary schools and yet they couldn’t pay for university education.
“The agitation of the Academic Staff Union of Universities for better pay is genuine. There is the need for government to pay lecturers what is commensurate with their contributions to be able to retain them in the system and avoid brain drain.
“Individuals that God has been kind to in terms of material provisions should assist the university system. When students pay school fees, government can now come to assist them through scholarship and other facilities,” he emphasised.
The Chairman appealed to the government to continue to play its roles and urged everyone to join hands to ensure that Nigeria gets the kind of universities it deserves.
“National resources are getting smaller because of increase in population and Nigeria is a mono-economic country whose potentials must be tapped in terms of income generation from taxes, mining, agriculture and information communication technology.
He also said that Nigeria is not a rich country, if you rake its income profile, population and land mass, into consideration.
“The Naira is fluctuating because our foreign reserve is low. Saudi Arabia has stability in its economy because it has strong Gross Domestic Product,” he stated.
Similarly, the UNIFEMGA National President, Engr. Olanlege Abdul-Fattah, said that the trend in the education sector, especially the challenges of ASUU strike, needs to be expeditely dealt with.
Abdul-Fattah added that a lot of things needs to be put in place to make university education curriculum more relevant, including the redesigning of policies to enable the university system to be self sustaining.
He called for changes that will make university system more autonomous, urging governments to tackle challenges in education sector to make positive things happen in the sector.
“Prolonged university calendar and archaic curriculum need to be stopped and we must act fast because the world is coming down to our youths.
“They are learning by themselves now, doing a lot of things on the internet and acquiring skills to make them relevant to the world.
“The youths are now seeing university as no more relevant and this can soon make university education redundant,” he said.
Abdul-Fattah admonished universities to start adjusting the curriculum to meet the needs and challenges of the youths and make them relevant in future.”
According to him, the association has been offered about 800 scholarships to students to support their future aspiration. It also organised mentoring and coaching for students to enable them achieve their future career.
Speaking at the ceremony, the host Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Adebayo Bamire, said he’s thrilled by activities that target the younger ones who will eventually do the same to those coming after them.
“This year, we are grateful for several achievements which we will be showcasing vis -a – vis secretariat restructuring, upgraded website, history book, scholarship fund boost leading to a revised investment target of N100 million from N50 million.
Earlier, a library donated to UNIFEMGA by late Alhaji Abdullah Ayinla Bello’s children was commissioned.