Before now, Tertiary education in Nigeria is faced with serious decay including low lecturers’ morale due to what they go through while discharging their duties. The lecturers’ productivity was said to be very low due to low pay package.
Apart from the poor pay package, their working environment was not so conducive due to broken down facilities which are in a complete state of decay.
Other challenges faced by tertiary education include poor learning/teaching facilities, lack of research incentives, incessant strike actions by members of the Academic Staff unions of University (ASUU).
The implication of this is that students who the institution of higher learning churned out on yearly basis end up becoming “half baked” notwithstanding the years spent in school in pursuit of various academic programmes.
The students end up graduating without securing jobs for themselves. Even when job opportunities are available, the graduates are not employable because they lacked the requisite/ basic skills required for employability in the labor market.
As should be expected, this it brings grievous retrogression to the economy of the nation since most graduates who ought to make meaningful contributions towards the the development/ growth of the economy of the nation end up becoming a big burden.
To get Nigerians off this ugly and poor situation of poor quality education which accounts for graduates becoming unemployed after going through a tertiary education, the then administration of President, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida mindful of the reality of the situation took measures to arrest the rot.
By 1990, the federal government constituted a Commission on the Review of Higher Education in Nigeria (the Gray Longe Commission), to review the post independence Nigerian Higher Education after Lord Ashby’s Commission of 1959.
The Longe Commission recommended among several other issues including the funding of higher education through earmarked tax to be borne by companies operating in Nigeria. An implementation committee under the chairmanship of Professor Olu O. Akinkugbe was constituted to implementation Grey Longe’s Commission report’s recommendations.
Also, an Agreement was signed between the Federal Government and ASUU on 3rd September, 1992, on funding of universities.
In January 1993, the Education Tax Act No7 of 1993 was promulgated alongside other education related Decrees. The Decree imposed a 2 per cent tax on the assessable profits of all companies in Nigeria. This was a home grown solution to address issues of funding to rehabilitate decaying infrastructure, restore the lost glory of education and confidence in the system as well as consolidate the gains and build capacity of lecturers; teacher development and development of prototype designs.
The Education Tax Act of No7 of 1993 gave authorisation to the Fund to operate as an Intervention Fund to all levels of public education (Federal, State and Local). This mandate was faithfully discharged between 1999 to May 2011 when the ETF Act was repealed and replaced by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund Act, due to lapses and challenges in operating the Education Trust Fund.
Records from Bureau of Statistics shows that as at 2016, 38 per cent of Nigeria’s population density that falls within the employable age are not employed with 65 per cent of the youths living in squalor due to lack of jobs.
Of course, among measures put in place to address the challenges faced by tertiary education in Nigeria is the establishment of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund). The agency was initially established as Education Tax Fund (ETF) by Act No.7 1993.
In 2011, the law establishing the Fund was amended through Tertiary Education Fund (TETFund), Act No.16 which focused on only public Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education. Since then, it has been one success story after another.
At the just concluded joint TETFund/FIRS Interactive Forum where stakeholders meet to brainstorm on current trends affecting management of tertiary education in Nigeria, in Calabar, Executive Secretary of TETFund, Prof. Suleiman Bogoro stated that N728.225,862,128.86 has been allocated during the period under review by the fund to intervene in critical areas of tertiary education in Nigeria so as to raise educational standard.
Bogoro who was represented at the forum by the deputy director finance and investment, Gloria Olotu, charged benefitting institutions to utilized the fund prudently.
He said that TETFund under his watch, has expanded its mandate by not only making funding that can take care of physical infrastructure but stimulating high quality research by beneficiary institutions to enable them address their socioeconomic challenges.
Bogoro who spoke on ‘Mitigating the Challenges of Education Tax Collection in a Recuperating Economy’, stated that the amount allocated will be used to cater for physical infrastructure, project maintenance, entrepreneurship, academic staff training and development.
He listed other areas which the money can be channeled to include library development and research among others for the various public tertiary educational institutions across the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria.
TETFund executive secretary averred that the fund had already made available take-off grants for some newly established universities where federal government budgetary provisions were not available.
He pointed out that in the area of facilitating researches to spearhead national development, the board of trustees made approval for additional N5bn and noted that over N2bn has been accessed by researchers to carry out researches in various fields of human endeavors stressing that since kickoff of the programme in 2012, over 133 proposals has been given approval.
“At the commencement of this intervention in 2012, only 30 proposals were received, out of which 13 proposals were adjudged fundable to the tune of N266,570,615.00.
“The fund received 1,846 research proposals out of which 39 proposals were successful and the sum of N1,024,602,374.00 approved by the Board of Trustees to cover the three thematic areas of research”. Bogoro added.
When asked to explain on what the fund had done to give succor to some Nigerian scholars stranded overseas, an issue which almost dragged the country /the fund’s image to the disrepute sometimes ago, the executive secretary stated that the issue had been resolved, with appropriate steps taken by TETFund to eliminate the lapses that led to the situation.
“Already, payments have commenced for certified TETFund scholars facing this predicament”. Bogoro emphasised.
Speaking on challenges, the TETFund boss decried low capacity utilisation by beneficiary institutions which after accessing the fund, failed to complete projects at specified time adding that problems of such nature were compounded due to lack of provisions for sanctions in the fund’s enabling law.
For his part, the Executive Chairman of FIRS, Tunde Fowler who spoke on ‘Tertiary Education Collection, The Activities, Performance, Challenges and Recommendations”, urged TETFund to prioritise sensitisation campaigns so that the tax payers will be abreast of how the taxes they pay are used noting the measure was necessary so that tax payers would not feel betrayed and cheated.
Interestingly, different stakeholders who spoke at the even applauded the TETFund for its modest achievements in repositioning the tertiary education sector and urged the managers of the fund to sustain what is generally regarded as judicious use of tax payers’ money.
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