If Nigeria must achieve rapid development socially, economically and technologically, there must be a special focus on tertiary education, the same way that China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore and others have done.
Prof. Abubakar Momoh, the Director General, National Electoral Institute, made this assertion while delivering a lecture at the convocation of the Lagos State Polytechnic, Ikorodu.
According to Momoh, this is the only plausible way through which Nigeria can be reckoned among the comity of nations where significance is attached to names.
The Guest Speaker who spoke on the topic: Funding Challenge of Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria; The Way Forward’ believes that ‘it is only through quality education that there can be improvement in health, agriculture and other sectors of the country.
He buttressed his point on the sacrosanct of ‘academy’ by making allusion to importance and mutual respect accorded education by former UK Prime Minister, Winston Churchill and former German leader, Adolf Hitler during the World War II (1939-1945).
According to him, the globally infamous Hitler agreed that no form of provocation or sentiment should warrant any harm to come to the two oldest universities in England which are Oxford University (1096 AD) and Cambridge University (1209 AD) respectively.
In return, Churchill also agreed to honour the oldest university in Germany, University of Heidelberg (1386 AD). Incidentally, these three universities are all public universities.
He observed that tertiary institutions have become a caricature of what it used to be where students can boast of gainful employments even before their graduation, saying then, tertiary institutions were not established fundamentally to generate revenue but to create conducive atmosphere for research and production of scholars.
The DG argued that tertiary education has recently become something that generates income, an affordable commodity only to the rich.
This the lecturer derided when he said,
‘When tertiary institutions say they have IGR of 20-40% and this has made them rely less on federal funding, the question I often asked is that, at what social and health cost to the staff and students of the institutions?- ‘Education for the rich!’
Professor Momoh said governments at both federal and state levels must make a clear distinction between recurring expenditure of staff emolument from capital expenditure. He maintained that giving grants in aid to tertiary institutions should not be done with an ulterior motive of getting monetary returns from them.
Rather, he opined that government should give Grants-in-Aid to deserving institutions at both federal and state levels.
The DG, National Electoral Institute noted that churning out large population of students who lack competent research and development skills would only keep increasing the population of unemployed in the country.
He stressed that research and physical expansion of tertiary institutions would not only have an enormously positive impact on the minds of the students but it would also set Nigeria right on the pedestal of countries with global significance across the globe.
In other words, the lecturer believes that providing expansion in the areas of research and development would make Nigerian tertiary institutions become ‘relevant’ across the world as it ought to be.
Professor Momoh urges relevant agencies to wake up to their responsibilities to deliver their service diligently.
“Government must ensure that the appropriate bodies such as NUC, NBTE and NCCE responsible for “Quality Control and Assurance’ in tertiary institutions enforce the power vested in them. This will help in the standardization of courses and personnel in all ramifications and other necessary aspects.
“Financial accountability is a vital issue the aforementioned agencies must ensure on tertiary institutions.'”
Citing Harvard University as a practical example for how endowments have helped made research, he maintained that education should not be restricted to only the students who could afford the cost.
“Multi National Corporations (MNC’s) should fulfill their Corporate Social Responsibly, by giving endowments to encourage students, especially for the graduates at the post graduate level to delve into grounds that are either underdeveloped or zero-delivered,” he said
“Alumni of tertiary institutions should intervene in proactive ways in the affairs of the institutions. This intervention should go beyond annual dinner and award winning/prize/honour giving ceremonies.”
The Guest Speaker canvassed for emergence of the concept of ‘Research Triangle in Nigeria’- an amalgam of ‘Government+Industry+Academy’ which would produce a positive synergy that would see to the revival of active research inclined institutions.
Professor Momoh posited that tertiary education has a future in Nigeria only if all stakeholders join hands to make concerted efforts and share in a common and patriotic vision.
“This will entail the states playing its social responsibility and changing its views about the role of education in national development. Education must be viewed as a public good, a tool for putting a nation on a relevant pivot that would be acknowledged and reckoned with, globally, rather than it being an individual good,- education for only the few rich who can afford it,” he concluded.
By Shifau Bello