The former Provost, Federal College of Education (Technical) Omoku. Rivers State, Dr Bassey Ubong, has warned that disruptive strikes in tertiary institutions would continue until Nigerian citizens and associations realize the need for joint funding of the education sector.
Dr Ubong is also of the opinion that as long as governments pick the tab for upwards of 98% of the cost of education of citizens in public educational institutions, thus making the idea of tuition fees meaningless to a large extent, then rancour-free flow and quality of education in Nigeria would remain a mirage for years to come.
Speaking with our correspondent in Uyo, the academic, who is a proprietor of two schools – Abu Ivy Technical College and Royal Family Basic School at Oboyo Ikot Ita in Nsit Ibom LGA of Akwa Ibom State, explained that “in the world’s richest country, the United States of America, many students access tertiary education using loans paid back after graduation.”
“To administer the institutions in the USA, funding comes through endowments of which for some universities, the annual takings exceed the annual budgets of some state governments in Nigeria.”
He appealed to private citizens with the capacity to assist educational institutions to do so along with companies which he says should go beyond contributions to the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund).
He wondered what tertiary education in Nigeria would look like without TETFund, originally engineered by ASUU.
On the perennial ASUU/federal government face-off, Ubong appealed to the federal government to bend over backwards to always meet the terms of agreement it has reached with staff unions because according to him ‘Dancing goes bad when there is a standstill.’
“There should be sustained demonstration of goodwill by periodic releases rather than complete stoppage till another crisis starts, and public officers should be more reasonable in their display of wealth as indecent lifestyles along with daily revelations of misuse of public funds inflame passions and give the impression that government resources are unlimited.”
He lamented the lack of emphasis on technical education in a developing country like Nigeria explaining that if the original concept of Universal Basic Education was followed, most Nigerian youths would not be in the job market because they would be self-employed and employers of labour.
“I am calling on secondary and tertiary educational institutions in Nigeria to go entrepreneurial by insisting that every student must have a skill before graduation. This should also be a public policy directive by way of legislation.”
He equally called for a new emphasis on technical/vocational education in his native Akwa Ibom State; lamenting that parents and guardians were not good at meeting the financial requirements of their children and wards thus placing severe strain on administrators of private schools.
“Since of Professor Vernon Mallinson, ‘The reading nations are the leading nations.’ According to Professor Vernon Mallinson, Nigeria cannot, according to him, claim to be the giant of Africa when it is far below UNICEF’s recommendation of a minimum of 26% of the annual budget for education while also sending its children to Ghana, Europe, and the United States of America even for secondary education.
“The level of budgetary allocation to education in Ghana was 13.7% in 2021. In 2022, allocation to education in Nigeria stands at 7.9% while in 2021 it was 5.6% far below the recommended level. How much of this will eventually be released and how much of the amount released will go into actual expenditure are stories for another day?” he don asked.