ABUAD VC calls for review of 2011 TETFund Act

Vice chancellor of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, ABUAD, Prof. Smaranda Elisabeta Olarinde, has called for an immediate amendment of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) Act 2011 to align its functioning with the current realities of the Nigerian tertiary education landscape. That way, the avoidable, discriminatory, and inequitable exclusion of Nigeria’s 149 private universities from accessing TETFund largesse will be permanently laid to rest.

Olarinde who described funding and financing as the most pivotal aspects of Higher Education Institutions’ (HEIs) governance framework, advocated adequate funding of universities, whether private or public, bearing in mind that education is power and constitutes a significant influence on the wealth of any nation.

Speaking at the maiden edition of the Annual Bursary Lecture at Elizade University, Ilara-Mokin, Ondo State, on Tuesday, the professor of Law urged Nigeria to take a cue from countries such as Ghana, Kenya, and the United States where governments have extended government funding to private institutions based on merit, performance indicators and the pursuit of national educational goals.

She wondered why TETFund would veer off the provisions of Section 3(1) of the Act establishing it as a Financial Intervention Body set up to rehabilitate, restore, and consolidate tertiary education in Nigeria.

Specifically, the funds under the body are for the provision or maintenance of essential physical infrastructure for teaching and learning, institutional material and equipment, research and publications, academic staff training and development, and any other critical and essential needs for the improvement and maintenance of the standards in the higher educational institutions.

Section 3 (1) of the TETFund Act states: “Tertiary Education Trust Fund is for the rehabilitation, restoration, and consolidation of tertiary education in Nigeria which shall be managed by the Board of Trustees in accordance with Section 4.”

She was quick to point out that “apart from the fact that Section 3(1) contradicts the provisions of Sections 6(e) and 7(1) of the Act, it is clear that Sections 6(e) and 7(1) are not only discriminatory but a breach of Section 18 of the 1999 Constitution to the extent that the exclusion of private institutions is illegal, unconstitutional, unfair, and unjustifiable as the intent of the makers of the law in the establishment of TETFUND is for tertiary education in Nigeria.

“It is on this note that this paper calls for an urgent amendment to the Act so as to enable only established and accredited private universities that satisfy the prescribed conditions to benefit from the fund”.

Section 6(e) of the Act reads as follows: “The Board shall ensure disbursement of funds to various public tertiary educational institutions in Nigeria” while Section 7(1) provides as follows: “The Board of Trustees shall administer the tax imposed and disburse the amounts to Federal and States Tertiary Institutions.”

The Guest speaker fervently looks forward to private universities benefitting from the staggering TETFund resources which rose geometrically from N34 to N199 billion in 2023 in the nearest future.

She said: “The recent increase in the Education Tax from 2.5 percent to 3 percent is expected to further augment TETFund’s resources. While there is a general rise in TETFund allocations, the proportions among Public Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education remain the same”.

She added: “However, a glaring injustice exists within the Nigerian Higher Education landscape – through the exclusion of private institutions from TETFund’s financial support. Despite being funded by taxes collected from both public and private companies, private universities, which play a crucial role in expanding access to tertiary quality education, are denied any benefits from TETFund.”

Further driving her point home, Olarinde posited that excluding private universities from TETFund support will remain counter-productive and would continue to limit their capacity to expand and improve infrastructure, research capabilities, and academic offerings, bearing in mind that these private universitieshave the potential to contribute meaningfully to Nigeria’s economic transformation and innovation agenda while their products are prepared to serve the national economy.

Her words: “Investing in their research and development capabilities through TETFund can catalyse breakthroughs and foster partnerships between Academia and Industry, leading to knowledge-driven economic growth.

To get out of the financial quagmire and particularly because of the enormous cost of funding any University in Nigeria, which can neither be borne by any individual, organization or the government alone, Olarinde enjoined proprietors of private universities to explore other sources of funding  and team up with the Founderof Afe Babalola University Ado Ekiti, Aare Afe Babalola, SAN, in his crusade to get the Federal Government to support Private Universities through the TETFund and Research Grants as it is done for Private Universities in developed Countries.

She also called on universities to develop in-built mechanisms such as innovative modes for raising funds, attracting grants and donations to sustain them. This is in addition to parents, guardians, the society in general, the private sector and non-governmental agencies imbibing the spirit of giving to worthy courses like university education.

In her view, “A robust higher education system, where both public and private institutions thrive, calls for equitable treatment in access to funding. Private universities are not competitors to public ones. Rather, they complement government efforts in providing more quality education opportunities for young Nigerians. Denying them access to TETFund weakens the overall higher education system.

“It’s time for Nigeria to embrace a truly inclusive TETFund. Inclusion will promote healthy competition, enhance educational standards, and unleash the latent potential of the Nigerian academic landscape – ultimately benefiting the entire nation and its global competitiveness”.

Olofintila, ABUAD’s Director of Corporate Affairs writes from Ado-Ekiti.

SOURCE: NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

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