•As varsities, polytechnics go broke
By Sam Otti
The former Vice Chancellor, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Niger State, Prof. Ibrahim A. Kolo, has called for the merger of unviable state tertiary institutions with the federal ones to enable state governments allocate adequate fund to primary and post-primary schools. He said this step would save state governments and their tertiary institutions from financial crisis.
Prof Kolo stated this at the 14th pre-convocation lecture of the Federal Polytechnic, Bida, Niger State, held recently. Speaking as a guest lecturer on the topic, Funding Policy For Tertiary Education In a Depressed Economy, he explained that the education sector in most parts of developing countries, especially Nigeria, suffer from dependency on government financing through annual, medium or long term budgetary provisions. According to him, without the lifeline provided by TETFund interventions, most Nigerian tertiary institutions, especially state-owned ones, would not survive.
Kolo said policy suggestions that could resolve under-funding of tertiary education in a distressed Nigerian economy, must go beyond taking the anti-corruption agenda to tertiary institutions. Rather, hard choices and constitutional amendments needed to be made for the entire education sector, particularly the tertiary sub-sector, he urged.
“The funding situation points largely to the fact that states can do without the burden of owning and running tertiary institutions, particularly universities, polytechnics and colleges of education,” he explained. “If states are to own tertiary institutions, they should be regulated in terms of joint ownership by two or three states or even on regional constituent states arrangements. What is required to avoid role frictions or tendencies of reneging on agreed terms by states is to ensure the sanctity of the MoUs through the Federal Government and the extant regulatory bodies.”
The former VC said the pace of development and available facilities in most state tertiary institutions in the country today indicate that synergy building among them through joint proprietorships and consolidation of their programmes in multi-campus structured arrangements would do them a lot more good than the solo efforts which have not been helpful in attaining the heights of their respective visions.
He argued that the hitches recorded in the joint proprietorship of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) resulted from political ego between Oyo and Osun states rather than the non-workability of the arrangement.
Kolo urged the policy makers to save the sub-sector by reconsidering the mergers and consolidation reforms proposed by Obiageli Ezekwesili during her brief stint as Minister of Education in 2003. Existing state tertiary institutions and even unviable federal ones, he said, can be converted to campuses of their federal counterparts so that the states can face more of the business of basic, secondary, entrepreneurship and innovative education institutions.
“Funds from sources like TETFund can then be more adequately channeled to institutions subsumed into new Federal or joint states arrangements and their merged campuses. This suggestion apparently implies that the Federal Government assumes the responsibility of funding only tertiary education without dabbling into the lower levels of the education system, just as the case with funding tertiary level education in the US, UK, most of Europe and the East African countries”, he said.
Prof Kolo who was also the former President of Counselling Association of Nigeria (CASSON), also called for a paradigm shift from wholesome government funding of tertiary education, which has only encouraged dependence by public tertiary institutions on available public funds.
“The shift in funding policy should be to gradually but surely bring in non-governmental stakeholder ownerships (industry and the private sector in particular) into tertiary institutions funding. Government needs to begin to consider limiting its funding of tertiary education to loan and bond guarantees, as well appropriate scholarships and competitive or collaborative grants to collectives of credible stakeholders who can responsibly manage tertiary institutions”.
He argued that the nation’s tertiary education sub-sector needed the initiative of an ‘Education Bank’ now more than ever before.
“It is also possible to consider strengthening and expanding the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) as a more credible and acceptable medium of tertiary education with a view to making the Open and Distance Learning (ODL) model of education free for all qualified candidates who would seek admission through the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) entrance examinations as an option to the conventional tertiary institutions system. With NOUN programmes available and accessible to candidates in all parts of the country, the choice will be for candidates to opt for it or for the conventional public tertiary institutions that will now begin to charge appropriate fees. Governments’ full funding of NOUN programmes will become its major contribution to financing public tertiary education”, he stated.
He stressed that TETFund needed to be further repositioned and strengthened by making its interventions wholly or partly based on collaborative funding of capital projects and facilities in tertiary institutions, rather than the Board of Trustees (BOT) and High Impact Interventions which only make institutions more dependent on wholesome government funding.
“The case for this kind of policy shift was recently buttressed when the National Economic Council under the Chairmanship of the Vice President passed a resolution for the dormant federal funds for the Universal Basic Education (UBE) to be made accessible by states on the basis of 10% counterpart funding as against the stipulated provision in the Law for a 60:40 (Federal/states) ratio which most states have been unable to meet. Stakeholder groups like alumni associations, public interest groups and elite (many of whom are establishing private tertiary institutions on their own or their mentors’ names) can be initiated into collaborations for owning public tertiary institutions as stakeholders. I, however, do not subscribe to using public finances under any guise like TETFund for funding capital projects and facilities in solely private tertiary institutions”, he noted.
He also stressed the need to aggressively encourage Public Private Partnership (PPP) funding of resource generating mega projects (like hostels, international conference centres, knowledge and ICT parks, university printing press, staff quarters, etc.) in tertiary institutions. According to him, under well-spelt out guidelines and policies, a PPP Act of the National Assembly can be put into effect to facilitate funding of facilities in tertiary institutions.
“With the demonstration of the need to end corruption and impunity in the public sector and our entire national life so far by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, the window of opportunity of PPP in the tertiary education sector should now be cashed in upon by the Federal Ministry of Education and tertiary institutions to meet funding gaps which have ever become so apparent”, he added.
He emphasized the need to strengthen the culture of strategic planning, due process and due diligence, transparency and accountability in tertiary institutions. He charged the Federal Ministry of Education and Tertiary Education Regulatory Bodies (NUC, NBTE, and NCCE) to enforce strictly their respective frameworks for compliance by tertiary institutions in guiding their respective development and expansion initiatives.
He explained that issues of compliance to procurement ethics, due process and audit references for financial planning should be followed to enthrone the values of transparency and accountability in funding and funding policy.
“Without a strong system of transparency and accountability, funding the education sector becomes open to abuse and the vagaries of corruption which sets the sector backward. Circumvention of funding policies of transparency and accountability largely makes the education sector retroactive in terms of achieving the core mandate of human resource and human capital development for the nation”.
Kolo described funding and funding policy as the most critical aspect of the development of the education sector anywhere in the world. He said adequate funding remains instrumental to all other aspects of developing the sector such as: infrastructural development and maintenance; provision of teaching and learning facilities; prompt payment of staff salaries, emoluments as well as ensuring staff welfare and meeting their capacity development needs; and providing for learners personal and educational needs.
“It is an incontrovertible fact that the level of funding put into the education sector determines expected output of set targets – access, coverage, opportunities, completion rates and quality at all levels. Indeed, without adequacy of resource inputs, sustainable resource mobilization strategies, institutionalized financial control and management system as well as enthroned transparency and accountability system, funding the education sector is usually so much of a herculean task, as stagnation, misappropriations and corruption become dominant in the sector”, he added.
While analysing the nation’s tertiary education sub-sector, Kolo said the situation of funding has been made so dependent on government budgetary and extra budgetary provisions. He warned of obvious dysfunctions and threats of collapse of the system because of related factors of under estimation or very inadequate budgetary releases to tertiary institutions in the past two decades.
According to him, just as most state governments across the country have become over-dependent on monthly federations allocations to fund the education sector, so have tertiary institutions (both Federal and State owned) become so dependent and subservient to the dictates and intrigues of budgetary provisions for all their needs (capital and recurrent).
“The danger of such a funding policy trend is the erosion of the autonomy and stifling of initiatives required for creativity and knowledge innovation as expected of the mandate of tertiary institutions.
Basically, there is nothing so much wrong with government sole proprietorship for the funding of public tertiary education, especially in developing countries, as long as sustainability can be guaranteed. And therein is the challenge of funding for tertiary education. Sustainability would always be difficult with government being the main funding source for tertiary education largely because the economies of developing countries will continue to remain vulnerable to globalizing trends and dominant market competitiveness in which various nations have to play. We, therefore, have to explore additional options to funding tertiary education and must stop policy procrastination regarding the required shift in Funding Policy”, he maintained.