The executive secretary, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Sonny Echono, has joined several other Nigerians to canvass financial autonomy for Nigerian universities as a way to address the incessant industrial actions.
Speaking recently in Abuja, Echono believed that there was need to rethink the entire idea of education funding in Nigeria. According to him, government should not only grant universities autonomy, it should also take another look at its own policy regarding the funding of university education in the country.
He said: “We need to rethink the whole idea of education funding to expand it to include all those grade levels and the participation of all actors; universities working extremely hard to generate internal revenue, attract grants, endowments and through the internally generated revenue (IGR), work towards self-sustenance.”
Adding: “Government should grant them autonomy. It should also take another look at its own policy. When you say ‘free tuition in tertiary education’ what does that mean? Because somebody has to pay and government should not take up burdens it cannot meet up with.
“So, if it needs to share those burdens, government can limit its involvement to those who are vulnerable, very poor, the indigents or also, encourage the very best, the most brilliant so that they can also excel and contribute to the development of the country.
“But government must admit that it cannot bear the burden alone but collectively, we should design a new funding architecture for tertiary institutions to address these issues”, Echono said.
Delighted over the suspension of eight months industrial action by ASUU, he said the fund had been waiting for such a moment when the strike would be suspended.
“The truth is that we have been waiting for them. We are one of the people that suffered most from the ASUU strike because they are very important partner in what we do. We like to get feedback from them.
“They have the right structure in every campus. So, we even involve them in the monitoring of our projects, similar to what we did in the ministry with our needs assessment which they are very pleased with.
“So, we borrow that formula and we are waiting to commence our monitoring programmes with them and other unions because we want to be assessed and evaluated by our stakeholders so that they can give us advice.
“We also engaged many of them in our committees and various things that we do so that we can get the feedback system from them.
“We have been missing them in this regard but now that the strike is over, God willing, we will recommence our engagement and we will get their valuable inputs.”
Echono recalled that ASUU played a significant role in ensuring that government established TETFund. “So, we see them as principal stakeholders and we welcome them back to our campuses.