BY IKENNA ASOMBA
Amidst hues and cries from some quarters that the rot in infrastructure in tertiary education system is becoming too alarming, former Special Adviser to former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Prof. Tunde Samuel, has called on government at federal and state levels to totally deregulate the system, given the macro economic reality on ground.
Delivering the 49th Inaugural Lecture of the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo entitled: “Total Deregulation: The Inevitable Bitter-Pill or Partial Deregulation, a Policy Heresy-Which Option for Public Tertiary Education in Nigeria?”, Prof. Samuel averred that if the sector must witness rapid academic and infrastructural growth, the need for government to hands-off its regulatory control on how public universities, polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of education are managed becomes expedient.
Buttressing his point, the Head, Department of Education Management, LASU lamented the difficulty for ivory towers to get monthly imprest, pay salary, attend conferences, workshops, engender infrastructural renewal and development for effective teaching, learning and research.
He opined that “as the cost of education has been on the increase and the waiting period after graduation is now indefinite, it’s difficult to advise government to continue to bear the huge financial burden of tertiary education.
“Given the macro economic reality on ground as enunciated in this inaugural lecture, my thesis is that total deregulation is inevitable but not now, if tertiary education is to fulfill its social welfare function. My position is reinforced by the brutal fact that with a per capita of less than $2 per day, majority of Nigerians can not have access to tertiary education even at the current cost.”
Going by the United Nations Unit Cost Estimate for Tertiary Education in Africa, which is put at between $10,000- $15,000 or N2.3m upper limit and N1.5m lower limit for a four year degree programme, the don held that “public tertiary institutions in Nigeria should charge a lower limit of N391,000 and an upper limit of N500,000 to keep tertiary education alive.
He recalled that a funding scheme which he suggested in 2002 at a World Bank Summit on Alternative sources for funding Higher Education in Nigeria should be adopted. According to him, “government should take care of municipal cost, salaries and allowances of staff; tuition fees should be set aside for capita projects, whilst accommodation should be left for parents in line with the dynamics of partial deregulation.”
In his one hour interactive lecture, Prof. Samuel, while evaluating the current state of the nation’s education sector, amongst other things recommended that higher institutions of learning must embrace vocational and technical education, noting that “there is no tangency between the gargantuan investment in tertiary education and the rate of return but massive joblessness in the economy.”
Recommending that there is need for managers of tertiary institutions to prudently manage funds disbursed, he admonished: “Governing Council Chairmen and members should adhere strictly to fiscal discipline.
A situation whereby such members ask for first class ticket and millions of Naira while on leave is morally untenable when such institutions can’t pay salaries and provide running costs regularly.”
He also called on all tertiary institutions to put to stop the proliferation of academic programmes as the existing ones are poorly funded.