By Aare Afe Babalola
EARLIER in the year, I discussed extensively that the statement of some stakeholders that private tertiary institutions are money-making ventures and that if included in the TETFund scheme, such would deny the children from poor homes.
I considered in particular the statement reportedly made by the Chairman of the TETFUND Board, Alhaji Kasshim Ibrahim-Imam, who reportedly stated that: “We cannot fund private institutions. Private institutions are for profit making. If we start giving them funds, it means we would start excluding the children of the less privileged from accessing quality education”.
Not only did I debunk these claims that private universities are money-making ventures, but I also made a strong case for the need to include private tertiary institutions in Nigeria, just as their foreign counterparts, as recipients of government funding and interventions.
I have decided to revisit this issue in view of the recent comments from some notable stakeholders who share my opinion with regard to the need for TETFUND to finance private institutions in Nigeria.
The first comment I will consider is that of the Chancellor of Precious Cornerstone University, Ibadan, Oyo State, Bishop Francis Wale Oke, who also doubles as President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria. He reportedly noted that private institutions have become major drivers of economic advancement, with their products playing outstanding roles in the different sectors.
In currying support for the funding of private institutions, he further, reportedly, noted that: “The same way private sector players in banking, aviation, agriculture, and other sectors have received different forms of support and funding, so should education, which is a more critical sector.
The bulk of investors in tertiary education are social entrepreneurs, whose primary interest is not profit. They have, over time, developed a robust governance system that makes for greater accountability and transparency”.
I lend my support to the reasoning of this well-respected cleric. It is not news that private sector-controlled institutions like agriculture, aviation, etc., receive some form of subventions from the government. It is, however, unfortunate that private institutions are regarded as profit-oriented and, therefore, do not enjoy any form of government funding.
Besides Peter Obi, the former Anambra State governor, who had also called for TETFUND to extend financing to private universities, Oluwole Oke, the lawmaker representing the Obokun/Oriade Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives, also recently lent his support to the need for private institutions to receive government funding.
In calling for the integration of private institutions into the TETFUND system, he advocated the need to shun any form of dichotomy between public and private institutions for government funding.
In addition, he also rightly noted that private institutions were established by churches, philanthropists, communities, and individuals who realised that government alone cannot fund education and, therefore, bequeathed their wealth to trustees to fund them.
In reality, therefore, these private universities are established in response to the failure of the government to adequately cater for the education needs of the budding populace and rather than being profit-oriented, they are no more than the life legacies of their founders to complement the public institutions. Not being subject to the usual government bureaucracy, private institutions have consistently upheld the standard of education in Nigeria.
Lastly, I will refer to the statement of Professor Adewumi Idowu, the Vice Chancellor of the Samuel Adegboyega University who, very recently, reportedly noted as follows: “Private universities engage in the training of Nigerians just like public universities. There is no discrimination when it comes to training. Government should extend TETFUND to private universities because we are engaged in the training of Nigerians just like public universities.”
There is no doubt that private universities have consistently provided the well-needed response to the failure of the public tertiary institutions in terms of infrastructure, world-class teaching materials, among others.
It is, therefore, more advantageous and forward-thinking to include private tertiary institutions who, without any existing government subventions, have made so much indelible impact in the provision of quality tertiary education in the country.
To this end, for instance, Afe Babalola University has been described by the Nigerian Universities Commission, NUC, the supervisory body for all Universities in Nigeria, as a model, benchmark and reference point and also as the pride of University education in Nigeria.
The NUC also described the institution’s College of Law as the best in West Africa while the Nigerian Society of Engineers noted that ABUAD’s College of Engineering is the template for engineering education in Nigeria.
Furthermore, the former Nigeria’s Minister of Health described the ultra-modern College of Medicine as the best in the country. Equally, the UNESCO, on its visit to the university, described the institution as a world-class university.
Since the bedrock of any society is education, the government must lend its full support to all tertiary institutions in Nigeria without any discrimination whatsoever. If, indeed, the goal of the government is to provide quality education to Nigerians, the best avenue is to lend maximum support to private institutions which have consistently been at the forefront of delivering quality education in Nigeria despite being set up for non-profit.
Professor Peter Okebukola in his book entitled, Private University Education in Nigeria: Case Studies in Relevance remarkably noted that what TETFund rakes into its revenue pot is about N23 billion annually, which is largely derived from the private sector of the economy.
The goose that lays the golden egg that all public universities in Nigeria are enjoying is the private sector. Equity, therefore, demands that private universities should also be served by TETFund intervention. According to the Chairman, Board of Trustees of TETFund, Alhaji Kasshim Ibrahim-Imam, the Federal Government, through TETFund, has injected more than N2.5 trillion in the development of infrastructure and staff development in public universities, polytechnics and colleges of education in Nigeria in the last 10 years of the establishment of the Fund.
If the private sector is working to get the money into TETFund purse, then private universities alongside their public counterparts should derive benefit from this commonwealth.
In addition, it is discriminatory to exclude private universities from TETFund which is largely funded from the contributions of the private sector. In fact, private institutions ought to be apportioned a larger share of the TETFund revenue.
The other equity consideration is that since the goal is to produce quality graduates to be churned into the Nigerian labour market, regardless of the source (whether public or private), then the private universities equally need to be served by the TETFund intervention, and urgently so.
However, to ensure that TETFund money is only utilised for the advancement of education only, no private university should enjoy funding from TETFund unless the NUC has certified the private university has been in existence for at least six years and has turned out two sets of graduates and has in place quality structures and equipment on its permanent site.