By Adesina Wahab
THE Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has called for the setting up of an Education Bank that will provide interest-free loans to students in tertiary institutions so as to make funding education at that level convenient for all.
He also advocated the setting up a Students Loan Scheme in the country.
He made the calls on Monday while delivering the 52nd convocation lecture of the University of Lagos, UNILAG.
The lecture was themed: Building back better: Creating a new framework for tertiary education in Nigeria in the 21st Century. He said in that regard, he had sponsored a bill titled: Students Loans (Access to Higher Education Bill) in the National Assembly.
He stated that as a lawmaker and politician, one of the most frequent requests he always received was funding for tertiary education, as the future of bright students could be in jeopardy.
“The bill sets to provide interest- free loans to students. The repayment of these loans shall commence two years after the completion of the National Youth Service Corps Scheme. However, we must all understand that public support for any such system will depend significantly on the tertiary institutions themselves.
“The Ninth House of Representatives has education as one of its key areas of focus in its legislative agenda. We have for instance taken active steps to upgrade many of our public institutions, elevating some colleges of education to universities of education among others,” he said.
He decried the current practice of universities depending on subventions and allocations from government, noting that it was grossly inadequate and archaic.
He called for synergy between universities and industries as being done in advanced nations which is yielding good fruits.
While not saying funding is a big challenge in Nigeria’s education sector, the Speaker opined that coming up with circular that would help produce graduates fit for the global market was a top need.
He added that the world has changed and that the country must make strident efforts not to be left behind.
“For Nigerian citizens to thrive in this new world, participate fully and productively in the new global economy and benefit from irather than be consumed by the technological advancements that are changing our world, tertiary education in Nigeria must be prepared to embrace reinvention and adapt to disruption, ” he stated.
The Chairperson of the event, Justice Amina Adamu Augie of the Supreme Court, said today’s youths must endeavour to be leaders and well grounded in their fields.
She frowned at the situation whereby some parents would cut corners for their children to attain education heights they lacked the capacities to justify or hold.
The Pro-Chancellor of UNILAG, Senator Dr Lanre Tejuoso, also described education as leveler and one way of attaining great heights in life.
The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Toyin Ogundipe, said the university was always rising up to the challenge in the sector as it was the first public university to go online when COVID-19 pandemic broke out in the country.