By Sola Ogundipe
The Academy of Medicine Specialties of Nigeria has called for true university autonomy in the country so that universities can genuinely fund themselves without necessarily living off the Federal or State governments.
Making the call in an advisory to the Minister of Education and the National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, among other stakeholders, the President of the Academy, Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, said funding was central to the constant crises in Nigerian Universities among other factors.
Ashiru, who spoke on behalf of the Academy and its Strategic Plan Committee, observed that there have been many interventional programmes by the government over the last 20 years, such as the Education TrustFund, ETF, and the Tertiary TETFUND, noting that it is becoming increasingly clear that Nigerian Universities require more than tokenistic interventions. He, however, said in particular, that the allocation of ETF and TETFUND monies is noticeably unbalanced.
“From reports publicly available, the ASUU has spent a cumulative period of 49 months and two weeks on strike between 1999 and now.
According to these reports, in the last five years, excluding the current year (2022), ASUU spent 395 days, which amount to more than a full calendar year, on strike. Currently, ASUU has embarked on another strike that is in its second month.
“With the continual increase in the number of universities without commensurate growth in government revenue, it is evident that alternative sources of funding must be sought,” he noted.
Calling for true university autonomy, Ashiru said the introduction of tuition fees was desirable for regular students to shore up the revenue available to the universities, even as many Nigerians are already paying as part-time, diploma, postgraduate, distant learning students, among others.
He called for the enactment of a law by the National Assembly to protect the vulnerable in the society who cannot pay tuition and the introduction of a students’ loan bank as well as scholarships grants, state government bursaries, and endowments to support needy students to pay tuition fees and other service charges.
“In the best interest of the government, ASUU, and other Unions in the university and the populace, realistic solutions devoid of long-term held sentiments are the only way out of the current and constant crises in the Nigerian University system. We plead for an urgent return to dialogue to put an end to this crisis. “The situation where departments, faculties, and Colleges within our universities do not have funds to prosecute basic needs is worrisome.
Therefore, the government, ASUU, and aII critical stakeholders who are genuinely interested must come together to proffer a lasting solution to the problems,” Ashiru argued.
“Salary of academic staff should be commensurate with their ability to generate income from grants and other income-generating programmes and opportunities. These will naturally be accompanied by publications that are hopefully relevant to our local situation and development.
“An overall and global improvement in salaries and allowances of the academic staff of Nigerian universities is desirable, to take cognizance of the inflation rate. Earning the equivalent of $2000 five years ago and now $1000 with the progressive and continuing increase in the cost of living is not something to the proud of.