‘Depressed economy worsening quality of learning, teaching’
The prevailing depressing economic climate in the country, occasioned largely by paucity of funds is whittling down the chances of meeting standard requirements for quality tertiary education.
This development, the immediate past vice chancellor of Niger State-owned Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University (IBBU), Lapai, Prof. Ibrahim Adamu Kolo, says continually compounds the smooth running of these institutions and negatively affect quality of learning and teaching.
Kolo who was speaking at the 14th pre convocation lecture of Federal Polytechnic, Bida, Niger State said certainly, policy suggestions, which can break the vicious cycle of underfunding of tertiary education afflicted by a distressed Nigerian economy, must go beyond taking the anti-corruption agenda to tertiary institutions, stressing that hard choices and constitutional amendments would be needed if the entire education sector, and particularly the tertiary sub-sector was to feel the impact of funding in the context of the administration’s change mantra.
Speaking on the topic, “Funding Policy for Tertiary Education in a Depressed Economy,” Kolo who was also appointed vice chancellor of the defunct Federal University of Education, Zaria, by former president Goodluck Jonathan said,
“Management difficulties have become more glaring in Nigerian tertiary institutions today as the responsibility of seeking alternative and extra sources of funding present themselves. The difficulties arise most largely from gross inadequate recurrent and capital expenditure provisions for meeting compulsory rituals like resource inspection, accreditation exercises, recruitment of appropriate calibre of staff and running utility services. Vice chancellors, rectors, and provosts have to run to headquarters to press for funds to meet basic requirements even in their capacities as “Chief Executive Officers (CEOs).”
He pointed out that “persistent demands by staff and students have become such recurring phenomenon in our tertiary institutions to the extent that rectors, provosts and vice chancellors may be so distracted from their strategic initiatives and end up spending their tenure assuaging agitations, as against driving stakeholder focus on developing the institutions. There is certainly no envying heads of tertiary institutions in a depressed economy as we are going through now in Nigeria.”
He further pointed out that, “Bureaucratic and democratic processes that ordinarily should not hold back tertiary education procedures as in public civil service establishments, have become so entangled in the administration of higher institutions so much so that management has become much more cumbersome than ever before. Under the circumstances, the precision required for attending to management issues has become cumbersome and frustrating.
The former vice chancellor, who alleged that, “many registrars and bursars don’t help matters for the heads of tertiary institutions, added that “The era of a distressed economy brought about the so called envelop budgeting approach. With a budget envelope far below funding requirements of tertiary institutions, it becomes difficult to re-prioritise and de-prioritise expenditure items. The result can sometimes be a funding quagmire, especially in state tertiary institutions where there are hardly any budget releases even after “lobbying” at the state assemblies (in the name of defending the budget proposals) has taken place.”
Kolo who pointed out that a “a distressed national economy is characterised by cash liquidity squeezes and scarcities, galloping and rapid inflation, development sectors underfunding and neglect, heightened corruption, and poor budgetary commitments, maintained that the situation affects tertiary education funding in the following ways.
“Stalled capital projects across tertiary institutions, adding to already existing infrastructural and facilities deficits. The reports of the Presidential Committee on Needs Assessments in Public Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria found that on the average, as much as 50 per cent of critical capital projects were abandoned or uncompleted across polytechnics, colleges of education and universities.
“Budgetary releases for funding tertiary education become epileptic in a regime of depressed national economy. With delayed and non-release of appropriated funds for both capital and recurrent expenditure requirements of tertiary institutions, the sub-sector also goes into depression and crises in the form of agitations, strikes and inadequacy of basic teaching and learning facilities.
Delayed salaries, non-payment of emoluments for conducting mandatory teaching and learning activities, struggle for use of facilities and poor maintenance of facilities become the order of the day in the tertiary institutions. Staff and students morale become increasingly dampened, leading to the brain drain phenomenon, poor commitment and abridged staff quality.
“There is also a diminishing provision of basic teaching and learning facilities in tertiary institutions. Essentially this results in poor quality of academic and professional programmes with the consequence of poor international rating of Nigerian universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and monotechnics…”
“Across Nigerian tertiary institutions, the cost of maintenance of aging and poorly constructed facilities is visibility evident. Owing to limited funds available for maintenance purposes, there is a heightened pressure on facilities such as furniture for classes and offices, lecture and laboratory equipment, generators, electrical equipment, transportation, etc. Many tertiary institutions are becoming junkyards of sort.
On ways of bringing about a turnaround, Kolo said, some approaches from other climes can be adopted for impactful and sustainable funding of tertiary education in Nigeria.
“There is the need now more than ever before, to consider the policy of aligning the levels of government with the respective levels of the education system. The funding situation points largely to the fact that states can do without the burden of owning and running tertiary institutions, particularly universities, polytechnics and colleges of education. The popular believe is that without TETFund interventions, most tertiary institutions, especially state-owned ones would not be in existence today. If states are to own tertiary institutions, they should be regulated in terms of joint ownership by two or three states or even on regional constituent states arrangements.
“To save the subsector, it is worth reconsidering the mergers and consolidation reforms which Obiageli Ezekwesili proposed in her brief stint as Minister of Education in 2003. Existing state tertiary institutions and even unviable federal ones can be converted to campuses of their federal counterparts so that the states can face more of the business of basic, secondary, entrepreneurship and innovative education institutions. Funds from sources like TETFund can then be more adequately channeled to institutions subsumed into new federal or joint states arrangements and their merged campuses. This suggestion apparently implies that the Federal Government assumes the responsibility of funding only tertiary education without dabbling into the lower levels of the education system, just as the case with funding tertiary level education in the United States, United Kingdom, most of Europe and the East African countries.
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