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Monday, February 26, 2024

How TETFund can transform Nigeria’s education landscape

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The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) has emerged as a pivotal force in Nigeria’s educational landscape, making substantial contributions towards uplifting the quality of higher education, especially in the areas of infrastructure, and fostering innovation.

With its strategic initiatives and investments, TETFund has been instrumental in addressing crucial challenges, promoting research, and driving positive change across Nigerian universities and institutions.

TETFund was established in 2011 after the Education Trust Fund (ETF) Act of 1993 was repealed to enact the TETFund Act, with the primary objective of providing financial support to public tertiary institutions in Nigeria.

The fund was created as a response to the deteriorating state of infrastructure, inadequate funding, and limited research and development activities within the higher education sector. Recognising the critical role of education in national development, the Nigerian government under former President Goodluck Jonathan established TETFund to ensure sustainable funding and promote excellence in tertiary institutions.

To fulfill its vital role in Nigeria’s educational sector, only competent and trustworthy individuals of high integrity needed to be appointed to lead TETFund. Over the years, the fund has been fortunate to have exceptional individuals serve as executive secretaries, leaving an indelible mark on its operations and contributing to the transformation of education in Nigeria. Some notable figures that have held the position of executive secretaries include Mahmud Yakubu, Aliyu Na’Iya, Tijani Ahmed Abdulkadir, Abdullahi Baffa, Suleiman Elias Bogoro, and Sunny Enocho who is the current executive secretary. Each of these esteemed leaders has made significant contributions to position TETFund as a driving force in revolutionising education in Nigeria.

Much credit to Enocho who, since his appointment, has continued to build and expand on the efforts of his predecessors while also pioneering some landmark initiatives for himself. When President Muhammadu Buhari approved his appointment as the executive secretary of TETFund, many positives were expected of the former permanent secretary whose performances in the education sector had been stellar. Echono’s stewardship as the executive secretary of TETFund has brought about significant transformations in Nigeria’s higher education landscape. Echono has prioritised infrastructure development, research and innovation, equitable access, and accountability. His emphasis on improving physical infrastructure and promoting research activities has enhanced the learning environment and fostered groundbreaking research and innovations, such as the “Chord Hearing Device”.

Under his stewardship, TETFund embarked on a transformative journey to enhance its performance and deliver optimal results. He led TETFund to forge valuable alliances with renowned institutions worldwide. Notable collaborations included establishing ties with the University of Brazil, Vicosa, facilitating transnational cooperation with the British government, engaging with the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), partnering with the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), and fostering collaboration with the African Union (AU). These partnerships focused on research and collaboration initiatives aimed at fostering the growth and development of tertiary education in Nigeria.

Additionally, Echono initiated the Digitization Project Steering and Coordinating Committee, a pivotal step toward creating a national research bank. This ambitious endeavour aimed to establish a comprehensive repository for academic work, facilitating easier access to valuable research resources. By spearheading this project, TETFund demonstrated its commitment to embracing technology and innovation to streamline academic processes and promote knowledge sharing.

One of TETFund’s key contributions lies in its commitment to improving infrastructure and facilities in Nigerian universities and institutions. By investing in the construction and renovation of academic buildings, laboratories, hostels, and other essential facilities, TETFund has attempted to transform learning environments and create conducive spaces for students and lecturers. The recent inspection and commissioning of projects in J.S Tarka University and Benue State University worth N1.2 billion and N2.6 billion respectively in Makurdi, Benue state, exemplify TETFund’s dedicated interventions in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions. Despite the efforts by TETFund, many tertiary institutions in underserved regions continue to struggle with inadequate infrastructure and funding.

TETFund has played a pivotal role in promoting research and development within Nigerian tertiary institutions. Through initiatives like the TETFAIR programme, it has supported innovative projects that address societal challenges and drive technological advancements. In 2022, one of the teams at TETFAIR developed the Chord Hearing Device, a self-programmable device that aids hearing. This exemplifies TETFund’s commitment to fostering research and innovation. While TETFund has supported research initiatives, there remains a gap in adequately fostering applied research and innovation in Nigeria’s higher education institutions. My suggestion would be that the fund should establish stronger partnerships with industries and other government agencies such as Nigeria Institute for Social and Economic Research (NISER) to further encourage research that addresses real-world challenges and drives technological advancements.

While TETFund has made efforts to improve infrastructure, there is a need to shift focus towards enhancing the quality of education imparted in tertiary institutions. The fund should emphasise, in collaboration with the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) and the Federal Ministry of Education, the development of effective teaching methodologies, curriculum enhancement, and faculty training programs. The establishment of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) Obagaji Study Center by TETFund is a commendable way to expand access to education by individuals who lack regular university education experience. Perhaps, the fund would also play a critical role in the recently signed Access to Higher Education Act (aka Student Loan) Act in facilitating students’ access to higher education.

Furthermore, the potential of TETFund can be further fully realised if it also places priority on designing and implementing targeted intervention programs that address specific challenges faced by the Nigerian higher education system. This can include initiatives to improve the quality of teaching and learning, promote entrepreneurship and innovation, and enhance the employability of graduates. By tailoring its interventions, TETFund can effectively address critical areas and bring about meaningful changes. TETFund should prioritise quality assurance and enhance its monitoring and evaluation mechanism to ensure the effective utilisation of funds and measure the impact of its interventions. By closely monitoring the progress and results of funded initiatives, TETFund can identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions.

To enhance its effectiveness, TETFund should broaden its collaborations and engagement with relevant government agencies that align with its objectives, including various research institutes in Nigeria and private research and innovation hubs like the AUST and others. This expansion will foster a more comprehensive and holistic approach toward advancing research and development in the country. Moreover, prioritising transparency and accountability in TETFund’s operations will not only reinforce public trust but also ensure that resources are utilised optimally and for the intended purposes. By embracing these measures, TETFund can further strengthen its impact and contribute to the sustainable growth and development of Nigeria’s educational sector.

Without a doubt, TETFund can nurture a skilled workforce capable of driving economic growth. However, it is imperative to critically assess its shortcomings as well to enhance its effectiveness and impact. By addressing some of its limitations such as transparency and accountability, the need for quality education focus, and improved support for applied research and collaboration, among others, TETFund can evolve into a more robust and impactful organisation. It is through these reforms and continuous improvement that TETFund can better contribute to the development of a dynamic and globally competitive educational landscape in Nigeria.

Adagher is a public affairs analyst and developmental communications expert

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