Tertiary Education: Fed varsities to get full financial autonomy

The Federal Government is mulling “new creative means” of funding tertiary education in the country, Education Minister Tahir Mamman has said.

One of the means, Mamman hinted at the ongoing Nigeria’s Annual Education Conference (NAEC) in Abuja, would be full autonomy for universities.

He also said that President Bola Tinubu, who has already expressed commitment to raise education budget to 25 per cent, directed “the return of the 10.5 million out-of-school children to school at the expiration of his tenure.”

In this year’s budget, the sector got N1.79 trillion — representing 8.2 per cent of the appropriation bill. The allocation falls far below the 20 per cent suggested by the

United Nations(UN) for Nigeria to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4—universal, inclusive and equitable basic education for all school-age children by 2030.

The minister also pledged his commitment to bridge the gaps between education policy statements and its actualisation outcomes.

Mamman noted that the country had a lot of good education policies that were not yielding value due to poor implementation.

The conference has “Implementation of Education 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Nigeria,” as the theme.

It was convened for stakeholders in the education sector to deliberate on how to enhance entrepreneurial skills as well as vocational and technical education in Nigerian schools.

The minister told the stakeholders that what Nigeria needed now was “action on the ground and not the policy declaration.”

He said: “Mr President is determined, among others, to initiate a new creative means of funding tertiary education by granting universities the autonomy to explore new sources of financing their activities.

”As you all know, President Tinubu has publicly declared his commitment to overhaul the education sector as a matter of priority.

“My delight is underscored by the fact that this conference is taking place shortly after my swearing-in as Minister of Education and at this early stage when my colleague, Minister of State(Education), Yusuf Sununu, and myself are developing a template to define a strategic roadmap for the education sector which when unfolded, we all will have a responsibility to implement.

“It is important that the Federal Ministry of Education and all stakeholders in the sector work together to see this vision come true. The days of long declarations are over. This time, we must walk the talk.

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“This conference provides an opportunity for me to meet you, the pillars of the Nigerian education system and for us to restate our resolve to implement fundamental changes in the education sector for the benefit of the young, adults and the entire society.

“Your presence at this event at short notice is an indication of the importance you attach to the growth and development of the sector in Nigeria.

“The theme for this conference: ‘Implementation of Education 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Nigeria’ will always remain relevant until our country achieves 100 percent of the targets set in the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and beyond to education-related indicators and targets of Agenda 2060 of the African Union.

“As a signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals(SDG) 2030 and African Union Agenda 2060, Nigeria must continue to demonstrate its commitment to achieving these goals through leadership and ownership of the implementation process. The Education sector is one of the line sectors that ensure that planning and budgeting in the country are within the framework of the SDGS.

“I am also happy to note that the technical sessions have been structured to address very contemporary and topical issues in the education sector in Nigeria. Discussions to be held on tertiary education which is expected to focus on emerging trends including university autonomy and Students Loan Fund as well as education financing aligns perfectly with President Tinubu’s vision for the sector.

“Your deliberations on enhancing entrepreneurial skills, vocational and technical education in Nigerian schools directly speaks to Mr President’s vision of promoting technical and vocational education as a means of absorbing the millions of young school leavers who complete primary and secondary schools every year but cannot get admission to universities, other tertiary institutions or employed with ease.”

On the return of 10.5 million out-of-school children to school, the minister said: “We still have a long way to go. We are not matching the children in the country with the desired education and this is because our policies are not producing the values we need.

“What we need is the action on the ground and not the policy declaration. This is where I can tell you we intend to come in.

“We want to bridge the gaps between policy statements and actualisation of outcomes.

“This is to give them future training that will enable them to live their lives and make them employers of labour. Everybody deserves to live a life of dignity for the well-being of their family.”

Mamman also lamented attacks on education institutions in the country, recalling with sadness, the recent murder of a female nursing student of the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE), Atanda Deborah.

The minister said he had directed FUOYE Vice-Chancellor to work with security agencies to track down the killers of the student.

Education Adviser, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), James O’Donoghue, pledged the United Kingdom’s commitment to support Nigeria in actualising the 2030 SDG agenda and to ensure every child receives quality education.

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