In this interview with Nigerian NewsDirect, the Provost of the Federal College of Education (Technical) Akoka, Lagos, Dr Ademola Abdulwahab Azeez, speaks on the impacts of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) in the development of tertiary education in Nigeria. According to him, not less than N2billion has been benefitted by his institutions alone. He mentioned that beyond infrastructural development, the fund has been instrumental in capacity development and research for Academia among University stakeholders. Excerpts:
How have you gone about attracting TETFUND to FCE Technical?
My first reaction is that, Nigerian academia should be grateful to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for being the agent that has brought progress to the Nigerian educational system, especially the tertiary system. If not for the struggle, the Federal Government would not have accede to ASUU’s agitation. Initially, the tax deduction on education was one per cent but later increased to two per cent. That two per cent deduction tax, paid by private companies and organisations has done a lot for ours tertiary institutions, such that no institution in Nigeria can complain of not having access to TETFUND projects or interventions; except if such an Institution is not serious because the guidelines are very clear on the rate of allocation given every year. We have allocation for normal intervention, zonal intervention and for special intervention. While the special intervention is done every year, it circulates within the zone.
For example, my College benefited from 2019 special intervention. The zonal intervention is general and no intervention budget for Universities is uniform. The same applies to the polytechnic and colleges of education and same also goes for the states too. But the difference is that the one for the state is rotated among the three tiers of education. For example, TETfund would give the fund to one of those Universities. So, the following year, it will go to another institution within that state. The same goes to the polytechnics and colleges of education. But for the Federal institutions, it is allocated to us every year. What I did when I came on board in May 2019 was to check tikkhe record and I discovered there are projects my college was unable to assess from TETfund. So, I approach the TETfund’s leadership and met some of the directors in charge of project and they were able to go to the file and I was able to assess the method of allocation for the previous ones. As at then, any institution is allowed to merge about three projects. That was what I did – to check all the projects that have not been assessed by previous administrations got consultants, submitted a proposal and the result of the proposal is what you are seeing in the college today. So, we were able to merge normal and special interventions. e
Were the contractors selected by TETfund or by the school management?
You have to follow the procedures for bidding; the law allows us to advertise. The projects are public, so we advertised according to the stipulations of the Procurement Act 2007. We advertised in national newspapers, which must run at least for six weeks and any successful bidder would be given the contract; not necessarily the lowest bidder. At times, the lowest bidder may not have the technical ability and the finance to execute the project. In a nutshell, there were procedures we needed to follow and that was exactly what we did.
How regular and proactive are the release of the funding?
It depends; for instance if it’s procurement, the laws allow you after you have allocated the project to the contractor, to pay certain amount – 85 percent for procurement, but for project, 50 percent for the first time and thereafter to be followed with subsequent processes upon satisfactory performance by the contractor.
Over the years, how much in figures has your school benefited from TETfund in Naira?
It’s about N2billion.
What role do you think other organisations can play like TETfund in boosting qualitative education in tertiary institutions?
From the projects that Tetfund have been financing, I can convienently say TETfund has been supporting qualitative education. It’s now left for the administrators and management of the institutions to focus on areas that can benefit Nigerians. Because apart from the infrastructural development, what we need to do more is to invest on human capital development. When you train your lecturers and administrative staff, they will be able to meet up with challenges of running modern day institution, so as to make our institutions become competitive
In this area of man-power development, what is Federal College of Education, Technical, doing?
As a College of Education, Technical, we have been committed to training of our staff in the technical areas. Particularly, we are also teaching the students and we also use funds from TETfund for training and further studies – Masters and P.hd, and the numbers have increased astronomically. Presently, we are running degree programmes in affiliation with the University of Benin. We also have sufficient man power to run our degree programmes without affiliating with anyNigerian university .
What do you think may be responsible for the trend that Nigerians are sourcing for technical workers from Togo, Benin Republic, and other neighbouring countries to come into Nigeria to work; does this implies Nigerian artisans are weak?
That is true and that is the reason why colleges of education like ours, and even universities of technology, are focusing more on the technical areas where Nigerian skills are needed so that we won’t be complaining of not having jobs. There are jobs to be done but we have few qualified hands. For example, how do we train our mechanics? How do we train our technicians? We condemn them that they are not well educated, but if you buy a new car today you will rely on these technicians. It’s like we are just playing to the gallery. So, it’s the responsibility of any higher institution to make sure there is a focus on technical training in all the areas we need services, instead of relying on foreigners to come and do it for us. So, we need to set up our workshops, laboratories and change the work force; that is developing human capital in modern technologies, ICT, Engineering, and so many other areas. To achieve that, you need to bring in experts from outside for training. So, TETfund has also been assisting by supporting lecturers and staff to go for workshops and training outside the Country in order to get the best training and also come back to Nigeria to also retrain colleagues and students as well.
We understand that strike is a major impediment against sustainable manpower development in higher institutions, how have you been managing workers’ unionism in your institution?
What we do here is an open door policy administration to make sure that the management and the staff union in the college are carried along. We let them know what we have achieved and the challenges we are facing? I do tell them that if they have good ideas on project proposals, they should not hesitate to bring such ideas to the management because without good relationship between the management and the unions, you might not be able to achieve much. So, we have been interacting with them so they know what the management is doing, and if they have any contribution or idea to cheap in, they could do so.
What nature of feedbacks are you getting from employers of labour and alumni particularly now that government is facing funding challenges?
One good thing for our graduates is that once they finish, they start their own businesses or go into full teaching and the reports we have been getting have been encouraging. For those of them who decided not to do government jobs, they set up their own businesses and they are doing well. In respect of that, the institution has set up what we called, “the Center for Endowment Development Advancement Alumni Relation (CEDAR)” aimed at fostering alumni relation so as to attract funds or support from alumni who are in industries and entrepreneurs in a bid to also develop the college. One of the objective of CEDAR is to attract project support from any alumnus. We will name the project after such alumnus just to institutionalise that person’s name. This at least will serve as encouragement to others who want to follow same example because we need more workshops, infrastructures, and laboratories. If such is given to the college by the alumni, it will go a long way.
What can you say have been your major achievements and challenges?
We have been able to develop more projects, boost infrastructural development and teaching facilities, effect construction of laboratories, classrooms, install changes in equipment, among others. The major challenge is funds; to get fund to renovate our dilapidated hostel facilities and even the classrooms. Our focus is to have more classrooms that have all the facilities, like fully installed ICT facilities and others. This is to ensure students feel the sense of coming to institutions like ours, so as to train the student in technical areas that will develop the economy in the Country.