By Ayodeji Abiola
“How do we get ‘big money’ into [Nigeria’s] higher education to save the students from its financial burden while guaranteeing them quality learning?”
VENTURES AFRICA – Imagine the question above being the sole agenda and the Honorable Minister’s opening sentence at a special business meeting of the Ministry of Education? Attendees at this meeting might include the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, selected Vice Chancellors/Registrars/Provosts from Higher Educational Institutions (HEI), heads of the Education Trust Fund (ETF), National Universities Commission (NUC), National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), National Commission for Colleges of Education, Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), selected Commissioners of Education from the states, students leaders and other educational stakeholders.
The challenge that will warrant such a meeting is that our country’s HEIs that include 94 approved universities, 115 polytechnics and 86 Colleges of Education1 lack the critical funding requirement to function optimally plus, many students are unable to pay to attend these institutions owing to the unfavorable economic situation of most Nigerian people. In the previous article, I argued that students attending institutions of higher learning could be considered as “employees on the job, who are paying for their own training”. So, let’s imagine that the government agrees with me and decided to get the ‘big money’ to fund higher education more. Big money here refers to corporations, big businesses and profit making organizations that requires the services of today’s students once they graduate.
So, back to the Ministry’s hypothetical special meeting – among the named attendees, let us include representatives of selected corporate organizations. Fundamentally, the meeting has been called to woo the organizations to part with more money for higher education. But, what is the catch? Why will businesses agree to part with more of their earned profits to fund higher education? I have also mentioned previously that well educated graduates are employer’s gain while poorly educated ones are their peril. This suggests that it is in the business interest of companies to fund higher education. Still, these organizations might need more motivation since it is proven that in present day Nigeria, there are more unemployed graduates seeking employment than available jobs. So, employers could reason that they are still able to seek and find a few well-trained ones from the lot for their needed manpower. This is especially true now that more and more Nigerian students with the financial privilege continually travel to other countries for quality learning – including Ghana.
In the current funding model, government provides the main fund for public schools, some fund are generated internally by the school through fees and other levies paid by the students and a little percentage comes from the ETF. The ETF portion is derived from 2% of assessable tax of companies registered in Nigeria via the Education Tax (Amended) Decree No. 40 of 19982. In this way, businesses already contribute to the funding of education. So, one can imagine that the corporate attendees to the Ministry’s meeting will quickly point this out. They could then follow up with this obvious question, “Are you trying to get us to pay more tax out of our profits?” To answer this question, let’s present an assessment of the present situation.
The effects of the poor level of funding for HEIs in Nigeria are reduced laboratory and practical classes, reduced or non-existent field trips, obsolete equipment, teaching resources and infrastructures, freeze in new appointments, reduction or nonexistent research grants1, ill-motivated and undedicated academic and non-academic workers, hazardous living conditions in student residences, amongst others. Present this fact to the corporate bodies and they can easily see the gloom and understand why unemployable graduates abound in the society. Recruiters in Nigeria must have a very difficult job. This is more so as, many of the few students fortunate to have relatively fair academic experience eventually leave the country for quality post graduate learning and usually don’t return to the country even if they are unemployed or underemployed overseas. Perhaps we now have enough motivation for employers to come save education with ‘big money’.
The solution to this challenge does not really involve a reinvention of the wheel. All over the world, including developed nations, corporate organizations fund and support education through investments in educational research that benefits their operations. In the case of Nigeria, most multinationals, operating in the country do little of these within Nigeria. Rather, they expend the bulk of their research budget in institutions at their home countries, usually in North America, Europe and Asia and periodically send few of their workers who require on-the-job training to those facilities for training and research. Science and Technology education in Nigeria will benefit immensely if these facilities were to be sited in Nigeria. Rather than an exodus of Nigerian students, foreign students may find Nigeria’s institutions attractive for their studies. The economic growth of any nation including Nigeria is tied to the quality of her workforce.
At our meeting, the Honorable Minister and her team should be asking the corporate representatives how best they can be supported to establish and site their research and educational facilities within the campus of Nigeria’s HEIs. Perhaps, this meeting will also have to be attended by representatives of the nation’s economic team as the corporations may attempt to use this to negotiate tax breaks and other financial incentives. But it is not a solution only for the benefit of the HEIs as such facilities will also support the organizations’ short and long-term goals. These will strengthen the institution’s capacity in those fields of studies as well as expose them to state of the art for the benefit of their students. Since these will bring the universities closer to the big money establishments, chances are it will also expose them to greater funding opportunities. It is common knowledge that since the last few decades of the 20th century up till now, the goals of higher education has shifted from knowledge for knowledge sake to that of manpower development for societal needs. What better way to equip the institutions than to bring organizations serving the society closer to the learning institutions?
A successful implementation of these suggestions should take the pressure off our HEIs to increase tuition for students who are already unable to afford the low fees they are charged. This last bit is perhaps a food for thought for the Nigeria’s economic management team.
1Adeniyi, E.O. & Taiwo, S.A. (2011) Funding Higher Education in Nigeria through Cost Sharing: Perception of Lecturers students and Parents. European Journal of Social Sciences, Vol. 24, No. 4.
2Education Tax Decree No. 7 of 1993. Laws of the Federation of Nigeria. Retrieved from http://www.nigeria-law.org/Education%20%20Tax%20Decree%20No%207%20of%201998.htm
Oziegbe, O. ‘90% of Nigerians live on less than $2 a day’. News Update – Business. The Nation. December 23, 2011. Retrieved from http://www.thenationonlineng.net/2011/index.php/business/30792-%25E2%2580%259990%25-nigerians-live-on-less-than-$2-per-day%25E2%2580%2599.html
Abiola, A. ‘Who should pay for Higher Education?’. Education – Leadership. Ventures Africa. May 2, 2012. Retrieved from http://www.ventures-africa.com/2012/05/who-should-pay-for-higher-education/
Deji Folutile, O. ‘More students seek higher education abroad – Report’. Education. Punch Newspapers. January 10, 2012. Retrieved from http://www.punchng.com/education/more-students-seek-higher-education-abroad-report/
‘Nigeria’s Jonathan adds Dangote to Economic Team’. Top News. Reuters Africa. August 19, 2011. Retrieved from http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE77I0NW20110819