TETFUND, ASUU And University Interventions, by Zubaida Baba Ibrahim
It has been a triumphant ten years since the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) was established. The intervention agency, popular in the Nigerian tertiary institutions circuit, emerged from the Education Tax Fund (ETF).
Its enviable strides can be appreciated from the days when various levels of education in the country were confronted with a deluge of problems, ranging from the lack of a competent workforce to inadequate teaching and learning equipment and, most especially, the dearth of financial resources.
Against these obstacles, an education roadmap was developed to address issues in the sector, related to mismanagement and the paucity of resources, in line with national needs and population growth.
Hence, the Nigerian government took a giant leap in addressing funding challenges among Nigerian tertiary institutions by introducing ETF in 1993.
It is apt to assert that the defunct ETF benefitted from an imposed two per cent tax from the assessible profits of all incorporated bodies in the country, to be shared between educational institutions.
Although, the ETF recorded significant achievements in revamping key areas of the country’s education sector, critical funding gaps remained and was a challenge for tertiary institutions, as scarce funds were also being disbursed amongst primary schools, secondary schools, and universities.
It was as a result of the prevailing lacuna that TETFund was established in 2011 to focus its intervention on public tertiary institutions; universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education, and disburse necessary funds in the ratio 2:1:1 correspondingly.
Certainly, the interventions of the TETFund and the fulfillment of its mandates like the provision of essential physical infrastructure for teaching and learning; supplying institutional equipment; sponsoring research and publication, and the funding of academic staff development programmes are as plain as the nose on one’s face. Yet, it piques one’s interest to wonder why members of the Academic Staff of Universities Union (ASUU) still sob over the lack of funding.
Similarly, just like TETFund, ASUU was begotten from the Nigerian Association of University Teachers (NAUT) which, as of then, had members from the University of Ibadan (UI), University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Ahmadu Bello University Zaria (ABU) and other prestigious colleges in the nation.
When the NAUT was formed in 1965, its ideologies tended to be sympathetic and in favour of the regime of the post-colonial state, which was more of a primitive bureaucracy and crude militarism. However, when the military dictatorship restricted university autonomy and academic freedom, resulting in the reduced funding of education, it became essential for the orientation of the union of academics to be reviewed, thus leading to the setting up of ASUU.
It has been some forty-three years since the formation of the Union, yet one of the consistent requests, out of its various demands from the Federal Government, has remained the talks around ‘Revitalisation Funds’.
While looking through the NEEDS Assessment by the Committee on Needs Assessment of Nigerian Public Universities (CNANU) of 2012, which entailed an appraisal of the existing situation and the requisites for responding to the said conditions, the revitalisation fund is said to be for improving the terrible conditions of lecture halls, classrooms, laboratories, libraries which have been in very poor conditions, being under-lit and lacking proper ventilation, under-furnished and utilised beyond their original carrying capacities.
To the extent that sports arenas and uncompleted buildings were used to carry out teaching and learning processes, the revitalisation fund was also meant to cover the provision of equipment and materials, especially in science laboratories and ICT facilities, where out-of-date instruments were not only being used but shared among dozens of students.
Granted that TETFund, based on the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (Establishment) Act of 2011, states under Section 7(1) that the Board of Trustees shall administer the tax imposed by the Act and disburse the fund to federal and state tertiary institutions, specifically for the provision of essential physical infrastructure, instructional material and equipment.
While this has been set in place, many academics have also testified that through the agency’s interventions public tertiary institutions have been up-scaled and resuscitated, particularly state universities that could barely be managed with states’ revenue. Nonetheless, does ASUU’s threats to once more go on strike on the basis of the lack of disbursement of the revitalisation fund mean that the TETFund’s efforts are not enough?
In all fairness, the plight of the members of ASUU transcends demands for finances for university make-overs. Some of their agitations are meaningfully aimed at better conditions for both lecturers and students in the academic environment. However, their threats to go on a strike due to the failure to provide a revitalisation fund when TETFund has been notably stepping in is, as far as one can see, mindboggling.
TETfund’s efforts at the provision of physical infrastructure, equipment and other forms of academic intervention, since the years of its establishment, have not only been to support as many tertiary institutions as possible but to sponsor high quality project for greater impacts in the educational institutions.
This is evident in how the fund has partnered with the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) to provide all public institutions, starting with Bayero University Kano and Kwara State University, with independent power supply through solar installations.
Concurrently, the TETFund has also injected N300 billion to construct hostel facilities, with the provision of 2000 bed spaces and ICT centres in the 226 institutions across the country.
Apart from that, the Fund is planning to increase its funding, from N350 billion which has been disbursed for intervention in various tertiary institutions this year to N500 billion next year, as disclosed by the Board of Trustees Chairman, Alhaji Kashim Imam.
Without doubt, the NEEDS assessment by CNANU was done a year after the establishment of the TETFund and the issues presented therein are valid to raise fear in every well-meaning Nigerian. However, the Fund is now in its tenth year and, needless to say, it is quite perplexing to grasp why the union of university lecturers is toying with the future of tertiary education in the country, over issues that could be tackled with means that already been provided by government.
Perhaps, what ASUU is demanding for and which it coined as ‘Revitalisation Fund’ is for the betterment of federal and state universities alone. But the intervention Funds disbursed by TETFund, if it must know, is responsible for all tertiary institutions.
Zubaida Baba Ibrahim writes from Gwarinpa, Abuja. Email: [email protected]