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FG cracks down on underperforming TETFund’s centres of excellence

.No more free money, says minister

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FAVOUR ISHEMBER,  Abuja

 

The Minister of Education, Prof Tahir Mamman, has issued a stern warning to underperforming Centres of Excellence established by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) eight years ago.

He declared that the federal government will no longer fund institutions that fail to meet expectations, stating that “we can’t be giving free money to institutions that are not doing what they are supposed to do.”

The minister’s remarks came while receiving two reports from TETFund’s ad-hoc committees on the Assessment/Review of TETFund Centres of Excellence and Operationalisation of Skills Development Special Intervention.

The reports highlighted concerns over some centres’ poor performance and inadequate utilisation of funds.

“The government is encouraging our scholars to simply rise to the occasion and deliver on their scholarship, what world class scholars do; and we are not going to reward indolence. We can’t be giving free money to institutions that are not doing what they are supposed to do”

“In terms of the skills, we want to raise the equipment level of those institutions, polytechnic and others so that they can provide all the skill set that we need in Nigeria in the highest quality that can service the country and internationally,” he said

The minister’s warning signals a new era of accountability and performance-driven funding in Nigeria’s tertiary education sector.

Also, the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Arc Sonny Echono, echoed the minister’s threat, stating that the fund will not continue to support centres that are not living up to expectations.

He revealed that some centres have failed to access funds due to their inability to meet milestones.

“The funds are with us because we have not released until you reach a milestone, but while they have delayed in reaching those milestones, are causes of concerns”

Despite this, some centres have made significant strides in research and innovation, with one centre in Sokoto discovering a vaccine for COVID-19 and others developing prototypes for industrial production.

The committees’ reports recommended measures to address underperformance, including a six-month moratorium for struggling centres and direct disbursement of funds to centre accounts.

The reports also identified polytechnics for TETFund Special Intervention across various zones.

He noted that the strategy for establishing centres of excellence was a very good one because TETFund realised that it didn’t have enough resources to improve all the facilities of all public institutions at the same time.

“The idea was to incubate, to have one centre, the right equipment, the right tools, the right faculty and experts, that would lead our efforts in research, in promoting scholarship at the highest level so that they can also inspire other centres.

“We are going to be pooling from other institutions within the area who want to do further research or who want to carry out any other exploratory study in those particular fields in those areas,” he said.

He said some of the centres have done fantastically well since inception, stating that a lot of them are doing innovations.

“Sokoto just came up with one major solution for us. For example, they were the ones that discovered this vaccine for COVID-19 in partnership with other institutions. Now we are also in the process of getting vaccines for Lassa fever and so many others.

“So, some are doing very well. And some have come up with prototypes that we now hoping to take to industries so that they begin to produce these goods and services,” he said.

On the non-perfoming institutions, he said “If you were established five years ago and you are still at your infancy, you have not been able to provide modern laboratories, facilities for scholars to come and learn, we want to know why. But we don’t want to be arbitrary.

“So, it decided to look at some institutions to  find out their relative positions in terms of the quality of their faculty, their reputation in certain courses and in certain areas and designated them as centres of excellence for those particular courses.

Earlier, the Committee on the Assessment/Review of TETFund Centres of Excellence, led by Prof Oyewale Tomori, in its report, declined to recommend any centre for upgrade

The report noted that most centres did not utilise their first seed grant of N150 million for the initial infrastructures required in the centres, and advised TETFund to provide some bail out funds to the centres to enable the proper take off of the centres.

The committee also called on the fund to ensure that all funds for the Centre of Excellence are disbursed directly to the Centre of excellence account.

“if the Centres are to achieve set objectives, TETFund in collaboration with institutions hosting the centres should ensure that Centre Directors are on full time assignment at the Centre.

“All Centres that are not performing well should be given six (6) months Moratorium as a way to prevail on them to refocus and achieve their true mandate after which a revisit will be conducted to determine their status and continue funding,” the committee recommended.

Also presenting the Report of the Advisory Committee on Operationalisation of TETFund Skills Development Special Intervention, the Chairman of the Committee, Dr. Nuru Yakubu, said the committee recommended polytechnics for TETFund Special Intervention according to zones.

“South-West: the five schools visited have shown preparedness except for the Polytechnic Ibadan because of the school leadership transition.

It is therefore recommended that in 2024 the following two polytechnics should benefit; Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State and Federal Polytechnic, Ede, Osun State for 2025 the committee recommends Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro, Ogun State and The Polytechnic Ibadan, if they can sort out their preparations.

“South-South: The committee recommends Port Harcourt Polytechnic, Rimuola, Rivers State, and Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic Ikot Osunaa for 2024 TETFund Special Intervention. For the year 2025, the committee recommends Delta State Polytechnic and another polytechnic to be identified

“South-East: The Institute of Management & Technology has been recommended for 2024 and for 2025, Abia State Polytechnic, Aba and Federal Polytechnic, Oko.

“North-East: The committee recommends Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi and Ramat Polytechnic, Maiduguri for 2024 Intervention and Adamawa State Polytechnic and Tatari Ali Polytechnic for 2025.

“North-West: 2024 Birnin Kebbi, Daura for 2025 Kano State Poly, Sokoto State Poly and North-Central: 2024 Nasarawa and for 2025 Lokoja and Ilorin.

 

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