Leveraging Knowledge Economy For National Growth

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By; MALLAM YUSUF ABUBAKAR

The story of tertiary education in Nigeria cannot be completed without the intervention of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund). Established by the Federal Government in 2011, to “disburse, manage, and monitor education tax to government-owned tertiary institutions in Nigeria”, the Fund is a product of the Education Tax Act of 1993 aimed at carrying out interventions and improving learning conditions in Nigeria’s tertiary schools.

From 2011 to 2021, covering a period of 10 years, the Fund sponsored 30, 000 lecturers for Masters and Ph.D. programmes in both local and foreign institutions. These indelible efforts carried out by the Fund also included developing the capacity of teaching staff through the creation of the Academic Staff Training and Development Programme.

According to the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Professor Suleiman Bogoro, the Fund “has also been providing support for Teaching Practice in federal and state colleges of education across the country. TETFund has so far supported over 71,263 lecturers under its Teachers’ Supervision Programme.  Considering the vital role that libraries play in educational institutions, TETFund has also allocated substantial funds to public federal and state tertiary institutions for the acquisition of library books, e-library resources and academic manuscript development to books in order to promote and support research, teaching and learning”.

It is not only in the field of human capacity development that  the Fund has left its indelible footprints. The Fund, according to the TETFund’s boss, “has procured over 2,080,041 books for use in the libraries, 152,844 e-Resources and 380,778 equipment and furniture distributed across public tertiary institutions in Nigeria. I am pleased to inform you that upon recommendation of the Hon. Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved that TETFund completes the National Library which symbolizes institutional repository of knowledge and research globally.”

Before now, the strides of the Fund in building classes, lecture theatres, libraries and providing buses and other logistics for learning have been mind-boggling. It is on record that there is no tertiary school in Nigeria that has not benefitted from one or two projects embarked by TETFund.  In some states, the Fund remains the only agency of intervention and is applauded for its key roles in confronting some of the challenges arising from infrastructural deficits that have become the bane of tertiary education in Nigeria.

Applauded for his visionary strides when he was first appointed TETFund boss in April 2014 by former President Goodluck Jonathan, Professor Bogoro displayed an unrivalled commitment to the overall development of tertiary education in Nigeria by undertaking massive infrastructural development and turning the wretched tales of universities and polytechnics, among others, into stories of hope and resuscitated optimism.

By the time the former university don handed over the affairs of the Fund to Dr. Abdullahi Bichi Baffa in August 2016, Professor Bogoro left behind an untainted legacy of excellence aimed at changing the narrative of despair and hopelessness into sunlight of anticipation and hopefulness for tertiary education.

Little wonder that just after two years of leaving the Fund, it was obvious that the talisman behind the strides achieved by TETFund was missing. It became imperative that something should be done to steady the focus and not derail the vision of the Fund. Without any form of hesitation the scholar of outstanding global status was returned to TETFund by President Buhari to continue where he stopped.

For those who thought Professor Bogoro would continue from where he stopped, he shocked them by choosing to travel through a road that is not often travelled in Africa.  Desirous of taking advantage of the knowledge economy that depends on capitalising “scientific discoveries and basic and applied research for development as it is practised in most developed countries”, the TETFund boss is concentrating his energies on how best the knowledge economy can be deployed to advance national growth.

Championing the new signature project of focusing on knowledge economy and improving the capacity of academics, the TETFund ES commenced to work for the establishment of the “National Research and Development Foundation (R&DF) for Nigeria, in order to make Nigeria’s economy more competitive in all spheres through sustainable funding and management, institutionalization of the Triple Helix Model which will culminate in the alliance of the academic, the private sector and the government for a knowledge-driven economy”.

Professor Bogoro’s zeal in bringing the actualisation of this dream of knowledge economy was soon confirmed in August last year when TETFund submitted a draft bill for the establishment of the National Research and Development Foundation (NRDF) to the Minister of Education for onward transmission to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for approval and onward submission to the National Assembly.

The gateway for development, Prof Bogoro has always insisted, “is education as the most vibrant economies are so because they have allowed education to dictate the way forward through qualitative research, to make a difference. In Nigeria it cannot be different. In Nigeria for instance, there is no doubt that the South-west zone has a comparative advantage over the other five geo-political zones because of their consistent and massive investment in education, starting from the time of late Obafemi Awolowo, with free education from the foundation upwards”.

It is incontrovertible that Professor Bogoro has turned TETFund into one of the most performing agencies of the Federal Government under President Buhari and worked assiduously to pave the way for a new dawn for education in Nigeria.  Apart from taking a holistic view of the education and retooling strategies aimed at meeting current exigencies, collaboration with foreign institutions and getting the private sector in deploying knowledge by scholars in developing remains the unquestionable signature project of TETFund.

For a nation that has been confronted with many development challenges, TETFund under Professor Bogoro has illuminated the path on how the knowledge economy can be properly harnessed to provide answers to the multifarious problems militating against national growth.

Abubakar, public affairs commentator, writes from Katsina.

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