Afe advocates for the inclusion of private varsities in TETfund, says free education ‘not conscientious’

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[Interview]–Prof. Afe Babalola (SAN), the founder of Afe Babalola University (ABUAD), Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State has advocated for the inclusion of private universities amongst educational institution that benefits from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund).

Afe who made this recommendation in an interview with The Guardian, frowned at government’s insistence on exclusion of private varsities from benefitting from the TETFund, calling on the senate to amend the TETFund law.

He also criticised the concept of “free education” as he said that no conscientious government would promise university free education in the present day Nigeria because university education is an expensive enterprise.

“TETFund is money collected from taxes from public companies and is meant to fund development of education. It is tragic, to say the least, that in its wisdom, the government restricts the beneficiaries of the money to public institutions alone.

“After all, it was the government that called on public-spirited people to establish private universities to ease the burden on FG on access to university education. Philanthropists who can otherwise spend their money for the benefit of their families established private universities. The graduates they produce serve Nigeria and not the families of their founders.

“Despite numerous appeals to the FG to change the policy, the discriminatory policy remains. I call on the Senate to amend the law,” he pleaded.

He further explained that “the major problem is funding. Funding is the problem of both federal and state universities and to some extent private universities. However, the effect of poor funding is more pronounced with state universities. Here is a country where each successive government, for political reasons, promises free education and worse still recently promises free food. Honestly, no conscientious government would promise university free education in the present day Nigeria. Let us face the reality and inform the public that university education is an expensive enterprise.

“Anybody who decides to raise a child ought to know that he has a duty to provide food and support the education of the child. There are different levels of education but when I talk of education, I mean quality and functional education in an institution with conducive environment for learning, modern equipment for learning, modern laboratories and trained and committed teachers. It is common knowledge that UNESCO had directed that every country should vote at least 26 per cent of its budget for education. The question is, how much does Nigeria vote for education? My research shows that in 2012, Nigeria ranked last in a survey carried out in 70 countries with only 8.4 per cent of the budget for education. Ghana was first with 31 per cent of the budget for education.

While speaking on the need for the government to allow the society contributes in funding education, he said, “Secondly, the policy of government, which affects education, is its failure to make the people appreciate the need for all of us parents, guardians and philanthropists to donate to universities and other institutions, because government cannot alone fund quality education. This is the practice all over the world.

“How many Nigerians have endowed professorial chairs or endowed scholarships, classroom laboratories in the neighbourhood universities? Stanford University in the United States is a classic example of how the citizens donate to universities. Stanford is a university where the annual donation from public-spirited Americans is in trillions of dollars and is much more than what Nigeria government votes for universities, polytechnics and colleges of education in a year.”

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