The Executive Secretary of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (Tetfund), Arc Sonny Echono, has identified reasons for the proliferation of universities in Nigeria, saying the development was in response to demand.
Echono spoke on the sidelines during a chat with journalists at the second anniversary of the Federal University of Health Science, Otukpo (FUHSO) in Benue State.
He disagreed with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on the proliferation of universities in the country, stressing that the establishment of more universities was in response to growing demand of education.
The retired permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education, said, “If you want to address problem, address it from the root. By mere stopping establishment of new institutions because you want concentration on existing universities, while it sounds as a good idea, you have forgotten the other problems that millions of Nigerians are being born and millions are applying for admission and places are few.
“Then more and more will be denied access to education so what are you going to do? You are going to have many illiterates. So what are you going to do? We must balance it and must continue to establish new universities in response to the demand.
“That is why if you notice in the last few years we are only establishing specialized institutions of human needs.”
Echono further disclosed that more than 65,000 scholars had benefitted from Tetfund, explaining that the Tetfund intervened in five areas of provision which include: infrastructure in tertiary institutions, staff development, research and delivery system.
He noted that staff from graduate assistants to master degree and PhD holders were being sponsored for higher qualifications both within the country and abroad.
“We also undertake staff development, to help scholars who were employed to undertake higher qualifications. So we sponsored them for Masters, PhD and even post doctoral programme. We have trained more than 65,000 scholars as at last year.
“We have students at home and abroad and our current impetus is to focus on our first generation universities and specialised universities,” he added.
The Tetfund boss, while commenting on the salary of university lecturers, said he feels ashamed of the take home of Nigerian lecturers.
He said, “On salaries of lecturers, I feel ashamed because I had a privilege to represent Nigeriia at a global conference where former presidents and prime ministers were in attendance and I was asked whether it was true that a professor after 20 years still earns less than $1,000 a month; I couldn’t answer that question I only said that we are doing something about it.”