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Govt raises panel to harmonise varsities' needs

Published by Guardian on Thu, 23 Feb 2012

IN compliance with some of the terms of agreement reached between the Federal Government and university teachers, leading to the recent suspension of a two-month old industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the Federal Government on Tuesday raised a panel to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the requirements of Nigerian universities.Accordingly, the Needs Assessment Committee, which is being coordinated by the Federal Ministry of Education (FME) is being chaired by the Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETfund), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu with representations from the Education Committees of the two Chambers of the National Assembly; Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF); Ministries of Finance, Trade and Investment; National Planning Commission (NPC).Other members of the committee are expected to come from the National Universities Commission (NUC), ASUU, while TETFund provides the secretariat for the committee, which is expected to turn in its reports by March 31st.ASUU President, Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie, who is a member of the committee, said the development was an offshoot of the agreement arrived at during negotiations with the Federal Government headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim, where it was resolved that to be able to address the rot in the universities effectively, there was the need to have an exact detail of the basic requirements of the institutions.The exercise, therefore, he said, was aimed at establishing the base line for the take off of the facility face lift in the universities, hoping it would go a long way in addressing the infrastructural challenges facing the universities once and for all.Inaugurating the panel, Education Minister, Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufai hoped the recently-suspended strike embarked upon by ASUU would be the last of such strikes as all the issues that led to the industrial action were being addressed, using all available mechanisms. 'Most importantly, government will be proactive in constantly addressing the challenges in our institutions of learning before they become issues of contention with staff unions.'Towards achieving the objective, the minister called on the unions, civil society and other stakeholders to be involved in determining priorities, by applying resources and monitoring implementations. She said the government had assured the unions that within the available resources, it would continue to meet the requirements of making Nigerian institutions centres of knowledge. 'However, we agreed that we need to go beyond the yearly budgetary provisions by harnessing other statutory and non-statutory sources of funding a coordinated manner.'The minister also took a swipe at poor quality leadership in some universities, a situation, she said had occasioned weak implementation. According to her, 'Government is convinced that a lot of funds go into our tertiary institutions. However, there is often little strategic plan for their applications. In addition, there is weak and therefore, ineffectual monitoring of especially budgetary and IGR-funded projects.'Three can be no meaningful transformation of our tertiary institutions without a clear assessment of our areas of needs, properly-focused application of resources and effective monitoring. Quite often, our universities have introduced new programmes without strategic plan, the approval of the NUC and regardless of how the programmes shall be funded. Many universities seem to be in competition with one another over the number of programmes they run without consideration for quality, it is time for strategic re-think.'As a first step towards strategic assessment, government is embarking on a need assessment of all our universities. This will involve an inventory of all physical facilities and learning resources ranging from lecture theatres, laboratories, workshops, studios, staff offices, libraries, ICT facilities, students' hostels to municipal services such as roads, water, electricity, security, health, recreational facilities.
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