FROM the Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has come a disclosure that over 9.5 million Almajiri children are outside the conventional basic education schools in the country.
Yakubu made the revelation even as he disclosed that TETFund collected N463 billion as Education Tax from private companies operating in the country between 1994 and 2010.
Speaking at a leadership forum in Abuja, the Executive Secretary and former university lecturer equally said that a seed grant of N3 billion has been earmarked for the funding of a central and competitive research for national development.
Another N2 billion, according to him, has been dedicated for the revitalisation of journals of professional associations and, publications of suitable PhD theses submitted to Nigerian Universities or on Nigerian overseas, into books.
As a way of addressing the challenge of the Almajiri children outside the schools as well as the social consequences of such neglect in future, Prof. Yakubu explained that the Federal Government has directed that model schools be constructed and equipped specially for model boarding and day schools to cater for the children in select States where the problem is prevalent.
The Executive Secretary disclosed that TETFund has virtually completed the construction of 10 boarding and 25 day schools which will soon be ready for commissioning and handing over to states.
Yakubu further revealed that as a way of addressing the problem of the boy child drop out in the South-East, a programme similar to the Almajiri challenge in the Northern states has been designed with the support and collaboration of the state governments in the zone.
The former university don, who was appointed as the Executive Secretary of TETFund in 2007, stated that the analysis of the money realised in education tax since 1984 indicated that N178 billion was generated between 1994 and 2007, while N284.9 was realised between 2008 and 2010.
He said: “As a result of improvement in collection of education tax, the benefitting institutions have received more funds from 2008 than at any time in the Fund’s history.
“For instance, the allocation to the universities rose from N58.5million in 2007 to N119m in 2008 and 2009, N303 million in 2010 and N395million in 2011. There was also a sharp increase in the allocations to the Polytechnics and Colleges of Education”, he stated.
Yakubu noted that TETFund’s intervention in the nation’s higher institutions has assisted in uplifting the standards that hitherto existed in the institutions.
The various efforts of the Fund, according to him, have helped in ensuring that eight of the nation’s universities have named among the fifty best Universities in Africa.
The Executive Secretary stressed that the insistence of the Fund on due process and prioritisation of projects as well strict adherence to issue of accountability has similarly assisted to bring about the improvements.
He said: “The major problem in the education sector, with due respect, is not funding, but lack of prioritising what we do in the education sector. In the years, when I was a child, we attended what is now referred to as local, rural schools. It was from here that we graduated and moved over to the Othman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto and today, we are doing well academically.
“The real issue is that the managers of our educational institutions do not prioritise what they want to spend money on. Funding is a mere facilitator and we can collect all the money in the world, but if we fail to get our priorities right and embark on projects and programmes that will endure, we will end up frittering away the money at our disposal.
“We lack strategic planning in our education section and no matter what we do, if we don’t change this attitude, we will continue to lag behind,” Yakubu stressed.
He pointed out that in disbursing funds to any educational institution, the fund would evaluate the proposals submitted by such institutions, after which those which met the criteria would be granted approval to advertise and also pursue and obtain due process approval before 50 per cent of the cost would be released and subsequent releases made upon satisfactory completion of such projects.
“We have no failed project anywhere and we don’t release more funds until they account for what they have been doing. We have Project Management Department which monitors projects. We also do periodic monitoring as well as engage Ad-hoc consultants to help us monitor and assess such projects.
“If any institution collects money from us, we monitor what they do and it must be according to the approved plan. If they take money away from the account for any other activity, they must refund it immediately otherwise, they will not get further disbursements from us.
“On the issue of improving academic standards in the universities, as at yesterday, we have approved 5,277 requests for training in various post-graduate programmes by some lecturers both here in the country and overseas.