TETFUND and crisis of research in Ivory Towers

Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund)
Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund)

Primarily carried out by universities and related centres and agencies specifically established for that purpose, research is however, usually also propped, supported and initiated by industries, philanthropists and several International NGOs. Talk of the huge grants given by the likes of the Carnegie, Ford, Belinda and Gates Foundations or, the grants that come from a number of UNO agencies, among others, for the purpose of research in tertiary institutions across the countries of the world.

Nigeria has not been reaping much of the benefits of internally- conducted works of research due to a plethora of reversible reasons. The nation’s Ivory towers appear to suffer from a bewildering shortage of scholars attuned to the conduct of research works. Resultantly, our universities loose out in benefitting from globally available research grants. With a paucity of philanthropists so inclined, government and industries in the country are reluctant to key into the project of stimulating the culture of research.

Driven by the Tertiary  Education Trust Fund,TETFUND, and,  thanks to the rekindled interest and commitment by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, through the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, there is appearing a silver lining on the horizon for the dawn of a robust culture and practice of research in the country anchored by the nation’s universities.

The Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund,TETFUND, Professor Suleiman Elias Bagoro was his vintage self while speaking recently at two different platforms in Abuja. Firstly, at the inauguration of the 3rd National Research and Monitoring Committee(NRFS) and, at an interactive session with Directors of Research of universities under the theme: ” Bolstering Research Impact and Relevance through Systematic Research Governance in Nigeria “. From his two outings, the man once again, showed his avid passion for research and conviction that, therein lies a sure route to the nation’s social, economic greatness.

Addressing the Committee members of the NRFS, a select group of some of the country’s very best Researchers, Innovators and Representatives of agencies within and in diaspora, Professor Bagoro announced the Federal government’s approval of an unprecedented N5bn for the National Research Fund NRF, 2019 Intervention budget. Beginning with N3b in 2011 with N1b naira added in 2015, he stated that a total of N2.6b has been allocated to 113 research projects from 2011 to 2019 in five batches. However, only N1.5b naira of the allocated sum has so far been disbursed to researchers.

He described the inability of researchers to wholly or substantially access N4b in seven years, 2012 to 2018, as,” not cheering to the FUND.” The TETFUND Chief Executive therefore urged the Committee to change the narratives by, “critically reviewing research proposals and recommending only those that seek to solve specific societal and developmental problems “. He said the time was long overdue to swing our universities away from being mere centres of teaching to as well become centres of research and development.

Professor Bagoro was even more scathing and vehement at his interactive session with Directors of Research in the country’s Ivory towers. Of the about 8000 Nigerian Professors, he lamented that, only a paltry  figure was capable of holding their own on the global platforms of researchers. A good number of the proposals seeking research grants from TETFUND, he told the gathering, “makes one to wonder if some of these Professors are actually the principal investigators in the proposals.” Often, he revealed that, “about 80% of such proposals are condemned because they are poor”.

Most Nigerian scholars, in his view, appear to be more interested in the glory and prestige of academic titles and, not the knowledge. Majority of the country’s research therefore, comes across as merely aimed at getting, “promotions and not for assessing societal ills.” He bemoaned the scenario while calling on stake holders principally, the universities, industries and other relevant agencies to collaborate in the critical, patriotic emergency to redress the trend.

The Tertiary Education Trust Fund under Professor Suleiman Elias Bagoro would certainly have accomplished a major milestone in its primary statutory responsibility, if it succeeds, in the words of the Executive Secretary of the NUC, Professor  Abubakar Abdulrasheed,  ” in the process of consciously turning some of the Universities into research conscious institutions.” The task, as recognized and enunciated by Bagoro himself, is enormous but, not insurmountable.

While the TETFUND, strives to maintain its present tempo of driving the culture of research in the nation’s tertiary institutions, such can only however, succeed if the scholars in the Ivory towers are prepared and gingered to take up the challenge. Nigerian researchers, unlike their counterparts in other climes, are said to be handicapped by low morale and lack of motivations among others, but this excuse doesn’t appear wholly tenable in view of observations by Bagoro. Why for example, should the task of research proposals be such a big deal for scholars of the caliber of professors? It doesn’t seem to lend credence to the excuse of paucity of funding that, only N1.5 of the N4b available research fund was assessed in seven years. The TENTFUND campaign is a wakeup call that demands for reawakening and tightening of the girdles by the nation’s scholars.

The quest to foster and reap from the culture of research-based  institutions definitely, goes beyond the walls of the universities and related tertiary centres of higher learning. As it obtains in countries where research is used to advance economic, scientific, social and technological advancement, the private sector players, industries, individuals and non \-governmental organizations must be galvanized to key into the project. This in essence is the mission and vision of the Chief Executive of TETFUND, Professor Suleiman Elias Bogoro. It is a campaign or a crusade that demands that all hands of stakeholders be brought on deck.

Ephraim Chukuma wrote from Abakaliki

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