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Appraising TETFund’s research funding effort against COVID-19

By Sunday Aikulola
30 April 2020   |   3:05 am
As part of an effort to support Federal Government’s drive against the COVID-19 pandemic, officials of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), has announced plans to fund research

As part of an effort to support Federal Government’s drive against the COVID-19 pandemic, officials of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), has announced plans to fund research by talented medical experts in the nation’s universities as a short-term medical palliative in the fight against coronavirus.

The executive secretary of the fund, Prof. Suleiman Bogoro added that the agency is also looking at the possibility of how the research could lead to a breakthrough in World Health Organisation’s (WHO) certified vaccine against COVID-19, infectious diseases and other diseases that lead to more deaths.

Specifically, Prof Bogoro added that the initiative would also go a long way to consolidate on the new research and development strategy in the nation’s tertiary institutions.

It would be recalled that President Buhari approved the sum of N5 billion for research purpose last year but was increased to N7.5 billion in the 2020 budget.

But how far can TETFund achieve the objective of funding research to find lasting solutions to COVID-19?

A former lecturer in the department of mass communication, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Prof. Idowu Sobowale said if TETFund is to fund research, it should select people with experience and history.

The pandemic, he explained has opened our eyes to our inadequacies in several areas.

“Let them look for the cause, the characteristics as well as the solutions. This should open the eyes of our people to the fact that we do not need to wait until problems or challenges have occurred before we need to be proactive and speed up. Even if we cannot meet up with the developed world, we need to do much more. Even the students must be encouraged to be serious’

Shobowale, however, explained further that TETfund should intensify its effort in research into various aspects of education.

“When I say aspect, I mean functional aspect of education—- that is education that can take us out of the woods. This is the kind of thing that we should be doing to be proactive,” he argued. 

In addition, Sobowale said the government should struggle to meet up with the 26 per cent United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) prescription in the budget.

“Even if we are going to do, it should be in the future, then we would have made some remarkable progress.”

Rector Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH), Obafemi Omokungbe described the move as a welcome development adding that It would provide a lasting solution to the pandemic.

Although the college does not have a medical school, the rector said YABATECH offers related courses to medicine like environmental biology.

“We also have a research centre at YABATECH and we shall write our proposals to TETFund but it will be a huge benefit to the college and the society at large.”

In a similar vein, Director Communications and Marketing Babcock University, Joshua Suleiman, agreed that research into any disease at all is a worthy thing to do.

“If TETFund is willing to fund research for any disease including COVID-19, I think that it is in the best interest of the nation for such funding to be made available to all universities irrespective of the ownership—whether it is government-owned or privately owned and the reason is that all universities in Nigeria operate within the same geographical space.

Stressing further, he said research into any area that will facilitate development whether medicine, agriculture or science is in the interest of the citizens of the country.

“Education is not owned by private or public individuals. In other words, education is for all and education is run in the interest of the citizens—- not just of a particular country, but of the world. So any research at all that needs to be funded should go to all institutions that have research institutes and are capable of handling those researches and are able to deliver on them such funds for research.

Conclusively, he canvassed the need for an increase in budgetary allocation he said, to education.

He said, “The budget for education over the decades is nothing to write home about. That is why there is decadence in most universities across the country, in terms of infrastructure including quality of libraries, laboratories, lecturers, and that is why you have the insignificant number of foreign students in Nigerian universities. “

“Most Nigerian universities do not have conducive learning environments. The calibre of lectures in most of the universities cannot be compared to those offered in foreign universities. What is the percentage of lecturers in Nigerian universities who are renowned in research, internationally relevant and have local appeal? Very few. These are image problems, which Nigerian universities need to address, he argued.