By Rosemary Ogbonnaya
The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) has expressed hope that the annual allocation to the National Research Fund (NRF) will hit N10 billion in 2022.
Executive Secretary of TETFund, Professor Suleiman Bogoro, said the agency’s Board of Trustees had recently approved N8.5 billion as 2021 allocation for NRF.
Bogoro stated this at a virtual meeting on ‘Democratization of Higher Education in Nigeria through Open Access,’ co-hosted by TETFund and the Training Centre in Communication, Nairobi, as part of activities to mark International Open Access Week.
According to the TETFund boss, following the agency’s proposal, the Board of Trustees’ had in 2019 graciously approved N5 billion for NRF, which was raised to N7.5 billion in 2020 and N8.5 billion in 2021.
His words : “Over the last two and half years now, we have raised funds available for research. They are two categories; institution based and National Research Fund.
” The institution based has a ceiling of about maybe N3,600 US dollars and it is for mainly basic research while the higher ceiling grant of about 92 or 93 US dollars is the National Research Fund aimed at promoting applied research, and to that extent, in 2019 I made case to the Board of Trustees of TETFund to increase the threshold.
” It used to be a kind of seed money. Seed money of N4 billion for eight years but from the year 2019 to last year and this year, we increased it to N5 billion annually. Last year we increased it from N5 billion to N7.5 billion and this year it is N8.5 billion and we are hoping in 2022 it will move to N10 billion.
He said NRF is one of the major platforms put in place by the government through TETFund to support the academic community in research to achieve specific objectives, particularly in the area of science, technology and innovation.
While expressing the readiness of TETFund to always mainstream open access/science through massive support for Research and Development (R&D), Bogoro said the Fund had recently established 12 Centres of Excellence across the country.
He said the move was aimed at supporting cutting-edge research mainly in universities so as to provide solutions to various problems bedeviling the society as well as position Nigeria as a major player in the knowledge economy.
“We are increasing emphasis on Science, Technology and Innovation to solve societal problems,” Bogoro said, even as he said democratisation of higher education in Nigeria would improve more access to research and its supportive platforms to the schools and the society.
Bogoro, however, revealed that TETFund has developed a project impact tracking system to evaluate the correlation of its spendings on research and results so far achieved.
“Precisely and coinciding with the time, we realised that we need to know the impact of our research and so we have worked on and concluding a process of software that will help us to evaluate the impact of the research grants, so that we are not just throwing money on research exercise but we need to evaluate the impact, ” he said.
Also speaking at the webinar, the Technical Adviser to the TETFund’s Executive Secretary, Dr Popoola Mustapha Ayodele, harped on the decolonisation of education research and technology in Africa.
“Our educational system is still colonised, we must do away with old traditions and adopt new paradigms, the traditional practice of closed systems should be done away with,” Popoola said.
Popoola, who spoke on ‘Democratisation of Higher Education in Nigeria, Open Access Landscape and TETFund’s Intervention for Open Science Adoption,” said the agency is leaving no stone unturned to revolutionise R&D in the country to benefit all.
While saying TETFund’s intervention lines on open science include the establishment of 12 Centres of Excellence in universities, Popoola said the agency will soon establish the second set of 12 centres to be shared equally among polytechnics and colleges of education.
On his part, the Director of Distance, Open and eLearning of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Odedina Kayode, lamented the problem of access in the Nigerian university system both in terms of materials and admission of students.
Odedina said while there are 201 universities in the country, only about 30 per cent from over a million candidates that apply for admission every year scale through the hurdles.
He, however, restated NUC’s commitment to take steps that will usher in easy access to materials and open learning to boost research output in the country.
Mr Daryl Naylor of Digital Science, who also spoke at the event, assured of the readiness of his organisation to always support open access initiatives in Africa.