Why TETFund should extend financial support to private varsities, by Oloke

Prof. Kola Oloke, Vice Chancellor, Precious Cornerstone University (PCU), Ibadan, in this interview with ROTIMI
AGBOLUAJE, spoke on why Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) should incorporate private universities in the distribution of its funds, arguing that since private companies contribute two per cent to the pool of money, and private institutions playing critical roles in capacity building and human development should not be left out.

As a faith-based university that’s funded primarily by the church, do you still have funding challenges?
This is a faith-based university and resources of God can never be depleted. It is to the glory of God and I laud what the founding fathers are doing. But we also try to complement it with the revenue we generate by getting involved in various ventures. We try to access grants and God is also helping us to generate income from school fees and raise funds from other sources.

TETFund supports public universities with funds. People believe such gesture should be extended to private universities, what do you have to say about this?
Of course, I have been part of those advocating that TETFund facilities be extended to private universities. There is one major reason for this, TETFund is the tax from private companies; it is the tax on profit made by private multinationals, hence, private universities should benefit from it.
Although government has agreed to the proposition that private universities could do joint projects, while those from public universities write research proposals for TETFund, we want government to go beyond this.
Government should find a way of ensuring that private universities access the funds for building, equipping laboratories and purchasing vehicles. In public universities, TETFund facilities and projects make them a bit far ahead of private universities in terms of infrastructure. It is not that we are envying them, but we are saying government should extend the largesse to private universities.
Also, the role private universities are playing in the educational development of the country and the economy as a whole are enormous and different private universities are coming of age.
Infact, at the world regulatory ranking, many private universities have been able to find their feet, while in the wake of strike by public universities, it was private universities that took up the challenge. Against this backdrop, the Federal Government should extend TETFund support to help private universities.

Education is evolving every now and then. How can we get the best from students?
Gone are the days when a medical doctor father insisted that his son trained as one. The son can struggle to fulfil the desire of his father, but may be designed to be a fashion designer. He can only shine where his gift is.
\The best way to make every person, not only students, responsible is to help that person to discover his or her uniqueness; his talent and gift. It is when somebody is using his God-given gifts well that he or she will not see his job as being tedious. When one is doing what he or she likes, it’s like one is being paid to enjoy himself or herself. There won’t be any stress in performing the given task. That means one has to know his or her gifting and talent.
Here, at PCU, we expose our students to different opportunities and allow them make up their minds on what they feel they can do better. Interestingly, they are already picking it and doing it better.As a model, I’ll recommend that we expose students to different possibilities. In fact, as lecturers, students have much of the information we are teaching them. So, when we get to their classes, we should expose them to the possibilities so that they’ll be able to discover themselves, and identify their gifting and uniqueness.
Every organisation has its unique selling point and each educational institution, as such, has its style of moulding future leaders. What are the unique selling points of PCU?
We believe in training our students to become employers of labour and be spiritually mature. If you look at the world we live in now, it is full of challenges such as insecurity, economic downturn and others. For people to be able to survive in this present world and handle issues of life very well, they must be matured spiritually and sound professionally.
So, at PCU, we train our students to be spiritually and professionally sound. This will do by bringing in qualified lecturers to handle the different academic programmes of the university. We also have facilities to train our students spiritually and the students are benefiting maximally from this training.
Also, we lay much emphasis on entrepreneurship, because we believe that students become very excited when they can do things themselves. So, we expose our students to different entrepreneurship programmes, which make them become employers of labour before graduation.

How rich is the curriculum for entrepreneurship?
The curriculum for entrepreneurship is very rich, containing vocational training and inculcation of the ability to commercialise different aspects of the programmes the students are studying. There are different areas of our programmes that can be commercialized and this is in line with the vision of the National Universities Commission (NUC). With this, we are trying to open up different programmes to people from the industry.
The purpose of this is to show our students what they do at the industrial level so that before they graduate, they’ll be able to form an opinion of what they will do. Even before they graduate, through the different vocational training, they can be earning a living.
We give glory to God that we graduated our first set of students by November last year. Importantly, we make sure that all the students at the 300-level register their business names with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). Most of them float small-scale businesses and were already making money before graduating. It’s instructive to know that we have an entrepreneurship week where students are able to exhibit the different businesses they engage in.
The week attracts people from different places. So, the unique selling point of our university is that we train students to become employers of labour and commercialise different aspects of their programmes, leading to setting up of small-scale industries through vocational training.
Also, we make sure that students imbibe Christian teachings to handle affairs of life. We believe that our students are capable of facing challenges in life. They are now at the youth service and the feedback that we get from them is that the training that they have acquired is really helping them.

You talked about registering their businesses before graduation, where did you get that model?
I have been in the university system for a very long time. I’ve travelled to different countries and to some universities in the United States of America and I saw the way they do things. Even within the country, I’ve attended several conferences and served in different universities. I have been able to see that the best way to make students perform well and get their attention is to give them opportunity to use their talent and allow them work with their hands.
Moreover, poverty is everywhere and nobody wants to be enslaved by poverty. So, with this background, I felt that being the pioneer chancellor of a university like this, I should inculcate in our students the spirit of entrepreneurship. That is the solution to the problem of Nigerians, being able to create jobs so that we don’t depend on government for jobs.

As a researcher in the field of Microbiology, how did you contribute to solving the COVID-19 scourge?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, God helped me to gather scientists from different universities in and outside the country. We were able to manufacture two COVID-19 vaccines and have done the animal trial for the vaccines. We discovered that it is safe. It is highly efficient and efficacious in providing protection against COVID-19.
Curiously, it is not only COVID-19 vaccine that we are producing; we are also producing vaccines against other diseases like measles, cholera and other diseases. We’re trying to make sure that we train several students on vaccine construction. In fact, our setup students come from different institutions for industrial training on vaccine construction. So, we believe this is a very important area and it has a lot of future.

Is there anything you think the government can do to ensure that the medical breakthrough is highly publicised?
We have approached different government institutions and we hope that they will help us with the different submissions we have made. We have submitted different research proposals to appropriate quarters but we have not been able to get anything up till now.

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This article originally appeared in guardian.ng

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