The National President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria and Chancellor, Precious Cornerstone University, Bishop (Dr) Francis Wale Oke, has called for a review of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (Establishment, etc.) Act of 2011, so that privately-owned tertiary institutions in Nigeria can benefit alongside their government-owned counterparts from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND).
Delivering the inaugural Archbishop Benson Idahosa Memorial Lecture at the Legacy Campus of the Benson Idahosa University, Benin City on the role of faith-based Universities in National Transformation, Bishop Wale Oke made the point that faith-based universities have made significant contributions, not only in the area of human resource development but in other aspects of national development. Faith-based universities have become major drivers of economic advancement in Nigeria, with products of these institutions playing outstanding roles in the different sectors. He cited, in particular, the contribution being made by graduates of faith-based universities in the area of financial technology solutions and entrepreneurship development in the country. Evidence of the quality of learning and all-round development available at these institutions is found in the successes attained by some of the graduates of faith-based universities such as Paystack founders, Sola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi, Sycamore Founders – Babatunde Akin-Moses and Onyinye Okonji, as well as Founders of Piggyvest and Thrive, among others.
Bishop Francis Wale Oke is of the view that the huge and sacrificial investment in human and material resources by the proprietors of these institutions, which has created a more conducive teaching and learning environment in these private universities, as well as the stable and predictable academic calendar they run are partly responsible for the level of success being recorded there. This has not only been buttressed by reports of the accreditation exercise conducted by the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) with private universities doing better than their publicly-owned counterparts, recent results at the Nigerian Law School have also strengthened the argument for the quality of education in private universities, with their products emerging among the best in the Bar examination.
Bishop Francis Wale Oke submits that the mandate of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) for the rehabilitation, restoration and consolidation of Tertiary Education in Nigeria can only be partially met and hard to fulfil if its focus continues to remains exclusively on government-owned universities while private universities constitute over 40% of the Universities in Nigeria. He makes the case that greater progress can only be made in the development of tertiary education with support as offered by TETFUND extended to privately-owned tertiary institutions.
The President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria argues that in the same way private sector players in Banking, Aviation, Agriculture and other sectors have received different forms of support and funding, so should Education, which is a more critical sector, with foundational role in driving national development. He is of the view that the argument is even more strengthen by the fact is that the bulk of investors in tertiary education are social entrepreneurs, whose primary interest is not profit and have, over time, developed a robust governance system that make for greater accountability and transparency.
Bishop Francis Wale Oke lauded Archbishop Benson Idahosa, who was the 3rd National President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, not only for his visionary and ground-breaking work in Pentecostal Christianity in Nigeria, but for his foresight and the pioneering role he played in the area of tertiary education, tracing Idahosa’s work as far back as 1978, with the institution he set up becoming the first to apply to the NUC for approval, with Benson Idahosa University, being one of the first few private Universities to be established and licensed by the Federal Government.
The President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria calls on the Executive and legislative arms of the Federal Government to work in concert on amendment of the TETFUND Act, taking into cognisance the fact that the circumstances have considerably changed from the time when the Education Trust Fund (ETF) was established in 1993, with private universities now entrenched and significant players in the tertiary education space. He submits that with inclusion of private universities as beneficiaries, the institutions will be able to access funds for essential physical infrastructure for teaching and learning, institutional material and equipment; research and publications and academic staff training and development, as well as other critical needs that would help with the overall improvement and maintenance of standards in the higher educational institutions, helping TETFUND fulfil the mandate for which it was established.
The Archbishop Benson Idahosa Memorial lecture is the first to be held in memory of the iconic Preacher and founder of the Church of God Mission International, Archbishop Benson Idahosa who was described by T.L. Osborn as the greatest African Ambassador of the Apostolic Christian faith to the world. In attendance at the lecture were three former National Presidents of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Pastor E. A. Adeboye, Pastor Ayo Oritesjafor and Rev Dr Felix Omobude.
Also present was the Governor of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki who paid glowing tribute to the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa for the power of his vision, as well as the Chancellor of the University, Archbishop Margaret Benson-Idahosa and Bishop F. Benson-Idahosa for building on the legacy of Archbishop Benson Idahosa and the giant strides they have taken the in taking the vision higher. The Pro- Chancellor and Chairman, Governing council of the University, Prof Pat Utomi commended Bishop Francis Wale Oke for the resourcefulness of the lecture, strongly echoing Oke’s call for the expansion of the TETFUND window to accommodate private tertiary institutions.