When NANS leadership visited Echono-led TETFund

For the new leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), its familiarisation visit to the Arc. Sonny Echono-led Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) was akin to using one proverbial stone to kill several birds.

It was meant to be a courtesy call by the umbrella body of Nigerian students both at home and in the Diaspora to the management of the intervention agency to seek areas of collaboration but as luck would have it, their expectations were surpassed.

The first cheering news from the vibrant TETFund boss was that the agency would kick-start the process of constructing 36 state-of-the-art hostels across the country this year, putting an end to the deficit of on-campus accommodation that has plagued public tertiary institutions in the country for ages.

Lamenting the burgeoning challenge of student housing in institutions of higher learning, Echono said: “As I speak, this year, we shall be providing hostels for students in 36 tertiary institutions across the country because we realised that part of the places where our students live are so deplorable and only about 15 per cent of our students are staying on campus.

“Since many of them live outside campus, some of them cannot even come back for evening lectures because of the cost and the trouble of walking all the way and coming back. And there is also the security situation of their areas.

“So, we have a policy to ensure that as much as possible, we will ensure that a minimum of 50 to 60 per cent of our students live on campus. And those hostels will not be match boxes and shanties; they will be solid buildings that can attract other students from anywhere in the world to compare with what other people enjoy when they leave Nigeria.

Reacting to the association’s call for maintenance of TETFund projects in beneficiary institutions across the country and construction of NANS secretariat in Abuja, Echono pointed out that there was increased allocation for maintenance of TETFund infrastructures above five years in the 2024 intervention cycle.

Concerning the NANS secretariat, the agency boss promised to look into it and get the buy-in of the Ministry of Education, even as he also disclosed that the intervention agency would work out modalities to incorporate the students’ body for joint monitoring of TETFund projects across the country.

While congratulating the national leadership on their successful election, he applauded the body for its constructive engagements on issues. Nigerian students, he stressed, would continue to be at the centre of any project in tertiary institutions.

Echono dispelled the misconception that the focus of TETFund was on schools, infrastructure and lecturers only, insisting that students are at the centre of its interventions.

“But the fact of the matter is that it is still the students that are the focus. Lecturers are hired for the skills they have and they are paid salaries. So, ordinarily, we do not owe them additional obligations or training them. We want to improve the learning experience of our students; we want the lecturers to be on the cutting edge because we want them to deliver on their job better,” he stated.

Echono also spoke about the digital services platform for tertiary institutions – Tertiary Education Research, Applications and Services (TERAS). This, he said, will address critical challenges faced by students, researchers and institutions in accessing educational resources and research materials.

According to him, other services such as sponsored mobile internet access, EagleScan for plagiarism checking, aggregated journal and research subscription inclusive of EBSCO, Blackboard Learning Management System, digital literacy as well as intervention funding are available to both public and private tertiary institutions in the country.

The event also witnessed a 10-minute video presentation of the TERAS platform.

Earlier, NANS President, Lucky Emonefe, said the visit was to formally introduce the new leadership of the association to TETFund management as well as work out areas of collaboration.

Citing the increase in TETFund’s 2024 budget and the new Students’ Loan Bill currently before the National Assembly, the NANS President applauded President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for his intention towards uplifting education in Nigeria.

He also lauded TETFund boss for throwing his weight behind the bill at the just concluded public hearing on the proposed legislation.

His words: “We are not going to relent. We are going to complement your efforts to ensure that these gigantic projects are completed in our tertiary institutions. On our part, we are going to monitor, supervise and protect education infrastructure to complement what Mr. President and TETFund boss are doing.”

Also speaking, the Senate President of the NANS, Babatunde Afeez, lauded the Executive Secretary for his open door policy, adding: “You met us at an official gathering yesterday for the first time and gave us an appointment for today. That shows that you are running an open door policy.”

A member of the Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFund and lawmaker representing Delta North Senatorial District, Senator Ned Nwoko, also showed up at the event.

Nwoko, who joined the TETFund Management to welcome NANS leadership, not only pledged the support of the committee to Nigerian students but also announced that he would be a patron of the students’ body.

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