By Cecilia Ijuo

Mr Joseph Ari, Director-General, Industrial Training Fund(ITF), says President Bola Tinubu has shown willingness to revamp the tertiary education system in Nigeria.

Ari said the signing into law of the Access to Higher Education Act, 2023, known as the Student Loan Act by the president was a clear indication that he had begun fulfilling his campaign promises.

The ITF boss made this known at the FIAU Third Annual Global Meeting on Thursday in Abuja.

The meeting was organised by  Forum for Innovation in African Universities (FIAU) in collaboration with Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Rohde and Schwarz, and National Universities Commission.

The forum had the theme, “Strengthening Africa’s Higher Education in a Post Covid-19 World.”

Ari said there was no doubt that the stydent loan Act would open access to loans that would enable students fund their higher education.

He said it would further boost school enrolment, particularly for the less privileged.

“By signing this Act as his first executive action in office, President Tinubu has indicated that he is committed to breathing life into our failing tertiary education system.

“We pray that he continues on this path as he seeks to rebuild all facets of our dear country, Nigeria,”he said.

Ari said regulators, government agencies, employers of labour and multilateral institutions ought to continue to generate implementable ideas for the success of Tinubu’s visions.

He said he believed that the FIAU forum would  provide a veritable platform and opportunity to come up with workable solutions that would greatly assist him.

On ITF’s role in revamping the education system, Ari  in said it had interfaced with Rohde and Schwartz and other stakeholders for collaboration.

“Rohde and Schwarz carried out assessment tours and discussed on several issues including  assistance to tertiary institutions through deployment of high-level electronic equipment to some universities.

“This has already commenced with Covenant University as its first beneficiary and discussions were held around Student Exchange Programme and the forum that is taking place here today,”he said.

On theme of the forum, Ari said African higher education institutions was faced with some challenges in the aftermath of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

He said some of the challenges were high drop out rate, increased student debt, extended graduation time and shattered academic dreams among others.

Othe challenges according to him are poor power supply, energy crisis, rising insecurity, reluctance by teachers and school administrators to embrace new technology among others.

He, however said hope was not lost, adding that higher education in Nigeria could forge a new path by creating and nurturing research and innovation hubs among other things.

Ari said ITF in all of its over 50 years of existence had ensured Human Resources Development (HRD).

The ITF boss said as part of effort to ensure innovation, the fund commenced efforts to convert its existing Skills Training Centres (STC) to vocational centres.

According to him, plans have commenced to convert the training centres  in Lagos, Kano, Kogi, Abuja and Plateau to the vocational centres

He said he was hopeful that the outcome of the forum would assist governments to evolve policies that would encourage creativity for the development of the continent.

Prof. Paschal Anosike, FIAU founder, said

he was motivated to establish the forum to bridge the gap in higher education in Africa.

“Africa was lagging in terms of moving students from classrooms to online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In Asia 69 per cent moved online whereas in Africa it was 24 per cent.

“That is why in 2021 I came up with the idea of this forum, to strengthen the capacity of universities to digitise their courses,”he said.

Mr Klaus Schneider, a German and co-founder of FIAU, said he bought into the vision because of his desire to change the tragetory of higher education in Africa.

He said as a follow up to that, he had  established an online institution that would focus basically on entrepreneurship.

“I have announced the establishment of institute for higher education and it  will enhance new technologies and  motivate young people,”he said.

Prof. Sarah Agbor, former African Union Commissioner
for Education, said the forum was timely because of the rate of unemployment in Africa.

She said “the demography of Africa is such that 70 per cent are youths but they study courses that do not give them jobs.

“The jobs are available but the competences are not available.

“So, FIAU was established to strengthen higher education systems in the continent to empower the youth for jobs.”

The News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) reports that the forum  was declared open by Mr Andrew Adejoh, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education.

High point of the event was the presentation of awards.

Meanwhile, leading figures in the academia and relevant sectors from Cameroon, South Africa, Kenya and other African countries were in attendance. (NAN)

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