THE French Development Agency (AFD) has approved an initial credit of $40 million to boost Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Nigerian universities.
Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed made this known in Abuja at a one-day sensitisation workshop for vice chancellors and directors of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) of selected universities on the proposed French Development Agency (AFD) Support for the ICT component of the blueprint for the Rapid Revitalisation of University Education in Nigeria.
He recalled that a few years ago, the Commission developed a Blueprint for the Rapid Revitalisation of University Education in Nigeria, noting that the document identified 12 major challenges in the Nigeria University System (NUS) which needed urgent attention for the rejuvenation of the system.
He enumerated them to include: inadequate funding, which, according to him, had always been a challenge from the beginning of universities when the government could only cater for 30 percent of the needs of the universities.
Rasheed listed other challenges as deficits in teacher quality and quantity, poor quality of graduates, governance issues, inadequate facilities for teaching, learning and research, academic corruption and other vices, as well as poor ICT infrastructure.
He added that inadequate access, deficiencies in research and postgraduate training, overlapping functions of the NUC and professional bodies, inadequacies in fostering skills development and entrepreneurship and gender issues based on the need for more female representation in student and staff enrolment and in the governance structure in the NUS also posed greater challenges.
The Executive Secretary stated that the workshop was designed to chart a new course for the development of information and communication technology in the Nigerian University System (NUS).
He noted that in a bid to raise funds to address the issues identified in the blueprint, the Nigerian government held consultations with various international development partners, one of which was the French Development Agency (AFD).
He added that following the consultations, the agency’s board agreed to support the component of the blueprint which sought to promote the establishment of ICT-driven universities.
“The AFD has approved an initial credit of USD 40 million to kick-start the implementation of this Project and to ensure equal representation, with about six to eight universities to be chosen across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria,” he said.
He informed the participants that a call for proposals would be made and that just like the Africa Centres of Excellence (ACE) for Development Impact Project and the Sustainable Procurement, Environmental, and Social Standards Enhancement (SPESSE Project), submissions from the universities would be subjected to a rigorous selection process after which the best proposals would be selected.
Rasheed emphasised that the universities would not be selected based on age or reputation but on the strength of their proposals, while proposals would be assessed at both NUC and AFD levels in the similar way SPESSE was handled, by choosing the best from each geopolitical zone.
He, therefore, encouraged all universities to ensure that only staff who were ICT-competent and knowledgeable and who had vast experience in proposal-writing were selected in the constitution of the proposal-writing team.
The Executive Secretary also recalled that a few years back, the world witnessed the global havoc wrecked by the COVID-19 pandemic on literally every sector of the economy, Nigeria inclusive as businesses were shut down.
He said unfortunately no Nigerian university was adequately prepared to handle online teaching as there was no proper training of faculty and student assessment.
According to him, for the education sector, the pandemic only made Nigerian Universities more painfully aware of the deficiencies in ICT and the need for them not only to adopt technology but to be at the fore of the drive for ICT development in the nation.
The Executive Secretary said the world has rapidly moved from conventional brick-and-mortar universities to embrace concepts such as open and distance/ transnational education.
The worst case scenario he pointed out was now a blended system of learning, noting that there was no doubt that the sector needed to rethink its way of doing things and begin to lean more towards adopting or deepening ICT in teaching and learning.
In his presentation, the project coordinator, Dr Joshua Atah, said the launch of the project by the executive secretary would chart a new course in the ICT journey in the NUS.
He stated that one of the goals of the Commission was to ensure proficiency in the deployment of ICT in the universities as well as to serve as a channel for external aids to the universities which were apt with the intervention of the AFD.
The Project Coordinator applauded the Executive Secretary for leading the team that went to negotiate for the intervention in favour of the tertiary education in Nigeria by the international agencies, noting that the monies allocated to the NUS was housed by the Federal Ministry of Finance from where the disbursement would be done in tranches based on judicial utilisation by the benefitting institutions.
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