The Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, says that supporting research in Nigerian universities is critical to driving development in the Niger Delta region and guaranteeing better livelihoods.
Mrs. Semenitari spoke as a guest lecturer at the 8th Registry Annual Lecture, held at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, FUTA, on Thursday. She noted that the NDDC was currently supporting 15 research works in various segments of health and environment.
The lecture which attracted the cream of the academia in the country was entitled: “Endowment, Grants and Corporate Social Responsibility as Funding Options for Tertiary and Research Institutions in Nigeria.”
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer said that some of the research being funded by the NDDC focus on the environmental hazards that confront the Niger Delta, while others look at how to maximize the potentials of the region’s hidden resources, as well as seek ways of “turning negatives like water hyacinth and nipa palm into positives.”
The guest lecturer declared: “We believe that nothing will be too great to provide quality socio-economic foundations for the people.” She gave example of how the NDDC had weighed in to address the challenges of malaria scourge which the World Health Organisation, WHO, identified as the largest killer of children, especially in sub-Sahara Africa.
Mrs. Semenitari said: “This realization and the fact that the socio-economic indices identify the Niger Delta region as one of the worst affected regions of the world impelled the Niger Delta Development Commission to action. As a result, on Tuesday, July 5, 2016, we endowed a Professorial Chair in Malaria Research for the Centre for Malaria Research and Phytomedicine, CMRAP, at the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, for the sum of N25 million per annum for an initial period of two years.”
The NDDC boss harped on the necessity for endowments in funding university education, citing examples from renowned universities across the world. She said that almost every university in the United States and United Kingdom had huge endowments that benefit both the schools and their students.
According to the guest lecturer, universities with large endowments would require less than 5 per cent to pay full tuition for all their students. She said: “The Harvard University endowments in 2015 stood at $36.449bn, with a total student population of 21,000. This implies a student endowment per capita of $1.736m. What this means is that the school, using the profits made from endowments, can pay-off a student’s total academic needs to the value of $1.736m.”
Mrs. Semenitari advised Nigerian universities to trace their alumni wherever they may be to help them in attracting endowments as was the practice in other parts of the world. “Find them, task them and persuade them to give back,” she urged.
In his address, the Vice Chancellor of FUTA, Prof Adebiyi Daramola, observed that there was a paradigm shift in higher education funding in Nigeria and some other parts of the world. He added that the current economic reality in the country had shown that stakeholders in education sector needed to device creative ways of funding education.
The Vice Chancellor, who was represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), Prof. Tunde Areyela, stated that the survival of the education sector was a big challenge, as the nation’s growth and development depended largely on the quality of its educational institutions.
He said that while it was expected that individuals pay their bills for higher education, there was a limit to which such funding could drive institutional academic goals. “It has become a known fact that the government alone cannot fund higher education because government is especially faced with myriads of demands from other sectors of the economy,”
“Higher educational institutions can only impact positively on the society when its tripod functions of teaching, research and community service are properly funded. Therefore, the call for increasing contributions through grants, endowment and Corporate Social Responsibility by public spirited individuals, corporate organizations and members of the alumni association has become inevitable to ensure quality education and production of globally competitive graduates in Nigeria.”
The Vice Chancellor lauded the efforts of the government and some corporate organizations, as well as individuals, but stressed the need for continued and consistent support of all entities that could bring about needed impact to the quality of higher education in the country.
The Registrar of FUTA and the chief host, Dr. (Mrs) Modupe Ajayi, said that the Registry Annual Lecture was an exercise designed to celebrate academic excellence with a view to improving the activities in the University Registry and attracting developmental collaborations between town and gown for educational and national development.
Dr. Ajayi said that the annual lecture had witnessed immense innovations as it now celebrated eminent persons who had contributed to the development of education and national life, adding that awards of excellence had been given to prominent Nigerians.