A university Don, Professor Sola Aderounmu has advised the Federal Government of Nigeria to engage Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) model to fund the educational sector.
The Professor of Computer Science and Engineering and former Dean, Faculty of Technology, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, made the remarks during a Keynote presentation at the Maiden Convocation Lecture of The Oke-Ogun Polytechnic Saki, Oyo State.
He however, wondered why the FG is claiming that it lacks the resources to meet all of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) requests, the same government ironically keeps approving and establishing new public universities.
FG vs ASUU
The Former President, Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) in his presentation titled, ‘Utilizing Public-Private Partnership for Sustainable Development in Nigeria’, bemoaned what he called ‘harrowing national challenges’, the most worrisome to being the unduly prolonged industrial strike that has emasculated the public university system for the past seven (7) months.
“Since February 14, 2022, the nation’s public universities have been under lock and key because of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) Strike. The seemingly interminable strikes are already causing serious damage to Nigeria’s tertiary education system. And if a nation’s tertiary education structure collapses, the damaging impact on national development is inevitable in terms of manpower shortfall for the economy and degradation of research output of ideas and solutions for solving societal problems. The degeneration of education can also presuppose the descent of society to a state of subversive underdevelopment, social disintegration and moral atrophy”.
He recalled that in the last 13 years, ASUU has gone on strike nine times, keeping students out of school for various periods of time ranging from one week (2016 warning strike) to nine months in 2020, and now over 7 months in 2022.
“Of course, it is not the fault of ASUU that the current strike has festered for so long. It is the non-implementation of long-standing agreements between the Federal Government and ASUU, especially the 2009 Agreement, bordering on critical issues such as funding for revitalisation of public universities, earned academic allowances, poor funding of State Universities, among others. So far, the ASUU strike continues as the Federal Government claims inability to meet all of ASUU demands due to limited resources”.
He said described the situation as ‘lamentable ugly mess’, which has caused untold agony to students, parents, lecturers and other concerned stakeholders, because the situation highlights the compelling imperative of utilising Public-Private Partnerships for sustainable development in every sector of the national life, education inclusive.
“If the FG is claiming that it lacks the resources to meet all of ASUU requests, though the same government ironically keeps approving and establishing new public universities, why not engage Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) model to fund the educational sector the way it has been doing in other sectors such as railways, roads and power?”, he questioned.
The concept of Public-Private Partnerships in Education
Professor Aderounmu who is the Centre Leader, World Bank Sponsored Africa Centre of Excellence in Software Engineering at OAU, said the PPP concept is not new but has increasingly become a global trend for fostering sustainable development in many countries, both in the developed and developing economies.
“In plain language, there can be no meaningful development in any society or community without cooperation, partnership, collaboration, teamwork, alliance or whatever we call it.
“As the Yoruba would say, ‘Ajeji owo kan ko gberu dori’. That is, one hand alone cannot lift a load up to the head. Just for the principle of clarity, we can define Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) as a partnership between the public sector and the private sector for the purpose of delivering a developmental project or service traditionally provided by the public sector. The public sector, of course, refers to the Government and its various Ministries, Departments and Agencies”.
“Meanwhile, according to a Brundtland Commission 1987 report titled ‘Our Common Future’, the idea of sustainable development requires meeting the needs of the present generation, without compromising the ability of future generations to fulfill their own needs and destiny. With these definitions of terms, the challenge then follows that achieving sustainable development in a modern nation demands the collaboration and alignment of forces and resources which the government alone cannot provide due to the growing complexity of societal development amidst competing demands”.
He argued that in the quest to develop a society or country, there must be due investment in identified areas of need for infrastructure, as basic infrastructures are needed to facilitate socio-economic activities that will stimulate development.
“However, according to development experts, the gap between the infrastructure investment need and the actual investment is substantial and keeps growing wider. So, in order to help bridge the investment gap as the government falls short of its responsibilities, a Public-Private Partnerships panacea becomes absolutely imperative. In other words, PPPs provide a channel of procuring needed additional capital investment for public infrastructure as well as facilitating a strategy for improving infrastructure planning, implementation, operation and maintenance.
“Also, PPPs enable off-balance sheet borrowing, amplify innovation and help transfer risks. All this implies that when PPPs are well designed and implemented in a balanced regulatory environment, they can bring greater impetus to development that is sustainable.
“The foregoing exposition naturally brings us to the point of emphasizing the continued need for utilising PPPs for sustainable development in Nigeria, Oyo State and The Oke-Ogun Polytechnic, Saki”.
He cited the ICT-Driven OAU Knowledge Park as a successful demonstration of PPP; yielding a growing number of spinoff enterprises as well as local design and production of commercial products such as drones, fingerprint scanners and nose masks, among others.