Donald Duke, the Chairman of the UNICAL Trust and Endowment Fund and former governor of Cross River State has said that Nigeria has to revamp the system that is used to fund the needs in the educational sector, as the quality of education has reduced in a bid to provide equal opportunities for education.
In an interview with ARISE NEWS on Tuesday, Duke said that the Nigerian educational sector could benefit a lot more if they received more funding and opportunities from both local and international donor agencies.
Duke said, “Going forward, we need to really rethink how we fund a lot of things in education in our country. For instance, and I use this as an example, the study of medicine in the University of Calabar, the cost of tuition is about N47,000 per annum. So, the 6-year program is slightly over N260,000 and you become a doctor. Now, this is less than 500 dollars. You begin to wonder, what quality of education are you going to obtain with that. So, in our quest to become an egalitarian society, we have literally squandered quality.
“Now, I think we could achieve both if we seek other methods and sources of funding. Become a truly international university where you channel the best of brains, you cannot do it exclusive, it has to be inclusive. You’ve got to bring funds from literally all over the world, you’ve got to get the alumni, the donor agencies around the world, you’ve got to do research. Research has become quite alien to our universities. So, we don’t talk about sabbaticals any longer. So, you know, the cross pollinations of ideas do not exist.
Speaking on the establishment of the UNICAL Trust and Endowment fund, Duke said, “What happened was a couple of years ago I was given an honorary scholar by the university and expected to give back something and I thought that listen, something that will be enduring will be to put together a mechanism of generating funds, support, not just cash or anything of the sort. Cash is good, but the other methods of funding supporting the university get the students who have passed through the university involved, get the friends of the university, get international donor agencies to support.
“So, the critical thing was putting together a team that is broad based. Most of us in that team are not graduates of the university of Calabar, we bring a lot of our strengths, our contacts to bear and see how we can truly make the university financially independent of its current very trickle or meagre sources of revenue literally from the federal government and the little, the very little the students pay. So that’s what the trust and endowment fund is all about, and I’m hoping that it will become the baseline for other universities to emulate, so we can get our university systems back on course. We used to have one of the best tertiary institutions in the world, but our ranking is so low right now because our funding is poor.”
Duke then went on to explain the uses and the mechanisms of the Trust and Endowment fund, and how the management ensured that those who were in need of the fund in the university of Calabar got the needed support. He said, “There’s no limit to what we want to raise, it’s a fund really in perpetuity. So, management of the fund will change from time to time, but the fund itself will remain in perpetuity. We’re seeking funds from wherever; internationally, from donor agencies. And they’re quite a lot of them once you can key into them and get, and you’re in sync in ideas with them. They will support you.
“Second, it’s an area of need. You could have, for instance, an international agency that is willing to support some research into some course and they will fund you but you’ve got to go out and look for them. You know, for too long we’ve sat down like everything else waiting for the money to come. We have to go out and look for the support, the kind of support that we require. The support, for instance, could be cash for research, it could be some equipment that we require. We want to partner with various agencies local and abroad, we are working with companies that can support our graduates in terms of internship and exposure. You can go to an engineering department for instance in most Nigerian universities without seeing any engineering equipment so it’s all theoretical. These are the things we have to stop, and so there’s really no bandwidth to it. It’s whatever support.
Duke then said that the intention was to ensure “the exposure, the intention, making sure that if you’re a graduate of the university of Calabar and you have a degree, it’s a degree worth what you graduated in. It’s not theoretical, it’s practical.”
He went on to say, “So, it’s not just finding the funds, and we need a lot of it, but also finding the opportunity for our students. It also goes further than that, placements, getting our students jobs after they have graduated. And that’s why I said there is really no bandwidth to it, whatever we can do to support.”