Chidimma UCHEGBU, Abuja
The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), has tasked polytechnics across the country to embark on quality research proposals that would translate into commercial and innovative use.
Executive Secretary of TETFund, Arc. Sonny Echono, made the call in Abuja on Wednesday, during an interactive meeting with Rectors and Directors of Research of Polytechnics on National Research Fund, NRF, grants.
Echono lamented the huge shortage of skills in critical sectors of the nation’s economy, stating that “It means we are not producing graduates that are fit for purpose, that meet the needs of the industry, that are ready to take up responsibility and contribute their quota upon engagement.”
According to him, the fund want to see polytechnics taking more active parts in solving society’s problems; in solving the country’s developmental challenges and proffering solutions that would ease the various operations of the country.
“No research would be of benefit to a country like Nigeria “If we are not translating that and applying the products of such research to affect our daily lives; if we are not transferring that knowledge, that creative spark, into the production of goods and services that could create employment for our people, that would improve our standard of living and that would grow our economy, and activate all segments of our economy.
“I believe you are aware that there is compelling need for a shift in focus. We are producing graduates in an economy that is underdeveloped yet they are unable to find employment. We are having situations where foreign concerns, foreign companies, foreign businesses are relocating to our country under the guise of not having the right manpower to carry out their operations.
“We are having a situation where side-by-side there is very high graduate unemployment. It’s a huge shortage of skills in critical sectors of our national economy. It means we are not producing graduates that are fit for purpose, that meet the needs of the industry that are ready to take up responsibility and contribute their quota upon engagement. The other aspect is that we continue to produce manpower that the current structure of our economy can no longer absorb,” he said.
Earlier, the Director, Executive Secretary’s Office, Arc. Uchendu Wogu, said the Fund recognises the fact that research is not a one-man show but needs collaborative and must be multi-disciplinary.
While saying the Fund is committed to ensuring the adoption of international best practices, in delivering research mandate, he urged the polytechnics to rise up to the challenge of producing quality research proposals.
“Indeed, the polytechnic sector has not shown too much of a good performance, not to say that they are not doing well in NRF angle particularly.
“In achieving the mandate of the Fund the NRF was established so that we address the paucity of funds for research, especially in Nigerian tertiary education Institutions and this is geared towards contributing to national development efforts.
“The committee has been working and the intervention is open to universities, colleges of education and polytechnics but having spent the amount of money that has been available for that intervention over the years, performance reports from 2012-2021, having spent N24 billion on NRF and having sponsored 727 research grants, only 28 of this 727 is domiciled in our polytechnics, representing about 4 percent.
“It is not to say that you are not doing well, it is simply to say that there are gaps that must be filled. So this is a call to ask ourselves why out of 727 successful grants only 28 comes from polytechnics.
“It is a call to all of us to go back to our training papers that has been organised in the past by TETFund. The Fund is currently organising a step down training Programme,” he added.
He said there is also collaborative efforts ongoing with a technology hub called Innovation hub, aimed at transcendinh and moving the research outcomes into products through innovation.
“The drivers of that programme are the best in innovation in the world-the Israelites so we have understood that we must learn and so we have submitted ourselves to the fountain of knowledge.
“We have also roll out the TETfair where these research outcomes are displayed for the world to see, for investors to pick up and for anybody who has an idea of how to make it better to participate in the process and so the aim is that already established entrepreneurship centres in our universities will become upgraded to innovation hub,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary, National Board For Technical Education (NBTE), Prof. Idris Bugaje has stressed the need for a synergy between polytechnics and universities on Innovative research.
He said research in Nigeria not yielding desired results because those who are administering the researches have forgotten the role of polytechnics can play.
“Research and development is a topical issue. TETFund has created NRF to drive high level of research that could led innovation. Today, in Nigeria, almost 99.9 percent of these researches do not yield innovation. They end up as journal papers published in papers and cited.
“Therefore, there must be synergy between Universities and Polytechnics if our research and development is to lead to innovation.
“I’m calling for a very close collaboration, if necessary, I would like the NRF to give a section of its grants for these activities by the polytechnics, even continue to fund fundamental research.
“NRF must have a rethink and we must allocate certain amounts for this level of moving our research to commercialisation,” he said.