The French Development Agency (AFD) approved an initial loan of $40 million to boost Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in Nigerian universities.

The Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, made this known in Abuja at a one-day sensitization workshop for Vice-Chancellors and Directors of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) from selected universities. on the proposed French Development Agency (AFD). ) Support for the ICT component of the plan for the Rapid Revitalization of Higher Education in Nigeria.

He recalled that a few years ago, the Commission developed a Plan for the rapid revitalization of university education in Nigeria, noting that the document identified 12 major challenges in the Nigerian University System (NUS) that required urgent attention for the rejuvenation of the system.

He listed them to include: inadequate funding, which he said had always been a challenge since the start of universities when the government could only meet 30 percent of the universities’ needs.

Rasheed listed other challenges such as deficits in the quality and quantity of teachers, poor quality of graduates, governance problems, inadequate facilities for teaching, learning and research, academic corruption and other vices, as well as poor ICT infrastructure.

It added that inadequate access, gaps in postgraduate research and training, overlapping roles of the NUC and professional bodies, gaps in fostering skills development and entrepreneurship, and need-based gender issues of greater female representation in student and staff enrollment and in the governance structure. in the NUS she 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 an attempt to raise funds to address the problems identified in the plan, the Nigerian government consulted with various international development partners, one of which was the Agence Française de Développement (AFD).

He added that after consultations, the agency’s board agreed to support the component of the plan that sought to promote the establishment of ICT-powered universities.

“AFD has approved an initial credit of USD 40 million to kick-start the implementation of this Project and guarantee equal representation, with between six and eight universities to be chosen in the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria”, he said.

He informed the participants that a call for proposals would be issued and that, like the African Centers of Excellence (ACE) for the Development Impact Project and the Improving Social, Environmental and Sustainable Procurement Standards Project ( SPESSE Project), the presentations of the universities would be subjected to a rigorous selection process after which the best proposals would be selected.

Rasheed emphasized that universities would not be selected based on age or reputation, but rather on the strength of their proposals, while proposals would be evaluated at both the NUC and AFD levels in the same way as SPESSE was handled, choosing what best of each geopolitical zone.

Therefore, he encouraged all universities to ensure that only staff who are knowledgeable and competent in ICT and who have extensive experience in proposal writing are selected in the constitution of the proposal writing team.

The Executive Secretary also recalled that a few years ago, the world witnessed the global havoc wreaked by the COVID-19 pandemic on literally every sector of the economy, including Nigeria, when businesses were shut down.

He said that unfortunately no Nigerian university was adequately prepared to handle online teaching as there was no proper training for teacher and student assessment.

According to him, for the education sector, the pandemic has only made Nigerian universities more painfully aware of deficiencies in ICT and the need for them to not only adopt technology, but be at the forefront of the drive for ICT development. ICT in the nation.

The Executive Secretary said that the world has moved rapidly from conventional brick-and-mortar universities to embrace concepts such as open and distance/transnational education.

The worst case scenario, he noted, is now a blended learning system, noting that there was no doubt that the sector needed to rethink its way of doing things and start leaning more towards adopting or deepening ICT in teaching. and learning.

In his presentation, the project coordinator, Dr. Joshua Atah, said that the launch of the project by the executive secretary would mark a new direction in the ICT journey in the NUS.

He indicated that one of the objectives of the Commission is to ensure competition in the deployment of ICT in universities, as well as to serve as a channel for external aid to universities that are adapted to the intervention of the AFD.

The Project Coordinator applauded the Executive Secretary for leading the team that went to negotiate intervention in favor of tertiary education in Nigeria by international agencies, noting that the money allocated to the NUS was housed in the Federal Ministry of Finance from where the disbursement would be made in tranches based on judicial use by the beneficiary institutions.

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