By NBF News
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• Prof. Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa'i

Education Trust Fund (ETF) has presented letters of attestation to the nine federal tertiary institutions selected for upgrade under the Special Intervention Programme for 2010. Six universities, three polytechnics and three colleges of education will benefit from the project for which N24 billion has been earmarked.

The Education Trust Fund (ETF) which is the agency through which the upgrade is being financed has warned the benefiting institutions to forward their proposals for Approval-in-Principle by August 15 so as to meet the completion target of May 2011.

Institutions benefiting from this year's edition of the programme which is the second phase include the University of Jos and Kogi state Polytechnic Lokoja (North Central); Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi and Federal Polytechnic, Mubi, Adamawa state (North East); Bayero University, Kano and Jigawa State College of Education, Gumel (North West); Federal University of Technology, Owerri and the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu (South East); University of Port Harcourt and Akwa Ibom State College of Education, Afaha-Nsit (South South); as well as the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and the Adyemi College of Education, Ondo (South West) as beneficiaries.

Minister of education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa'i said the intervention is to systematically upgrade academic programmes and improve the teaching and learning environment.

'Our institutions of higher learning will be empowered to cope with the increasing demand for access and improved quality of manpower needed for our national development and international competitiveness while at the same time assuring the students of quality,' she said.

The minister tasked the beneficiaries to see their selection as a challenge, and urged them to 'live up to the ideals of the special intervention and reciprocate this extra-ordinary initiative by prioritizing their projects properly, implement them qualitatively and spend the allocated funds prudently.'

She said: 'Each university is expected to use the funds allocated to improve on existing infrastructure and provide additional facilities that will make teaching and learning conducive for both the students and lecturers with emphasis placed on classrooms and theatres, office accommodation for lecturers, laboratories, workshops, studios an other critical academic facilities required for full accreditation of programmes by NUC in the case of universities and NBTE and NCCE for polytechnic and colleges of education respectively'.

Prof Rufai commended ETF for discharging onerous responsibility to the nation and reassured Nigerians of continuous intervention saying that 'government's ultimate aim is to ensure that our institutions stand out as centres of excellence in teaching, learning and research consistent with our national aspiration of becoming one of the top 20 economies in the world by 2020.'

Earlier, Dr. Musa Babayo, chairman of ETF board, had urged the benefiting institutions to forward their proposals for Approval-in-Principle by August 15th, 2010 and to commence implementation three months later by November 15th, 2010.

While challenging the beneficiaries to ensure the projects were completed by May 2011, he said the special intervention, informed by the enormous challenges facing the education sector as foreseen by the fund was aimed at guaranteeing both access and quality for effective means of addressing those problems militating against the sector.

Babayo who said the special intervention would not negatively affect the fund's regular intervention also said that they (ETF) 'shall seek to increase the allocation while paying greater attention to proper conceptualization, full compliance with due process, prompt access to funds, judicious utilization of resources as well as timely and qualitative completion of projects.'

Responding, the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Julius Okojie, said ETF intervention had become a significant aspect of funding the universities, just as the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Colleges of Education, Prof. Junaid, thanked ETF for providing the necessary fund needed for reforming institutions.