The Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson has stated that university education should not be cheaper than nursery school education.
He said so at the maiden matriculation ceremony of the University of Africa, Toru Orua, in Sagbama Local Government Area of the state.
The governor also faulted the existing model for funding tertiary education in the country, saying the current practice where public institutions are owned and wholly funded by the government was not sustainable and against the desired development of the education sector.
“When university education is cheaper than nursery education, we are not realistic. When it is cheap, it cannot give us the quality and the innovation that we seek. When university education becomes cheaper than nursery education, then something has gone wrong,” he said.
He said that the University of African which is owned wholly by the Bayelsa State government was designed as a practical model to ignite a rethink of the existing model for funding public universities in the country.
Dickson also made the clarification that the University of African was owned by the Bayelsa government though with a different model designed to make it self-sustaining through exploring creative means of generating revenue.
In his words, “The school is owned and funded by the state government. The school is a new model. The university is a publicly owned university. We believe that the model of running tertiary institutions must change. The existing model must change.
“We have announced a policy that the tertiary institutions in Bayelsa would have to look inward. Governments would give grants, build infrastructure and give loans for business development. That is the new direction in Bayelsa.
Dickson also said that the state government would inaugurate the Bayelsa State Students Education Loan Board in the next two weeks.
More universities needed
Also speaking at the event, a former Minister of Science and Technology, Turner Isoun called for the establishment of more universities in response to the rising demand for tertiary education in the country.
Professor Isoun said that available data indicated that the existing universities have not been able to take care of the desire of the teeming youth populace for quality university education.
The former Minister spoke while delivering the guest lecture at the maiden matriculation and the First Distinguished Public Lecture Series of the University, titled “The University of Africa: In Pursuit of an Innovative and Sustainable University, Responding to the Challenges of a State and a Nation.”
Isoun recalled that the about 170 universities in the country could only provide admission for one third of one million five hundred thousand candidates that applied for university education in a year, which was not encouraging.
He challenged the Federal Government to allocate $1billion from the Excess Crude Account to fund tertiary education, innovative research and technology.
Isoun, who commended Dickson for the establishment of the University of Africa said that funds spent on education should be considered investments which could yield high returns through improved quality of existence in the society.