By Adedapo Adesanya
The House of Representatives has called on the federal government to set up a strategic N15 billion Coronavirus Emergency Fund for Nigerian universities and tertiary institutions in the country.
The lower chamber made this call as part of its response to the impact of the pandemic on academic, research and administrative operations.
This was in reaction to a motion moved at the plenary on Tuesday by Mr Steve Azaiki (Representative of Yenagoa/Kolokuna/Opokuma Federal Constituency, Bayelsa State) over the suspension of academic activities at tertiary institutions as a result of the COVID-19.
According to Mr Azaiki, the structure of Nigeria’s university and tertiary institutions may never remain the same due to the effects of the pandemic.
The rep member explained that school enrollment brings revenue to the economy and this revenue may be cut short considering the short-term economic and social shocks of the ‘stay-at-home’ orders coupled with difficulties of containing the virus.
Mr Azaiki further stated that there are estimates that universities and tertiary institutions will experience at least a 15 percent reduction in enrollment, as many students will likely decline and postpone their enrollment in the new session.
He also noted that many parents and guardians who may have lost their jobs due to the pandemic may be unable to afford tuition for their wards to continue going to school.
He also raised concerns about the need to ensure the provision of appropriate student support scheme (COVID–19 Student Emergency Grant) in the tertiary education system affected by the impact of the pandemic
He made reference to the United States, saying that the government recently provided the sum of $14.3 billion for higher education, with $12.4 billion split between emergency grants to student and money to colleges for expenses directly related to coronavirus and the disruption of campus operations.
He further explained that $1 billion would be targeted at historically black colleges and universities, while $300 million will be given to colleges most affected by coronavirus.
Members including Mr Ndudi Godwin Elumelu, Mr Muktar Betara Aliyu, Mr Fred Obua, Mr Francis Ottah Agbo, Mr Makwe Livinus, Mr Umana Aniekan, Mr Olaide Adewale Akinremi, Mr Kabiru I.Tukura, and Mr Mahmud Abdullahi Gaya all sponsored the motion.
The House reached a resolution, urging the federal government to set up a strategic N15 billion Coronavirus Emergency Fund for Nigerian Universities and Tertiary Institutions.
It also urged Nigerian Universities and Tertiary Institutions to launch a Coronavirus Student Emergency Fund, where indigent and vulnerable students can apply for student emergency grant to assist them recover from the economic impact of the COVID–19 pandemic.
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