From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja

The Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, has said the National Assembly amended the Students Act, so as to ensure that every child in the country can have access to university education, regardless of their family economic status.

Kalu, according to a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Levinus Nwabughiogu, stated this, while
delivering a keynote address at an event to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Madonna University, Elele, River State, as well as the Centenary Celebration of the International Federation of Catholic Universities.

The deputy speaker, who spoke on the theme “Catholic University: An Educational Project to Respond to the Academic, Human, Spiritual, Political, and Social Challenges of our World”, said the country cannot ignore the pressing challenges facing young people, especially regarding access to quality education.

According to him, “In Nigeria, we are acutely aware of the challenges that young people face regarding access to quality education. As a parliament, the National Assembly has recognized the urgency of addressing these challenges and has taken proactive steps to expand
access to higher education.

‘Initiatives such as establishing the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (Tetfund) for infrastructure development and
scholarship provision have been instrumental in improving educational
facilities and supporting deserving students.

“Moreover, the ongoing efforts to amend the Access to Higher Education Act 2023 which is currently going through a third reading today in the House of Representatives underscores our commitment to ensuring that every Nigerian child, regardless of economic circumstances, has the opportunity to pursue a university education.

“Once amended, the Access to Higher Education Act will serve as a beacon of hope for countless young Nigerians, opening doors to new possibilities and empowering individuals to contribute meaningfully to our nation’s
development. By prioritizing inclusivity and equity in higher education, we can unleash the full potential of our youth and cultivate a generation of leaders equipped to address the multifaceted challenges facing our society.

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“Through strategic initiatives such as the provision of loans for indigent students, the Federal Government is working tirelessly to ensure that every Nigerian child has the opportunity to pursue higher education, regardless
of their financial circumstances. This commitment to inclusive education is further exemplified by the substantial allocation of funds to the education sector in the 2024 budget, with N1.54 trillion dedicated to the Federal
Ministry of Education and its agencies – this amount is higher than the N1.08 trillion the education ministry received in the 2023 budget.

Kalu noted that in the age of rapid technological advancement, universities must embrace technology in learning and leverage it to address the nation’s complex challenges.

He enjoined Nigerians to reduce the emphasis on certificates and focus more on the acquisition of skills and knowledge needed to meet the present day harsh realities.

“Universities should not merely be institutions for the dissemination of knowledge but should serve as hubs for innovation and problem-solving. By adapting theories to suit local challenges and prioritizing solutions that have a tangible impact on society, universities can fulfill their role as engines of socio-economic development. Employers should also recognize the value of local knowledge and problem-solving skills, prioritizing them over certificates from prestigious institutions.

“Education should not be solely about obtaining certificates but should be focused on equipping individuals with the skills and knowledge needed to address real-world challenges and drive positive change.

“As government representatives, we must actively engage with universities to seek solutions to pressing issues, from policy formulations to technological innovations. By fostering collaboration between academia, government, and industry, we can harness the full potential of our universities as drivers of progress and prosperity”, the deputy speaker said.