The Rector, Yaba College of Technology, Obafemi Omokungbe, in this interview, says universities of technology in Nigeria operate like conventional universities because the government fails to implement policies correctly.
Kindly share the stage of the upgrade of YABATECH to university of technology
The senator from Lagos-West sponsored that bill and it the first reading and public reading and we made presentation. After the third reading, it was passed and sent to the President for signing. Before, it was only Yaba and Kaduna poly, but somehow, polytechnics in Ilaro (Ogun State) and Kaduna were mentioned. I can tell you now that it is awaiting the signature of the President. So, we are working at getting the university status.
It seems the polytechnic education is facing challenges of being downgraded
I have seen in recent times that we are talking about TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training). What is missing in the area of TVET in the country is the fact that we do not have the technical colleges anymore in place. Those students that are supposed to learn skills at technical colleges no longer do so; they are the ones driving motorcycle and tricycle and that is sad. For this, the National Board for Technical Education under which the TVET should be are now using the polytechnics to undertake TVET education along with their mandates. They believe this will arrest the situation because we have noticed that there is skill gap in the country and we can’t go to the university but rather come back to the polytechnic to make sure the gap is filled so that the unemployed youths can learn one or two kills and be able to function on their own.
You will find out that here in the college we have skill acquisition centres that might be useful to the communities around us. If you want to be a shoe maker, hairdresser etc, we have programmes for you, but that has not change our mandate.
Polytechnics were established to provide technical training, there are fears that once it imbibes the mandate of a university this objective maybe defeated.
YABATECH upgrade is not going to be a conventional university. It will operate like university of technology. When we make policies here, implementation becomes a problem. Most of the universities of technology that were established are operating like a conventional university; have you been able to see what they do? We are saying that if YABATECH transforms to a university, it will not be a conventional university it will be a university of technology and that is why the union too Is canvassing for polytechnics to become university of technology.
How can we make polytechnic education attractive to candidate? From the last JAMB report, we have few candidates applying for polytechnic education?
Why do we have shortage in people filing the part of polytechnic in JAMB form? It is because we have done things to the extent of marginalising the polytechnic education. I am sure you don’t want your kids to go to the polytechnic because of poor policy implementation when it comes to polytechnic education. This idea that everyone must go to university is wrong.
In Canada, those that go to technical schools earn more than PhDs. It is policy implementation and we are not implementing the policy rightly; that is why we are having this problem. People see those who go to polytechnic as being inferior to those who went to university and you as a parent will not motivate your children to go to the polytechnic.
Polytechnic are supposed to be those who deal with inventions; government will pump money in to the universities than polytechnics and you expect miracles. If you go to Italy, France, those in the polytechnics drive the economy. If the policy of a country is doing well you don’t expect the graduate of its polytechnics in the civil service. They are supposed to be in the industry to drive economy. What is happening here? We must decide to do the right things.
What are these right things?
There is little those of us at the helms of affairs can do except the government listens to us because I have read the mandate given to the polytechnic. If the mandate given to the polytechnics and universities are followed properly, there will be no need for any polytechnic to start struggling and employers will know what they want. You have someone with HND engineering struggling to go into civil service and you will begin to wonder what is he going there to do? Because we have bastardised the system, he will get the job there but will he fit in? If we had done the right thing, a graduate knows where to go get a job. In the education sector, there are defined roles for graduate of polytechnics and universities. Until we decide to adhere to that, we will not get out of this matter. And we parents are not helping matters; we see the university education as being more superior to polytechnic.
What should be done to encourage students to attend technical colleges?
Bring back technical colleges. We have a policy of 6-3-3-4; that means six years primary school, three years junior secondary school, three year senior secondary school and four year higher institution. The point is that when you do JSS3 and cannot cope, you can go to technical colleges and learn skills, it doesn’t mean you are a failure. That is where parents missed it; if at the end, your child is recommended for technical education, you will take him away from the school to another secondary school and at the end of the day, and he will not be able to cope.
That is how we destroyed that system. When we implement that policy well, then technical colleges will come in to place. We will now have these artisans and polytechnics will give you technician and technologists, universities will now give you engineers. That is the solution.
Yabatech has an annex at Epe, what is happening there?
We have transformed Epe to the best of our ability in the last two years. When I came in there were two departments in Epe, now we have three faculties, six departments from two faculties and a whole faculty of technical education, which is the one we are running with UNN. TETfund intervention was used for construction of the college and we have been able to make the place conducive for students. We have spent our money to develop Epe because the indigenes of Epe are thinking that we just took their land for the fun of it but we have proven them wrong; we have established our presence there, we have a director there. The last NUC accreditation took place in Epe.
What are your achievements so far?
The infrastructure was in a state of emergency when we came in. we devised a strategy to see how we can arrest the situation. There was no motorable road within the campus; that gave us challenge to also arrest the issues. We have also improved on the IGR of the college. We have been having stable academic calendar, we are improving academic standard of staff by making sure they go for higher degrees. We went to the hotels and found out the hostels were not conducive enough for students to live, we changed over 3,000 mattresses, we renovated eight halls of residence with double bed bunk. We also have the largest museum in any school in West Africa.
(Source: The Punch)
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