Problem of technical education in Nigeria, by ex-Ibadan Poly Rector

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It is now 42 years that rapid expansion of Polytechnic education began in Nigeria. Despite rapid expansion and changes that had taken place in the world of technology, Polytechnic education is yet to be accorded due recognition in the country. This has not helped the realisation of the objective of producing the expected quantity and quality of middle-level technical manpower. Disturbed about this development, former Rector, The Polytechnic, Ibadan, Dr Ademola Adejumobi, speaks with BODE DUROJAIYE on challenges confronting science and technological education in the country.

Question: Until recently, the Polytechnic Ibadan was noted for its notoriety in gangsters, hooliganism, cultism and other anti- social activities. How did you tackle the rot, as Rector of the institution?
Adejumobi: On my assumption of office, I brought to the attention of the students the need to compile the list of bonafide students of the institution soonest. I later met with the then state Governor, Rashidi Ladoja, and Commissioner for Education, late Abdujelil Amonloye. The then governor directed that something be done about the large student population. I quite agreed with him because an unwieldy
student population provided conducive environment for anti-social behaviours and criminal tendencies that were prevalent in the institution then. My first major action was to compile the list of authentic students of the institution. The machinery was set in motion, through hectic and tough. At the end of the exercise, the institution was found to have a population of about 28,500 students. Those persons whose names were not on our list of registered students were told to live the campuses. Such a population of 28,500 was too
large for facilities available for teaching and learning in the
institution. There and then, I decided that there was an urgent need to reduce the students’ population to a manageable level in the coming year. The acid test for our action came during the second semester examinations in April 2005 when a large number of non-students was determined to write these examinations. With the support and cooperation of the state police command, the attendant effects of our action in getting rid of non-students brought peace and sanity to the campus and its neighbourhood. Many of these
miscreants packed their loads and went away from the institution and the surroundings for good. The enforcement of registration deadline and compilation of the list of authentic students enabled us to win appreciable victory in the fight against cultists. We used these to assemble the biodata and picture of each of them. Helpers were bold and strong enough to meet the cultists force for force. Thereafter,
tripartite meetings involving the institution, the police command, and the landlords at Apete, Ijokodo, Sango and Elemuloke areas around the polytechnic were held.
Strategies for dealing with the cultists were discussed. One of these was the re-introduction of tenancy forms to be filled by any student tenant before packing into any house.
The form contained bio-data of the student/tenant and a space for his or her picture. The information supplied on the form would be verified by Students` Affairs Office. Through this, records of students living in the neighbourhood were made available.
The landlords immediately embraced this idea because some of the suspected cultists` had terrorized them before.
Question: How did you take care of staff welfare vis–a-vis
frequent strike actions, which often times disrupted academic
calendars?
Adejumobi: The major cause of strike action by the staff unions of the Polytechnic has been the failure of state government to meet demands of workers, especially new salaries and allowances. Consequently, the release of Federal Government white paper on Gray Longe
Commission of Tertiary Institutions, HATTISS salary scales including new allowances and conditions of service were approved by the Federal Government in 1992. The state Government usually complained of lack of fund and put up the argument that it was not bound to pay what Federal
Government was paying to workers in tertiary institutions. The Government was fund of asking the management to source for funds within the institution. The inability of the management to pay immediately could result in strike actions. Strike action is an ill-wind that does a lot of havoc to the system. Unfortunately, Government often holds the Rector responsible when staff unions and students go on strike on issues that are dearly the responsibility of the state
government.
Question: What do you support as ways to check frequent industrial actions and disruption of academic calendars in the institution?
Adejumobi: The Governing Council and state government should have realised from experience in the past 20 years that whatever salary scales and allowances Federal Government approves for its Polytechnics will ultimately be applicable in the state Polytechnics.
It is much better if the implementation of such is done in a smooth and peaceful manner without recourse to expensive and destructive strike actions. State Polytechnics, including the Polytechnic Ibadan, are subjected to the rules and regulations of NBTE which are national. The certificates awarded are national. Hence, national salaries, allowances and conditions of service must be applicable. If state
universities enjoy same salaries, allowances and conditions of service as the Federal universities, state polytechnics, including The polytechnic Ibadan, should not be treated differently. If the state governments are insisting on federalism, then the federal and the state government with NBTE and Council of Heads of Polytechnics should
meet and agree on what should be the minimum salary scale and other conditions of service for both academic and non-academic staff in the polytechnic system. This should be reviewed every three or five years. The Oyo State Government must improve its funding of The Polytechnic,
Ibadan. All the visitation panels set up by the various governments have recommended adequate funding for the institution. The institution’s management too should be cost effective and prudent.
Question: What are the challenges facing science and technological education in the country?
Adejumobi: The state of science and technical education has not been well defined. Government and people talk of the roles expected of these sectors of education, but do the authorities concerned give it pride of place? In Nigeria, it has become an accepted norm that third rated students go for technical education. They also erroneously perceived that only those who could not pass end up in technical
colleges. Honestly, there is need for a check of mindset about this of offensive perception. It is unfortunate that our society thinks intelligent people are meant for white collar jobs, while dullards are expected to end up in technical colleges, we can’t grow technologically in this manner. Technical Colleges and other relevant institutions are established without necessary facilities. What do you expect? The quality of staff determines the quality of work. Teachers are expected to impact knowledge, but can you give what you do not have? Those asked to go to colleges of education and end up as
teachers in schools, how competent and knowledgeable are they to mould a child? We are having a low enrolment in science and technology areas because little or low attention was paid to the past. How many secondary schools nowadays have laboratories, let alone adequate equipment? How can students be interested in subjects that are poorly taught? How many industries do we have in the country today? We are losing employment opportunities for our people. The
encouragement must start from primary schools where to get the feedstocks from.
Question: What is the way forward?
Adejumobi: We must go back to the basics. To see that we have the right people being trained to become teachers. They must be remunerated, accorded due recognition, and must not be regarded as third class citizens. Governments at the centre and in the states must supply working tools. No matter how good a person is, without tools to work with, he will end up being useless. It is disheartening indeed that about 40 per cent of students in tertiary institutions have no business being there. They don’t have what it takes, but because our
society is degree-crazy, the mad rush continues unchecked. The appropriate places to go are vocational institutes and technical colleges in order to be useful to themselves and the society. This is why Government must ensure that science and technical education respond to these changes, by periodically reviewing their syllabuses.
Using age-long or outdated syllabus without review is sure to reflect badly on the products of such syllabus. A meaningful review will require current knowledge of what is going on in industries.
Governments must also put in place effective monitoring and
Inspectorate Units so that teachers’ performance can be easily monitored.

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