There can never be gainsaying the fact that Governor Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa means well for Deltans, especially in terms of wealth and job creation in the State. The Governor did not waste time in embarking on the rehabilitating of the existing State Technical Schools located at Agbor, Sapele and Ofagbe. These colleges were as good as ‘dead’ before Ekueme moved into government house, Asaba in 2015. This is a commendable gesture and the right step to take for a people aspiring to be relevant in the present world’s technological order.
As if these are not enough, the governor also went ahead to establish many vocational training centres for the state’s unemployed youths with a separate ministry – Vocational Education to oversee their activities.
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Unfortunately, while government is investing heavily on Technical Education, she is at the same time discouraging her citizens from embracing same. This is not just peculiar to the state of Delta alone, but nationwide.
A recent report credited to a Commissioner in Delta State identified Technical Colleges as centres for he production of middle cadre management personnel. In other words, a technically inclined Nigerian may never aspire to be at the top management of any ministry or other organizations, irrespective of how relevant she or he is to the growth and overall performance of his office.
This posture is demoralizing for any one that has passion for technology. Only a few constrained minds will go into an educational program they know will not lead lead them to the highest career position obtainable in an office desiring his or her services.
Under normal well articulated educational system, technical school leavers are expected to proceed to the polytechnics for further studies with a view to becoming professionals in their chosen fields of knowledge. This is often not so due to the misplaced disparity between certificates from the Universities and those from the polytechnics.
Whereas a University graduate with an average performance is permitted to teach in a polytechnic with a first degree, a Polytechnic graduate with Higher National Diploma (HND) with distinction grade is not even considered fit enough to teach in the same polytechnic that produced him, let alone a university environment. This is in spite of the fact that all courses of study in a polytechnic require five years of studies to earn an HND while such courses, except for a few in the University require just four years.
As things stand today, if for any reason, the government of Nigeria decides to move all technology-based courses to the Colleges of technology and arts and management studies to the Universities, many Nigerians would rather have their children study just any course in a University than go for computer science in a polytechnic. This should be of serious concern to educational and labour market planners in Nigeria.
Granted that most government policies were inherited from the country’s colonial masters, the conditions under which those were brought into effect no longer exist. For example, technical colleges were mainly practical-based with little or no reference to West African Examination Council (WAEC) or Cambridge University organized G.C.E examinations.
Technical college students were not too exposed to general courses outside technical drawing, metal works and engine fabrications and maintenance. They wrote examinations set by the City and Guilds of London parts one and two while those who could not cope with City and Guilds examinations or who acquired their skills from private workshops were examined and certified by the Federal Ministry of Labour with Trade Test Certificates of different stages.
In those days, conventional secondary grammar schools were exposed to subjects like Mathematics, Book-keeping, Business Methods and English Language. With these, they were considered to be better positioned for further training as managers.
At that time also, prestigious grammar schools like Ika Grammar School Agbor were privileged to have lower and upper sixth forms which guaranteed extra two years of studies to earn the Higher School Certificate or G.C.E. Advanced Levels (A/L). With this, graduates could get employed in the Civil Service on salary grade level six, instead of level four for WASC holders. These things have changed. The government must also change policies and move with the rest of the world.
Technology as a strategy for the development of a nation and its people cannot be wished away. In the 70s and 80s, Bendel State produced about 45% of the entire workforce in the Engineering Department of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). Out of a staff population of about eighty people in the mechanical workshop, Ika Division (LGA) of Bendel State alone produced over seven of them.
Among these were Chief Okanigbe (he later became a Chief Mechanical Officer), Godwin Omehen (he later became a senior Mechanical Engineering Officer at NNPC), Ephraim Amuziem (later joined and became a senior Manager at Benue Cement Company, Gboko)
Christopher Omilo (he later retired as a General Manager from Thermocool Division of PZ Industries). Perhaps by coincidence also, an Ika man, by name, Engineer Ojeh was the Director of Engineering (Mechanical) while Professor ( Engr.) Sylvester Egwun served as Principal Mechanical Engineer at the Port Harcourt Port. Some of these fellows may indeed have taken off as middle manpower or even low level ones. But they all ended up as top Managers and high fliers in life. Why should we therefore continue to insist that technical schools’ grandaunts must belong to any class below the top? Even Thomas Edison, the inventor of the electricity bulb and one of the greatest American millionaires ended his final education at primary school class three.
The accomplishments of Bendel “boys” in those days in NPA and other places was due to the opportunities created for them through technical studies by good governance as provided by Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia and others.
The Federal Government Policy to allow Polytechnics award degrees should be implemented with speed while still harmonizing the disparity between University degrees and polytechnic HNDs.
The title of some of our certificates must change. How can we have ordinary (common) National Diploma or Ordinary Level GCE Certificate and expect to perform extra-ordinarily with them. Nigeria is perhaps one of the few places where people intentionally communize what they possess and yet hope to excel with such things. Whatever man makes ordinary remain ordinary. It is a natural order of things in the Universe.
Given the available structures already available at the Teachers’ Development Centre at Owa-Oyibu, Federal Road Safety Training Centre at Owa-Alero and the College of Education at Agbor, the Governor of Delta State whose penchant for skill acquisition stand the chance to offer Nigeria the needed road map to the emerging world of technology with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Skill Certification becoming the order of the day. All he requires is to establish a highly positioned technical tertiary institution to coordinate The Technical Colleges in the State of Delta.
With Okowa remaining the governor of Delta State for the next three years, the government has the opportunity to rectify the lopsided nature of our technical education even if the rest of the country is not ready for it yet.