The Rector of Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH), Obafemi Omokungbe, has regretted that most universities of technology established in the country are operating like conventional universities as a result of poor policy implementation and inadequate funding.
In an interactive session with journalists in Lagos, he expressed the readiness of the polytechnic to attain the status of the university of education, saying if YABATECH transforms to a university, it will operate as a university of technology.
He also bemoaned the marginalisation of polytechnics in the country through poor funding, thus making them inferior and less attractive to prospective students.
“This idea that everybody must go to university is not helping matters. In Canada, those that attend technical schools some earn more than PhD holders. We are not implementing the policy rightly. That is why we are having this problem. People see those who attend polytechnics as being inferior to those that attend university, and so parents won’t encourage their children to attend polytechnics.”
Omokungbe stressed that polytechnics are supposed to be inventors, but the government will pump more money into universities than polytechnics and expect a miracle. “If the country is doing well, you don’t expect to see graduates of polytechnic in the civil service. They are supposed to be in the industries to drive the economy.”
“If the mandate given to polytechnics and universities are followed properly, there will be no need for any polytechnic graduate to start struggling for a job, and the employers of labour also know what they want. Now you will see somebody with HND Engineering struggling for a job in the civil service because we have bastardised the system, one way or the other, he will get a job there. But if we have done the right thing, the polytechnic graduate knows where to go.”
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He also blamed parents for the discrimination because they see university education as being superior to polytechnic.
The rector also attributed the poor implementation of the 6-3-3-4 system of education to the apathy for technical colleges, adding that youths that are supposed to be in these colleges are now motorcycle and tricycle riders.
“The point is that when you do JS3, and you cannot cope, you go into technical college and learn a skill. It doesn’t mean that you are a failure in life. That is where parents miss this. If at the end of JS3 it is recommended that the child should go to technical college, you will take the child to another secondary school to start SS1, and at the end of the day, the child will not be able to cope in the SS class.
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“That was how we bastardised that system. The 6-3-3-4 meant something. We need to go back to implement that policy well, then technical colleges will come into place, and we will have artisans, then the polytechnics will give us technicians and technologists, the universities will give us engineers and then things will streamline,” he said.
On the impact of COVID-19 on education, he said the college conducted lectures and examinations online and encouraged lecturers to acquire skills in that area. He announced that the institution had been granted a license to run an open and distance learning programme.
Omokungbe said at inception in March 2018, infrastructures were in a state of decay, and to achieve his mission, his administration decided to focus on four areas: academic improvement and development; infrastructure development (Epe campus) and upgrading and refurbishing of existing structures at the main campus; the welfare of staff and students; and expansion/improvement of the internally generated revenue base of the college. The college also launched a N500 million endowment fund to boost its IGR and to do the things required to make the institution relevant.
According to him, some of his achievements include stable academic calendar without internal strike; successful conduct of examination of part-time students within one week; acquisition of plagiarism detective software, Turnitin; procurement of 3,000 new mattresses for hostels; construction of hostels, classrooms and perimeter fencing at Epe Campus, repair of college roads for easy movement, full transmission of YABATECH Radio, among others.
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And on conversion of the College to a university, he says, “We made some moves and the Senator representing Lagos West sponsored a bill to that effect. During the public hearing, we went there and made presentation. There was the third reading of the bill and it was passed into law and remains the assent of the President. The issue of conversion used to be about Yabatech and Kaduna Polytechnic, but it is now Yabatech and Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro.
“We are not going to be upgraded to a conventional university, we are going to become a university of technology.
“What we do wrong with policies in the country is we don’t implement them. universities of technology should not operate like conventional ones.”