Over the years, technical education has been a neglected sub-sector and this has reflected in the shortage of technicians in various fields
| By Augustine Adah | Feb. 4, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
THE Lagos State government is concerned about the decline in the technical education in the state. For a long time, the five existing technical colleges in the state had been without well-equipped workshop for students’ practical. That compelled many parents to withdraw their children from technical colleges to conventional secondary schools. The school enrollment in the five colleges had also declined considerably bringing the total population to below 4,000 students. Many of the schools had been without qualified teachers. Consequently, the technical manpower that would have helped in the growth of the economy was lacking in the state.
Realising the contribution of the technical manpower to the technological development of the state, the government has initiated a lot of policies and actions to revive and rehabilitate technical colleges. One of such actions was the establishment of the Lagos State Technical and Vocational Education Board, LASTVEB, a few years ago. Consequently, a lot of transformation has occurred in the colleges.
Through the board, facilities and learning materials were provided for the schools. The state government has also introduced Public Private Partnership, PPP, to help in the development of technical education. The innovation has succeeded in bringing private partners to invest in the development of technical education in the state.
For instance, at Government Technical College, Ikorodu, MTN Foundation, has constructed and refurbished workshops in five major courses offered in the school. The project which has already been completed will soon be commissioned by Babatunde Fashola, governor of Lagos State. . A subject teacher in the school, who wishes anonymity confirmed the MTN project in the school. He stated that the school has witnessed a lot of changes in recent times compared with what it used to be.
Apart from the provision of infrastructures, the government has recruited qualified teachers in all the subjects including metal/wood works, basic electronic, fabrication, and auto mechanic. These efforts have resulted in better performance of the students in National Business and Technical Education Board, NABTEB, examinations, and competitions for job opportunities. Last year, about four graduates of the school were employed by Flour Mills, PLC.
Student enrolment in the school has improved tremendously because many parents have now shown interest in sending their children to technical colleges in the state. Apart from the core technical subjects, the school also offers science subjects like Biology, Chemistry and Physics for those who are interested in pursuing further studies in the universities. The minimum entry qualification into the school is a junior school certificate. A similar project executed by Samsung, an electronic giant, at Government Technical College, Agindingbi, was commissioned by the governor.
Like Lagos State, the present government of Akwa Ibom State was also concerned about the state of technical education it inherited in 2007. What the Godswill Akpabio administration inherited, according to Usen G. Ikpe, former chairman, State Technical Schools Board, was a technical education sub-sector that had virtually collapsed. For instance, all the six technical colleges in the state namely Government Technical College, Abak; Union Technical College, Ikpa; Government Technical College, Ikot Uko Ika; Community Technical College, Ikot Akata; Mainland Technical College, Oron and Government Technical College, Ewet, had lost their accreditation from the NABTEB. None of them had a functional workshop not to talk of training materials for the students. The colleges had no functional boreholes, standby generators, libraries and well secure perimeter fences. The classrooms, dormitories and staff quarters were begging for attention.
The colleges got to this sorry state because successive governments had no interest in technical education. Because of governments poor attitude, the people erroneously believe technical education was meant for the down- trodden and children with low intelligent quotient.
But today, the story is different. All the six technical colleges have regained the accreditation they lost. The government, has, since 2008, embarked on massive rehabilitation of the colleges as well as provided learning materials worth several millions of naira to them to ensure quality teaching and learning. Apart from compulsory free education which also covers students in technical colleges, the government also pays examination fees for all candidates who register NABTEB examinations.
According to Ikpe: “Now, we have an overwhelming population of students in technical colleges. If you compare what we saw in 2008 with what we have today, you will agree with me that people have started to appreciate the importance of technical education.”
The federal government has also initiated some policies to encourage the growth of technical education in Nigeria. For instance, the National Council on Education, NCE, some years ago, introduced Basic Technology in junior secondary school curriculum. Technical subjects like technical drawing and wood/metal works were added to other subjects in senior secondary schools. The establishment of six science and technical colleges across the country has also offered people opportunity to be trained as technician.
Bayo Akinyemi, a lecturer in the department of Woodworks, Federal College of Education, [Technical] Akoka, Lagos, has commended the effort of the federal government in establishing science and technical education in each of the geo-political zones in the country. According to Akinyemi, the establishment has increased the number of students pursuing technical education.
While acknowledging the efforts of the federal government in the development of technical education, Akinyemi who was the former president, Nigeria Association of Teachers of Technology, NATT, urged state governments and Non- Governmental Organisation, NGO, to complement the efforts of the federal government in the provision of infrastructure and other materials needed for the growth of Technical and Vocational Education, TVE. “The NGO’s should be more involved in the development of education in the country instead of emphasing more on human rights”, Akinyemi said.
Solomon Ndokuro, a graduate of Suleman Barau Technical College, Suleja, Niger State, has lamented the poor state of technical education in Nigeria. The 1997 graduate stated that during the time he was a student, the school lacked adequate tools for practicals. Many of them who were interested in the practical and skills had to make private arrangements, outside the school compound.
Olatunde Aworanti, chief executive officer, NABTEB, is not impressed. He emphasised that inadequate funding of TVE’s in the past had led to a situation where the existing technical and vocational institutions are in serious need of modern facilities. He stated that the neglect had led to the development of unskilled graduates who are finding it difficult to be gainfully employed. The situation, according to the NABTEB boss, has led to many trained artisans and craftsmen from other countries coming to Nigeria to fill the vacuum created.
In Nigeria, TVE was neglected for a long time especially during the military era. Many technical colleges were left without facilities. As a result, enrolment into technical schools dwindled and many parents were no longer interested in sending their children to technical schools. The wrong idea by many people that technical education was meant for those who cannot do well in grammar and other secondary schools also contributed to the decline. The neglect resulted in the dearth of technicians in various fields like plumbing, carpentry, electrical, welding, among others. There was a time in American when technical education was neglected like Nigeria. But the country realised its mistake in the fifties. Consequently, attention was shifted to technical education by investing more on its development. Today, many rich men in America are graduates of technical colleges.