Precious Ahante visited Nigeria’s first higher institution, Yaba College of Technology and writes that students are disappointed about the failure to upgrade the first Institution from Polytechnic to University as approved by the Federal Executive Council five years ago.
At lunch hour everyday, undergraduates at Nigeria’s premier institution, Yaba College of Technology often clustered with one pre-occupation. It is the transformation of their institution from a polytechnic status to a University. The students are not alone in this; they have the support of their lecturers who are anxious to see the manifestation of the transformation in their lifetime just like the students under their tutelage. But, the students and lecturers at this first institution of higher learning may be anxious for nothing. A university dream for the first higher institution in Nigeria may have reached its indeterminate state.
A source at the Federal Ministry of Education told THISDAY that the Federal Government is not doing anything anymore on the plan to transform the polytechnic to a University despite having approved it at the Federal Executive Council meeting and setting up implementation committee, which has since submitted its report to the Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i.
“There has been some under-current here at the ministry of education and the presidency that is still affecting the implementation of the report and things may not turn out as expected. The Ministry of Education may not carry out its promise to turn both Yaba College of Technology and Kaduna poly into Universities”. The top source that pleaded anonymity said.
“You will remember that the minister had indicated that the two institutions could admit their pioneer undergraduate students in November 2011 when he received the report of the Ministerial Implementation Committees set up to determine the modalities for the take-off of YABATECH and KADPOLY as universities in Abuja on December 29, 2010, but she has since been quiet . She is facing a lot of pressure and challenges and now those Institutions may not become Universities anymore”. The source added.
A student of Yabatech interviewed by THISDAY who pleaded anonymity said, “Actually by now, I don’t think that the School authority here is even bothered anymore about transformation to University, because most times when we are publicly addressed by our administrative board, that issue doesn’t come up. What the admin says is that the process is still pending.”
But, Rufa’i had while receiving the reports from the members of the two ministerial committees set up for the purpose of designing modalities for the successful take- off of the two new proposed universities explained that the Federal Ministry of Education would study the reports and make recommendations to President Goodluck Jonathan, stressing that, if everything worked as planned, “the two proposed universities would take off this year.”
Giving an insight into how the two proposed universities would operate, the report submitted by the Chairman, YABATECH Ministerial Implementation Committee, Prof. Akinola Salau, and his counterpart for KADPOLY, Prof. Sahalu Junaid, stated that the current managers of the polytechnics would be allowed to run the institutions on acting capacities for the first five years. This, the report noted, would enhance smooth transition as these managers would bring their experiences to bear in the development of these institutions.
The report also stated that lecturers in the two polytechnics that possessed Master’s degree would be allowed to stay in the system on the condition that they obtain their Ph.D degrees within the first five years. Although, experts in education and stakeholders faulted retaining most of the managers, arguing that the lecturers do not possess the required qualifications to administer and teach in universities, THISDAY investigation shows that most lecturers in Yaba College of Technology have since embarked on academic drive to upgrade their status in Nigeria and abroad, except that some outsiders are working against the status change for the college. It is also believed that some of the current decision makers in the two institutions may not be comfortable with transformation as their positions may be swept away at the end of the day.
In 2006, the former Minister of Education, Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili presented to the Federal Executive council recommendation for conversion to universities of both Yaba College of Technology and Kaduna Polytechnic by the Federal Government as one of the measures to widen access to university education and to promote technological education in the country under the education reform initiated by the Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.
This, Jeremiah (surname withheld), a national Diploma student said , “At first when I heard the news I was extremely happy, I was overjoyed. But, now I am disappointed because it’s taking long. I was hoping for it to be concluded in less than a year and that was the reason I applied for admission into this school.”
In an interview with THISDAY, Yabatech Public Relations Officer, Mr. Adams Adekunle confirmed the agitation amongst the students and the lecturers saying,” it is normal for students to agitate or to become anxious because something new is coming, but things must be done rightly”.
“Everything has procedure and due process. They are still to perfect the modalities of operation. Government is crossing the Ts and dotting the Is to ensure a smooth take off. It is to ensure we have a good transformation,” Adams said.
Adam as a spokesperson for Yaba College of Technology may be an optimist, when he refers to government efforts for a smooth take off, but that may be different from what presidency and the Minister of Education have in mind. The current government’s lackadaisical attitude to the transformation may not be out of tune with its usual unnecessary delay in executing far reaching project and people-oriented programmes in the life of this administration.
The conversion of YabaTech, the first higher institution to a University afterwards may for now remain in limbo only in government interest.