Mrs. Chinyere Kalu, Rector, NCAT
The domination of the aviation sector by expatriates engaged as pilots and engineers will last for the next 10 years unless Nigeria trains about 1,250 pilots every year.
This assertion was made by the Rector, Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria, Mrs. Chinyere Kalu, just as she said the college would be would be graduating 800 pilots this year.
Presently, the country has lost the young crop of engineers and pilots to juicy contracts abroad and there are no significant efforts to boost the training of indigenes to take over from these expatriates.
However, Kalu, who is Nigeria’s first female pilot and captain, told THISDAY in Lagos that for the country to take over its air transport industry in terms of manpower in the foreseeable future, it must urgently develop a training programme that would put more youths in the aviation training college.
According to her, the cost of training is very high, lamenting that many families cannot afford to fund the training of their children as pilots.
Her words: “Therefore, the states and local governments must have to develop a policy of providing scholarship to their youths to train as engineers and pilots. Our greatest challenge is high cost of school fees. Presently what we are charging as school fees is not even commensurate to the actual cost of training but because we are funded by the Federal government and our infrastructure is provided by the Federal Government, we can charge something cheaper. But this cheaper school fee is very, exorbitant because it very high for an average Nigerian family to train their children.
To train as pilot, we are talking about N7.5 million, which is a lot of money.”
She explained that the N7.5 million was the cheapest one could get because overseas, well- known pilot training schools cost almost double of NCAT’s fees, adding that the International College of Aviation in Ilorin, cost much more.
“Our counterpart, the International Aviation College in Ilorin is charging N10 million and that N10 million does not include feeding and accommodation. Our own includes feeding and accommodation. So that is our main challenge. Many of them are eager to come but when it comes to paying school fees it becomes a challenge,” Kalu said.
The NCAT rector stressed that government at all levels must show commitment to the manpower development in aviation sector because air transport is the pivot of the economy.
“So we need state governments, local governments to sponsor their indigenes so that these students will be trained. The Federal Government is really trying,” she said.
She noted that the was already sensitising governments and airlines to fund the training of Nigerians so that in no distant future the country can take over the technical part of the industry as airline spend huge resources on expatriates.
“We have been sensitising state governments and others to provide scholarship for the indigenes to come and train in the school. Many governors that I see I talk to them about it. The Governor of Imo state said he was going to send 100 students and we are looking forward to the coming of the students. Niger state government has given us 10 students and has also provided facilities for us to start training in Minna. We have actually started training in that state right now,” she said.