With the clamour for the elevation of polytechnics to degree- awarding institutions, the newly appointed Rector, Yaba College of Technology, Mr. Femi Omokungbe explained to journalists, including Funmi Ogundare the efforts that the management is putting in place to boost its status
Over the years, there has been an outcry for the elevation of polytechnics to degree-awarding institutions which was triggered by the discrimination between polytechnic graduates and their lecturers; and their university counterparts.
As a result, many of the polytechnic graduates are assailed by the fear of the future because employers feel that the certificates they carry are inferior to those of their counterparts from universities. This has led to apathy for polytechnic education in the country.
The newly appointed Rector of the Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH), Mr. Femi Omokungbe, who unveiled his four-point agenda during a media parley held recently at the college, said it would make the institution a preferred one that would attract students and that which would award degrees.
He said the agenda includes ensuring an academic improvement and development in the college; upgrading physical infrastructures in its campuses; improving its internally generated revenue (IGR); as well as ensuring a conducive environment for staff and students.
“When we have all these on ground, we can say we are ready for that pronouncement as a degree-awarding institution by the government. There is a difference between making the institution a university and making it a degree awarding status. When you have a status of a university, you can award higher degrees even to BSc. So if we put our house in order and ensure that in every department, we have quality staff, then we can say that we are ready rather than us agitating for government to pronounce us.
“Physical infrastructure is also very important when we are talking about this same status. We are constrained with space and most of our equipment and facilities are obsolete. So there is need to replace them; develop our Epe Campus and improve our infrastructure. When we look at the issue of carrying capacity, we want to increase it and ensure adequate space and quality lecturers. Most of our classrooms are in deplorable condition so we intend to upgrade the staff offices and those who are retiring can have their entitlement. So these are areas we feel will make the college to be the best in Nigeria.
“Our roads are also deplorable, some structures are begging for repairs and repainting, we also intend to demolish some of the old buildings and replace them with befitting ones. We have been able to separate the residential area from the academic area. If you are familiar with the campus, the rector’s lodge is beside the clinic close to the Moshood Abiola Hotel, also from the gate, you would see the School of Business and Management Studies.
“If you look at the master plan of YABATECH, that area ought to be for students’ hostel. On our own to improve this, we will convert that school to hostel. We are sure of having about 700 bed spaces there. The present rector’s lodge beside the multi-purpose hall, we intend to build the School of Business and Management Studies there that will house the seven departments in that school. The present medical centre will be upgraded. We have gotten National Health Insurance (NHI) status. We hope it will boost our status.”
He expressed delight about the impact of the N200 million grant from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) given to the college for academic improvement, saying that the management is also planning to establish a Directorate of Research and Development.
“Generally our research should be focused towards copy technologists so with the directorate, they should be taking care of that. Most of our researches are being funded by TETFund. For instance in the area of fabrication, TETFund has the guidelines and the college is in a lead for this.”
Considering the vital role which funding plays, the rector said the college intends to improve on its IGR by establishing a water factory and bakery, as well as enhancing the status of the YABATEC Consult, aside just relying on its part-time programmes.
“The YABATECH Consult was registered as ventures, so we feel it should be a limited liability company and so what we will do is to engage professionals that will quote for jobs outside under YCT consult and also sign MoU with them to run consultancy job for us. For most of our inventions, we will collect patents for them so that we can improve on our IGR.
“Government policies on IGR is that 25 per cent of what you make must be paid back into government account otherwise you stand a chance of losing grants. We are looking into this and we are going to follow suit. We have a working budget and we have estimated what we are going to realise from the IGR and what we are going to do with it and the project,” Omokungbe, who has already spent three months in office stressed.
On the ban of student unionism on campus, the rector said: “At the moment, there is no students’ union government in the college, but we are working towards bringing it back. I have met with their academic heads and representatives of the department and we have elected some of them to be in the committee of the council. I intend to meet with them regularly.
“Meanwhile, I have understudied the reason why it was banned, when I am satisfied with my findings, I can recommend to the Council of Heads of Polytechnics and Colleges of Technology in Nigeria (COHEADS) for the ban to be lifted. Seriously thinking, there is a need for students to have a union such that the management would not have to interfere in their activities. They are going to run students’ union the way it was being run when I was in school so that they will have impact in their lives and the committee of rectors.
“There is a programme coming up in August, I made recommendations to that council that four or five students from each polytechnic should come on leadership training. It was approved, so we will make sure that if need be, we will take them out for a retreat so that they can learn how student unionism is to be run rather than being used as political thugs. We are going to make them do it the way it was being done in the past.”
Reacting to students’ apathy to the Students’ Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES), Omokungbe, who intends to make an impact within his one year in office said, “for the four month programme, we have staff that monitors it and for the one year attachment, the students are to do it in relevant areas, but again it all boils down to the quality of government. The condition for them coming back to school is a mandatory letter from employers related to their course of study. Lecturers are not meant to supervise them and so we might not be held responsible for that.
“But on our part, we have just requested the Academic Planning Unit to design a programme such that the Centre for Entrepreneurship of the college will have to accommodate a larger percentage of the students to make them to be self-reliant. So we will have different fields in that programme which students can key into. For instance, in Electrical and Computer Engineering, we will have areas that we can go into manufacturing inverters and solar panels; they will be doing it for one year in the college and get paid.
“We will buy the material for them and attach them as technicians in the department. Those in the Civil Engineering Department will do the same. When you see us producing paving stones, these are civil aspects; you can come and do your SIWES in the college rather than going to ride Okada. As from next session, they will key into that and it will help in that regard.”
On security, he said the college is trying to improve its current security to have an awareness programme with the aim of stamping out cultism. “When I said students and staff welfare, it is inclusive of security. For instance the security apparatus we have on campus are few; we are trying to improve on that such that the college will be rid of the menace of cultism. We are creating an awareness programme against the abuse of drugs like tramadol and codeine by students, but for the security apparatus, we are working on that.”
Asked if he foresees a challenge in the reinstatement and award of N21 million damages ordered by the National Industrial Court (NIC) to be paid by the college to its embattled bursar who was sacked in 2015 for exposing alleged corrupt practices in the institution, the rector said: “I don’t see that as a challenge and when you go to court, you either win or lose. We need to put our structures back in shape and when you look at the population of students and the bed spaces that we have, the ratio is not something you can say you are happy about.
“We are talking about funds to put up infrastructure for the students, that is more of a challenge than paying N21 million to somebody. We need to improve our laboratories systematically and the equipment are obsolete, this is more of a challenge. Don’t forget that I also had a court case that I won. On the reinstatement, for me, I report to the council and whatever direction the council is going, I don’t have a choice.”
Asked how he would complement the efforts of the previous administration, he said, “I have a plan of four years and after which, that can be reviewed. Government is a continuum so it is now left for the incoming government to see which area will be of benefit that will have impact where the previous administration has not done it well. You can’t automatically reject all what the previous administration has done, that will not be fair. I think that is one of the problems we have in this country. I have done due diligence for what I met on ground and I know which area to key in and that is what we are doing.”
Meanwhile, the college held matriculation ceremony for the 2017/2018 academic session, where a total of 23,704 new students took the oath of admission into its various schools and programmes.
The schools are School of Art, Design and Printing; School of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering; School of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering; School of Management and Business Studies; School of Science; School of Technology; School of Liberal Studies; School of Environment Studies; and Technical Education.
Speaking at the event, Omokungbe advised the students to shun all forms of anti-social activities such as cultism, drug abuse, examination malpractices, sexual misbehaviour and other unruly behaviours, adding that they will be introduced to various structures, systems, rules and regulations during the orientation programme.
“In line with the federal government’s directive and the college’s resolve at improving access to education, it will put more efforts to improve its carrying capacity through the development of physical structures that will provide additional sitting spaces for students.
“The new administration of the college has commenced activities such as refurbishment of facilities starting with the hostel; procurement of 3,000 mattresses to ensure comfortability of students. Management is committed to improving service delivery through the provision of modern equipment and upgrade of classrooms, studios and laboratories.”
While congratulating the matriculating students for the opportunity of enrolment, he advised them to remain focussed and make success of their stay in the college.