By Abdulrahman Alfa
I am encouraged to add my voice to the various calls made across the country on the need for Nigeria to put greater emphasis on the development of its education sector, especially technical and vocational education and training (TVET). The encouragement is largely in view of some recent developments in the educational and labour sectors. In a situation whereby our graduates are under-employed, unemployed or even unemployable is a sad reality that calls for greater emphasis on TVET in such a way that the productivity of our energetic youths can be enhanced through the acquisition of relevant skills and practical competences that obviously lie untapped in the Polytechnic system. I, therefore, felt that we need more Federal Polytechnics in Nigeria than Federal Universities.
The developments that gave rise to this call include the current Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) strike that is now more than six months old and still counting and the federal government/Stakeholders’ seeming lack of concern to dialogue with the concerned Union as was the case when their university counterparts (ASUU) were on strike. The way and manner we expressed our concerns and proffer solutions on ASUU strike and university education in Nigeria, we, unfortunately, hardly do the same for ASUP and Technical Education that is more productive and highly skilled! This discriminative reaction by both the government and Nigerian society against TVET is detrimental to our capacity to create more jobs and by extension wealth and entrepreneurship for our increasing unemployed population.
The recent fatal Immigration recruitment exercise and the sheer large number of the applicants put at over 6million is a damning reality of the danger ahead of us where 24 million jobs are said to be needed in the next ten years to reduce unemployment by a half in Nigeria! We must work towards changing
the present orientation of “education for white collar employment” to “education for skilled and productive manpower”. The emphasis we unfortunately placed on paper qualification/certificate must be replaced with emphasis on “what can you produce and with which skill?” That is perhaps the strongest way out for Nigerian youths in making them to be at least self-employed or
at best employers of labour instead of perpetual white collar job seekers. In a situation where some
of our youths waste between 10 to 15 years of their active years in search of non-existing and ever elusive jobs simply because they lacked the requisite skills, competences and entrepreneurial spirit that would have integrated them into the productive sectors of our economy is indeed a source of serious
concern on the nature and orientation of our educational system in Nigeria. It is in line with these needs that I commend the recent approval by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan GCFR for the establishment of Federal Polytechnic in Bonny Rivers State bringing the number of Federal Polytechnics in Nigeria to 22. I also wish to call on the Federal Government to replicate the establishment of Federal Polytechnics in all the States of the Federation that don’t have one now as was the case with the recently established Universities. Both the State and Privately owned Polytechnics in addition with the existing Federal Polytechnics must redouble their efforts in TVET curriculum development in
content, practice and delivery. The involvement of Private sector in the TVET through the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE)’s instrumentality of National Qualification Framework and the establishment of over 100 Innovation Enterprises Institutions and Vocational Enterprises Institutions (IEI/VEIs) across the country remain, to my mind, one of the most important landmarks in
the development of relevant educational skills and partnership with the private sector in job and wealth creation in Nigeria.
It is high time we started redirecting our educational system in content, value and orientation in such a way that graduates of our tertiary institutions would be job creators/providers, wealth creators and entrepreneurs through the relevant skills and competences they might have acquired. But a
situation where most of our University, and sometimes even Polytechnic, graduates are barely half baked or not even baked at all or graduates without any productive technical skill, is a serious challenge to the future social and economic survival of Nigeria. The pragmatic 2011 – 2015 roadmap for the transformation of Nigeria’s educational sector of the present administration is hinged on the six
premises of Institutional Management, Teacher Education, Accessibility and Equity, Technical and Vocational Education and Training, Resource Mobilisation and Standards and Quality Assurance. The present and future governments at all levels in Nigeria must do everything humanly possible toward ensuring the implementation of the roadmap to the latter. The holistic policy must not be
allowed to derail, most especially the component of Technical and Vocational Education and Training at all levels. It is interesting to note that Nigeria is not the only country facing the challenge of acute access to tertiary education in Africa. It is like a continental challenge considering the average of 6% African access to higher education. But it is more daunting on us if we look at the Nigerian peculiarities of population and the need for capacity building and manpower development to lead the rest of Africa. Establishing Federal Polytechnics in States that do not have any now will address several of these challenges. It will increase access not only to tertiary education, but most importantly to the relevant TVET where relevant skills will be acquired. Although, I want to agree that a deliberate policy must be developed to attract the best and the most willing applicants to the TVET sector. This is so because the current JAMB applications for the preferred first choice is about 96% for University, 1.90% for Polytechnics and 1.69% for Colleges of Education. This is so because the Nigerian psyche is still
unfortunately about “University education or certificate for a white collar job”! My appeal to His Excellency President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to establish fifteen (15) Federal Polytechnics in those States that don’t have one can be viewed from the angles of political, social and rural development
considerations and benefits. The fact that out of the existing twenty-one Federal Polytechnics and the new one in Bonny Rivers State, only six (6) are located in the State capitals or cities while sixteen (16) are located in rural areas and towns thereby bringing relevant knowledge environment closer to the
grassroots. This tradition should be maintained in the establishment of the new Federal Polytechnics. Apart from establishing more Federal Polytechnics, the Federal Government should do the needful by removing the BSc/HND dichotomy so as to help in attracting potential students into the sector.
The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund)’s intervention in the TVET sector especially in the revitalization and rehabilitation of 51 Polytechnics across the country in the last three years should be commended and sustained. For a system wide growth and sustainable development of the
Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), its regulatory framework and body in Nigeria – the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), must
be strengthened, supported and encouraged. Abdulrahman Alfa, formerly on the staff of NBTE, Kaduna, can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org