Home Columnist IMPORTANCE OF TECHNICAL EDUCATION TO NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT By: Michael Omolewa, OON

IMPORTANCE OF TECHNICAL EDUCATION TO NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT By: Michael Omolewa, OON

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There was an opposition to the scheme and a demand for a full-University. That agitation led to the closure of the Yaba experiment. The University College at Ibadan founded a medical school but did not mount an engineering programme that the country much needed. The College was closed, the students moved to Ibadan as nucleus students for the UCI and began to read Classics. Many reasons are given for the failure of the experiments in technical education in Nigeria. The first one is that the public were not sufficiently, informed of the implications of the establishment of the technical education programmes. Henry Carr noted that The Department of Education kept the Yaba Higher Education’s scheme secret and did not bother to share the vision with the Nigerian public. Henry Carr once noted that he had seen criticisms of the scheme in local newspapers, adding : “I believe that the difficulty of the of the community in connection with this scheme is this, that it has been launched in rather a shy and tentative manner”.

Carr compared the appearance of the Higher College with the launching of King’s College, Lagos, in which there was considerable amount of consultations, which had “the salutary effect on the School that emerged”. He then suggested that “the Director of Education should take the public into confidence, explain the objectives of the scheme and answer questions that might be put by the public” [Taiwo, 131]. There was also the issue of the poor staffing in the technical institutions and that the majority of the staff had inadequate qualifications and were mostly part time or seconded staff from the Technical Departments.

The Nigerian nationalists who were ever critical of any move by the government were more than ready to discredit the government’s effort. The West African Pilot of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe wrote biting commentaries and criticisms, suggesting that it was to prevent the nation from gaining access to full higher education. Products of the College were assistants who had limited promotion prospects. Africans generally were not receptive to the programmes in technical and vocational education, which they suspected was an inferior quality different from the literary courses, which led to promotion in the colonial job hierarchy. When faced with the choice between the Literary and vocational courses, the African opted for the Literary course. For example, when the Blyden’s proposal was brought to the Africans in Lagos even the rich Africans were reluctant to invest in it. Against the minimum sum of two thousand pounds to be raised by the end of the year, only eight hundred pounds were raised by the deadline given. In a similar manner, Nigerians turned their back on the schemes at Ogbomosho, Calabar and throughout all the parts of Nigeria as secondary grammar schools sprang up in preference to vocational institutes or colleges [Ajayi, 1963].

There was also the discrimination in wages. During the colonial period and for much of the time, it was reported that “the demands for clerks put a high premium on that class of workers” [Taiwo, p.137]. A foreman carpenter had a wage of £7 or £8 a month while his son drew £150 a year as a clerk” [Taiwo, p.137]. Henry Carr consistently advised that it was desirable to encourage technicians and skilled workers. He therefore deplored the attitude cultivated by his fellow Nigerians “of looking up to the Government for every help” instead of becoming self-employed, using their skills and the varied opportunities for marketing their products [Taiwo, p.137].

 Post- colonial innovations: Independence was expected to usher in a new orientation in educational delivery in the country. Predictably, the new Independent governments attempted, with varying degrees of successes, to mount technical programmes in the country. Technical colleges and polytechnics were established in different parts of the country by the central and regional, later Federal and State governments.  The Federal Government established the National Board for Technical Education, NBTE, as the official organ to regulate technicaland technological education programmes and institutions in the country.Colleges of Education offered courses in all the areas of technical education, including automobile, building, electrical/electronic, metalwork or wood work technology, leading to the award of the Nigeria Certificate in Education,NCE.

Monotechnics and Polytechnics were built to offer programmes designed to train the middle level workers required to service the relevant sectors of the economy. The government through the board instituted the National Diploma,ND, and the Higher National Diploma, HND. The Polytechnics offered courses in engineering related disciplines such as electrical/electronics, civil, mechanical, marine, telecommunication, computer, aeronautics, automotive, building, agriculture accredited by the NBTE. Many universities also established Faculties of Technology, which offered courses in Vocational, Technical, Technology, and Industrial Education. At some stage in the development of universities, the Federal Government embarked on the establishment of specialist Universities of Technology and Agriculture in parts of the country.

The contribution of national governments has been complimented by that of the United Nations, the UN. Committed to the promotion of peace among nations of the world, the UN has taken an active interest in the promotion of TVET. Dedicated to the promotion of information sharing of best practices, the UN also sees TVET as a tool for the building of a sound democratic foundation, offering citizens better livelihood opportunities and career openings. The foundation of the United Nations Vocational Institute, UNEVOC, by UNESCO  was considered the right step in the right direction. Therefore, the United Nations considered the development of technical and vocational education an important instrument for social and economic growth of developing countries.  The global dimension to the promotion of technical education was of significance. The North wasexpected to use the UNEVOC as a means of transferring skills and knowledge to the South. Thus, technical and vocational education had a mention in the Millennium Development Goals and the succeeding Sustainable Development Goals, the MDGs and the SDGs, respectively. In addition to the contributions of Federal and State governments which established Technical Colleges and Polytechnics, individual proprietors have also founded Technical Colleges and Polytechnics which are appreciated as instruments for the production of the manpower needed for the country. The example of Nassarawa School in Kano has been cited as a model of the investment of an individual which caters for the need of the younger adult and the working class people, seeking to keep the learners off the streets and encouraging them to explore the use of the talents given for production to generate wealth. When the Federal government noticed the discrimination of the HND and the preference for degrees of the University, it decided to emphasis the equivalence of the HND to the BSc degree. It finally decided to abolish the HND and convert the awards to the degree certificate. This means that those universities that hesitated to admit products of the HND programmes to higher degree programmes could no longer have a reason to do so. These efforts demonstrate the importance attached by governments and individuals to technical education. In spite of the investments, it is clear that there is still much to be done in the vital field of technical education.

The dry bones will rise again and Filling the Gap: There is much discussion about the challenges of unemployment and underemployment in the nation.  It is even said that much of our education programmes make our graduates unemployable. The proposed programmes will address the issues of making available the required manpower for the nation. The nation must not be allowed to suffer the setback arising from the few, often inadequately prepared  hands that cannot address our erratic electricity supply, irregular supply of clean water, which in turn affect performance of workers and lead to poor health and unsustainable livelihoods. The lack of adequate technical personnel invariably leads to the dearth of telecommunications infrastructure, which further stifles the required advancement of information technology, information development and the technical empowerment of the people. The absence of telecommunications connection in most of the rural areas are also known to deny the rural population access to modern trends in telecommunications and technology  as tools for accelerated rural development. This means that the nation is unable to mobilise the entire population for national development as talents remain hidden and unexplored by the exclusion of the rural areas.

UNEMPLOYMENT: More challenging is the increasing unemployment rate in the nation.There is an urgent need to break the reliance of the few educated personnel on salaries and wages and the subsequent failure to be self-employed. The Nigerian populace must stop the attitude of wanting the  government to solve all problems. People must be encouraged through appropriate trainings to be independent workers, seeking to solve problems, which in return will lead to job and wealth creation and subsequent independence of the people and their participation in national development. The result will also be the social and economic transformation of the various communities in Nigeria and the nation.

There is a gap, which we need to fill.The Lord gave Pastor E. A. Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God the vision in 2015. It took three years for the vision to mature enough to be accorded official approval in 2018. There is an assurance that the dry bones of technicaleducation in Nigeria and indeed, in Africa and the wider world will live again.We need to reverse the failure of the past: the discrimination against the technical for the liberal, the attack on the Yaba Higher College and its abrupt end, which yet produced people like Dr Michael Okpara who became a pillar in the social and political landscape of Nigeria.

Daddy Adeboye’s vision is the establishment of World-class polytechnic in the field of sciences, technology and management: middle level and higher technical education, beginning with the mounting of programmes and courses in Electrical Electronics, Computer Engineering and Civil Engineering. These are specialised courses that are required for effective service delivery in the industry as well as in homes and the community. Programmes in Computer maintenance work, electrical installation and maintenance, Radio, television and electrical work will help in the broad field of Information Communication Technology, Oil and Gas manufacturing construction and engineering, power services, manufacturing services, construction and engineering, as well as manufacturing services. The proposed  programmes will address the issues of making available the required manpower for the nation.

As would be expected, this project is capital intensive. The RCCG authorities have appreciated the fact that running the programmes would involve a huge financial investment. However, they are resolved to make a commitment to complement the efforts in the task of capacity building in the vital area of engineering and technological development of the nation. Such contributions by the educational project willcertainly assist in the economic development of the nation.

RECTEM is a post-secondary institution with the mandate for the production of high quality, knowledgeable and innovative graduates, worthy in skill and character, through effective teaching, learning and research.The skilled workers will be globally competitive, required by large companies as well as the micro, small and medium enterprises.

The challenge of Investment in technical and technological education

The vision is to be translated into reality by the leadership of the RCCG, the body of Christ andindeed all well-meaning Nigerians eager to get Nigeria going again in the field of technical and technological education. Thus, the vision is by no means a castle in the air, but a demonstration of what the Almighty God of all flesh would want the country to be. The new project aims at moving the education in the country to a higher height. It will deliberately work towards eliminating the discrimination by policy and societal preferences for lawyers and medical profession and deliberately reward the products of the technical and technological institutions. The idea is to ensure that all the students and staff live a life of commitment to the development of technical education. The public will begin to see the reward of investments in technical education. The products will be God-fearing and they will be anointed breeds of accomplished technical education specialists: innovative, entrepreneurial, Christ- centred,  confident, well trained in learning and  character, faith-led,  and joyful recipients of the multiplication of anointing. The school will provide an opportunity to discover, cultivate and nurture various natural talents and gifts of her students, and it will become a habit to possess the education, which promotes the use of the Head, the Hand and the Heart, with the attendant exploration of aptitude and opportunities available and generated.

I received the call to make this presentation while I was away in Edinburgh last month attending the meeting of the Council of the International African Institute. The Institute was founded in 1926 by Lord Frederick Lugard who was responsible for the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 and served as the first Governor-General in Nigeria. I wondered how much an honour it is to be associated with the work of RECTEM, product of the vision of Daddy G.O. I concluded that the Lord must have touched the heart of Daddy Odesola and the team of his Governing Board to play the role of Samuel in demanding that David should leave the woods and be anointed for service. I thought of the New Testament equivalent of Saul’s knock-off on his way to Damascus to contribute to the spread of the Gospel. Of course, I feared that a negative response to a call from these men of God would be dangerous. My next step was to appreciate the Lord for this honour and to commit the assignment to the hands of the Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth. I invited the Holy Spirit to please assist me work on the topic that I was given and to support the presentation. I know that He answered me and has as usual remained faithful to His glory.

It has been a great pleasure for me to explore the story of the past efforts and initiatives in technical education delivery in the nation. I am sorry that it has been more of a catalogue of dashed hopes and disappointments, failure and frustrations. The truth of the matter is there can be no development without technical education:  there can be no hope for any nation that is unable to maintain whatever equipment is available on the ground and possibly make a contribution to its manufacture. Any nation that settles only for being a nation that consumes and does not export is doomed to stagnation instead of development.  Any nation which tolerates hordes of graduates who parade their certificates looking for job would be toying with the inherent danger of the revolt of the jobless graduates.  RECTEM appeals to everyone; by its establishment, no one should carry a certificate without the opportunity for the production and use of his or her acquired skill.

Technical education meets the minimum standard of the knowledge required for the sustenance of a modern nation.  Amasuomo puts this view more pungently when he asserts that, “to achieve quantum leaps in the development of a nation, Technical and Vocational   Education (TVET) must become an integral part of national development because of its impact  on providing manpower needs, improving productivity and economic development [Amasuomo, p287]. In this age of Entrepreneurship, there must be a deliberate and intentional decision to target people to opt for the pursuit of TVET.  The advantages of such pursuit are obvious as it helps to reduce juvenile delinquency, youth restiveness, and poverty, engenders self-employment, entrepreneurship and productivity [,p 287]. TVET has the capacity to work towards the elimination of individual and societal dependence and stagnation and lead to the full attainment of economic and social freedom. TVET will provide a solution to unemployment and social insecurity.

In spite of the account of the failure of the past initiatives in translating our nation into a technically literate society, this renewed vision will succeed. Technical education offered at RECTEM will flourish. Technical education will through the efforts at RECTEM be rehabilitated in our nation. It will be restored and revived. The products of the College will raise their heads in the society and stand up to be counted for effective and efficient performance in the field of technical education. The products having been raised in the fear of God and anointed for service will be the new royalty of kings, queens and royal priests of technical education.

Importantly we note that technical Education in Nigeria has benefited tremendously from the investment made by the affluent, the concerned and the generous contributors  as individuals or corporate bodies. Indeed, progress in education in Nigeria has decisively benefitted from the contribution of the private sector. It may be recalled that Messers Elder Dempster and Company donated 331 pounds and ten shillings to the government initiated technical and industrial education programme introduced in 1900. The Nigerian industrialist, Captain James Pinson Labulo Davies gave the seed money of fifty pounds in 1859 which was used by the founding Principal, Babington Macaulay to open the CMS in June Grammar School 1859.

Labulo Daies later in 1867 made a further contribution of one hundred pounds to the Grammar School Building Fund. The school fund also benefitted from Daniel Conrad Taiwo,  Taiwo Olowo and many other philanthropists. An important investment was made in the promotion of the education of Nigerians by David Vincent who changed his name to Mojola Agbebi and who set up a scholarship fund for prospective students of Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone which produced many graduates who went to head secondary schools in parts of Nigeria.

We have also been told of how Daddy E. A. Adeboye and the RCCG family are resolved to make this new vision a success story. The track record of anything that Pastor E. A. Adeboye touches demonstrates a success story. It has been so with his vision for the Holy Ghost services where miracles respond to the words of knowledge given during the first Friday of every month. It is the same story with the Divine Encounter and the Shiloh hour programmes of the first Monday of every month where lives and finances are transformed. St Paul says that he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him, that is also true of us in the modern generation. Our help will come from Above. The Lord will use us all to support this vision.  It is now our own duty to join in translating this laudable vision to reality in the interest of the nation and humanity.

The General Overseer of the RCCG in the Open Heavens of 6th July counsels that we should continue to give and give and give again and that we should not be tired. As we are giving, the Lord will continue to replenish our pockets and we shall be further empowered to give. Our businesses will prosper; we shall experience Divine Intervention in everything that we handle. The Almighty God will also count us worthy of our calling.

The RCCG projects provide a fertile ground for sowing. There are testimonies from those who have made a modest contribution to the efforts of the RCCG and who have received dividends from the seed sown. Many people therefore continue to look for an opportunity to invest in any project of the Church. I know that the Lord is ever faithful and will surprise each one of us who decides to sow into the impressive project. Be ready for a testimony in Jesus name.

God will help us in Jesus Christ’s name.

CONCLUDED

Being text of a lecture delivered by Emeritus Prof. Michael Abiola Omolewa, OON at the official presentation of Redeemer’s College of Technology & Management held , in Lagos, Nigeria

 

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