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IMPORTANCE OF TECHNICAL EDUCATION TO NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT By: Michael Omolewa, OON.THE BEGINNING: We may describe technical education as the application of theoretical knowledge to production. It is described as the master key to social, political and economic transformation of a nation.  Sometimes called Technical and Vocational Education(TVE), technical education is known for its contribution to the much required human resources by cultivating appropriate skills, knowledge and attitudes  that would enable a nation to harness resources to industrialise and participated fully in the global knowledge-driven economy [Jekayinfa, p.216]. Technical education would automatically involve the use of the heart, for desiring to have the best product to the satisfaction of consumers; the head, for the acquisition of the knowledge required for the production process; and the hand, to bring about the product. This may be the reason for the promotion of the dictum that any success in education must necessarily include the use of the3H, which are the Heart, Head and Hand.

There were elements of technical education in the indigenous educational arrangement. It should therefore be fascinating to explore some of the traditional roots of technical education, including the use of the natural and innate endowments, skills and values of the indigenous peoples. The indigenous educational system, frequently described as non-formal education, made a provision for the training of people in skills. Through the system of apprenticeships, communities had people who produced the varieties of pottery, arts and crafts, textiles, and skills in medicine, agriculture and other disciplines.  There was employment for all as everyone made it a responsibility to meet the need of the society, thereby feeling and helping others feel accomplished. There was also the diversification of skills and products of the training as many communities were served by fishermen, tailors, goldsmith, fashion designers, farmers, hunters, traders, cooks and laundry people, among others.

Historians have drawn attention to the challenge posed by the traditional leaders who were limited by their outlooks and attachment to their localities.They also later appeared to have shown more interest in dealing with human traffic during the slave trade era and, in turn, receiving umbrellas and mirrors from the European traders than in attending to the upgrade of technical skills in the various areas of their occupations. Therefore,they did not provide adequate drive towards the sustenance of technical education and technological development.The major problem, which militated against any success in technical education at this early period was illiteracy. The inability to preserve written records made the development of technical education difficult. Added to the limitation of illiteracy was the poor level of technological development offered by the indigenous society. Consequently, it was easy for Lagos to be bombarded by the British anti-slave trade squadron in 1851 as the Dane guns of the Africans were no match against the European canons. The liquidation of African resistance to European penetration during the scramble for Africa and the subsequent partitions of the continent following the Berlin Conference of 1884 to 1885 were a reflection of the weak technological base of Africa.

THE ADVENT OF WESTERN EDUCATION: The coming of Western education and its Technical education component; and Technical Education experiments in Colonial Nigeria. When Christian missionaries arrived in Nigeria as from the first half of the nineteenth century, Technical education was made part of the formal education system, which was introduced to the country. The explanation for this decision to pay some attention to technical education was dictated by the development in Europe. The Industrial Revolution, which began inEngland   demanded the training of workers in factories and other manufacturing facilities. Investment in skills development had led to the establishment of the Mechanics Institutes and eventually the Workers Educational Associations. The Industrial Revolution had also launched the European nations to great heights in technological competence. The result is the prosperity for the people. European nations were thereafter able to conquer places that are over a hundred times the size of the conquering countries as demonstrated by the ownership of Indonesia by Holland and of India by the Great Britain.

One of the early experiments in the planting of technical schools in Nigeria was the Hope Waddell Institute founded in 1895 in Calabar. The Institute using the apprenticeship method of training offered course in various trades including Gardening, Printing, Tailoring, Engineering, Carpentry and Baking. About the time of the establishment of Hope Waddell Institute, Edward Blyden, an African intellectual,also proposed the funding of the Training College and Industrial Institute in Lagos. Blyden was uncomfortable with the establishment of educational institutions, which catered for the demands for clerks and other blue-collar jobs.  He therefore founded a vocational education-oriented university, which was to be composed of two Departments, the Literary and Industrial.  In the Industrial Department, it was proposed that courses would consist of “usual mechanical trades and scientific and practical agriculture”. Specific attention was expected to be paid to the teaching of courses in mineralogy, botany and geology [Okafor, 50-63].

EARLY EXPERIMENTS: Among the other early experiments in the provision of technical education in the country were the efforts of two Nigerians who had returned from the United States convinced that Nigeria would only be able to have a technological breakthrough if government introduced technical and industrial education in the country [Omolewa, 2015]. The first was Nathaniel DavidOyerinde of the Baptistmission inOgbomoso who lived from 1883 to 1977. After his education at the University of Chicago in the United States, Oyerindereturned to Nigeria in 1916 and founded The Ogbomosho Peoples Institute(OPI). His colleague and contemporary,Eyo Ita who had also studied in the United States returned to Nigeria and joined Oyerinde at Ogbomoso in 1934. He left in 1938 for his own native land in Calabar to found the National Institute with the objectives similar to theOPI. Fire outbreak destroyed the Institute in 1943 after which EyoIta founded the West African People’s Institute (WAPI). We should note that these American educated Nigerians believed that following the lessons learnt by the African Americans, education should provide a solid commercial and economic foundation for people who want to stand up  for their rights and challenge any domination by the more affluent and privileged members of the society to do so. It should be noted that Nnamdi Azikiwe who also returned to Nigeria after his training in the United States later founded the Lagos City College, which was different in orientation from the Grammar Schools. Azikiwe also championed the foundation of the University of Nigeria in Nsukka, which had considerable emphasis on the acquisition of vocational skills, moving away from the British tradition of the acquisition of knowledge for its own sake.

All the experiments failed. Indeed, Oyerinde watched with dismay as parents and the wider Ogbomoso community opted for the grammar school model of training and proceeded to found the Ogbomoso High School in 1952. OPI was thereafter phased out and the obviously much needed technical and vocational education was phased out by 1954 [Agiri, 1979].

In the meantime, by 1900, Government had established a programme in which industrial education was incorporated into the school curriculum. Another opportunity to get vocational education introduced to the schools system arose in 1906 with the proposal to have a King’s College in which literary and vocational courses would be offered. While the Colonial Governor, Sir Walter Egerton desired to have some educational package in which the Africans could obtain qualifications up to the Intermediate degree level, the Colonial Office opted for some general education in the lower classes and vocational training in the upper classes. This was a form of theantecedent to what was to emerge as the new Nigerian Education policy of two tiers of secondary education, with the junior level being general and the second tier offering vocational education.

ANOTHER EXPERIMENT: Another experiment at technical education was introduced as from 1929 by the British colonial official, E.R.J. Hussey, who was then the Director of Education, what we could describe as the Federal Minister of Education of today.Hussey had a passion for the development of education. It was for that reason that the people of Warri decided to build a community secondary school named after him to become Hussey College, Warri. He believed that technical education was indispensable for the healthy growth of the Nigerian nation. For that purpose, he established the Yaba Higher College as an institution for higher education, which working in cooperation with the various departments would train young Africans for various professional posts. Medicine, Agriculture, Engineering, Forestry and Survey were among the areas identified.

Under this arrangement, recruited students would undergo 2 years of theory in Engineering, Agriculture or Surveying, followed by 2 years of field and practical courses in relevant Departments. For medical and veterinary medicine students, the duration was 5 years. Hussey wanted to use the educational arrangement to attempt to address the issue of increasing unemployment in the country and to encourage people to learn to appreciate the use of the hands. The passion of Hussey was the building of partnership with various stakeholders in the development of the country. Earlier, Henry Carr the African educationist had pleaded in his contribution at the Legislative Council in Lagos that:

With the extension of Government occupation and of commercial enterprise the demand of school-learning becomes urgent and imperative, and the Missions , I feel sure, will not fail to cooperate with the Government and the people in supplying this new demand. The will not forget that the children whom they are training to live in heaven have first to get through the world. They will teach them in a practical manner to be industrious, truthful, obedient, respectable, honourable, clean, tidy. They will see that it is not in the interest of anyone that children should conceive of religion as a mere unreal profession or as a mere cloak for slothfulness in business.[Taiwo, p. 153]

There was an opposition to the scheme and a demand for a full-fletched 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.

REASONS FOR FAILURE OF EXPERIMENTS IN TECHNICAL EDUCATION IN NIGERIA: 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.

Being text of the first part of the Lecture delivered by Emeritus Prof. Michael Omolewa, OON, President 32nd General Conference of UNESCO & Member, Board of Advisers Terrific Headlines;  at the official presentation of the Redeemers College of Technology & Management in Lagos.

To be concluded                                                                            


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