By Abdullahi Olesin, Ilorin
The importance of technical education to the attainment of the much- desired national growth and development formed the nucleus of all the papers presented by various speakers during the 24th convocation of Kwara State Polytechnic, Ilorin.
All the speakers at the event, including the Kwara State Governor, Alh Abdulfatah Ahmed, former Rector of Sokoto State Polytechnic, Prof Bashir Garba and the Rector of Kwara State Polytechnic, Ilorin,Alh Mas’ud Elelu emphasized the need for the authority concerned to accord technical education top priority if the nation’s quest for development would be achieved.
In his convocation lecture, Garba who is also the Secretary to Sokoto State government said that science and technical education plays fundamental role in achieving sustainable development such as in wealth creation.
He stated that the ability to acquire and utilise knowledge and skills effectively is the key to the growth and development that will propel socio -economic development in Nigeria.
“Science and Technology are to modern life what the hands are to the body. They are used to harness the forces of nature and transform the raw resources with which nature endows man into goods and services for better quality of life. In fact, the wealth, influence and power in the world political scene of any nation depend largely on her capacity and capability to utilise science and technology for socio-economic benefit.
“It is interesting to note that Science and Technology is now globally recognised as critical in the socio-economic development of any nation such that those nations where Science and Technology are given top priority support are the ones making waves in all sectors of the economy.
“The performance of the Science and Technology sub-sector has in recent times become a topical issue. Various stakeholders have called for concerted efforts from the public and private sectors to reposition the economy with clearly defined roles for each sector.While government and its agencies ensure the establishment of an enabling environment and the creation of the institutional framework to stimulate investment, the private sector plays the pivotal role of identifying and nurturing investment in Science and Technology.
“It is important to note that the fundamental purpose of technology education is to produce all types and levels of technological manpower required by the economy and, in so doing, extend the realm of practical human possibilities through research.
“One major weak point in the educational system in Nigeria has always been in the science and technology sector. On the other hand, most Nigerians preferred liberal education to science and technical education for their children because it provided ready white-collar jobs. Education was indeed regarded as a means to liberate their children from the tedium of farming and other menial jobs,” Garba posited.
Stressing the importance of Polytechnic education to the development of the nation, Garba said that the comprehensive policy on Polytechnic education was included in the National Policy on Education under set objectives on technical education which include, the provision of trained manpower in Applied Sciences, Technology and Commerce, particularly at sub-professional grades; the provision of the technical knowledge and vocational skills necessary for agricultural, industrial, commercial and economic development and the provision of people who can apply scientific knowledge to the improvement the solution of environmental problems for the use and convenience of mankind.
Other set objectives he stated include, giving an introduction to professional studies in engineering and other technologies, giving training and impact necessary skills leading to the production of craftsmen, technicians, and other skilled personnel who will be enterprising and self-reliant; and enabling young men and women to have an intelligent understanding of the increasing complexity of technology.
The convocation lecturer identified inadequate funding, lack of industrial support and lack of enough hands-on exposure, inadequate professional staff and low prestige in the eye of the public as some of the problems inhibiting polytechnic education in the country.
He recommended that “the trainers we have in our classrooms, workshops and laboratories are constantly abreast with trends in industry. This is one sure way of bridging the gap which currently exists between training institutions and industry. Trainers should either be industry practitioners, or have access to regular career enhancement courses”.
In his remarks, Governor Ahmed said his administration has injected about N2 billion into small and medium scale enterprises and micro credit schemes.
Ahmed said the gesture is to promote entrepreneurship and agriculture in the state.
Represented by the Commissioner for Tertiary Education, Dr Amina Ahmed, the governor added: “Let me at this point state that it is important that more institutions begin to include entrepreneurship courses in their curriculum so that at the end their studies, new graduates will have the confidence to start up their own businesses and be employers of labour and not job seekers.
“I am glad that the Kwara state Polytechnic is keeping up with the times as the institution has made entrepreneurship studies mandatory. I am certain this will go a long in preparing students of the polytechnic for the future .”
Earlier, Rector of the polytechnic, Elelu denied an alleged increment in the school fees being charged by the institution.
Elelu said “most times students displayed immaturity and impatience in their approach to issues; a recent instance is the immaturity displayed by some miscreants, who are never students of our institution, on the false allegation of school fees increase. When in actual fact, there was increase at all.”
Making case for technical education, the rector emphasized that: “It is pertinent to stress at this juncture, that in this 21st century; no nation can have a strong economy and experience sustainable development without a skilled workforce. Nigeria needs to revitalize and galvanize its technical schools.
“We therefore call on the Federal and State governments to review their policy on technical education by breathing more life to technical schools. Individuals who have the technical hands-on are more needed now to provide the necessary “basic raw materials” for positive engagement of Polytechnics products.
“The Technical Colleges can easily plug into the Polytechnic system than their counterparts from Secondary or Grammar Schools. If our dream to invent, innovate, fabricate tools and equipment which would ease our operations is to be realized therefore, we need more of Technical Colleges now than ever before.
“On our part, we shall network with local masons, Artisans, Craftsmen, Printers, Painters, Motor mechanics, builders, fashion designers, shoe makers/cobblers, GSM phone repairers, wrist watch makers, welders, vulcanizers, soap makers, cosmetologists, et cetera in order to tap from their possessed skills and also feed them with the required knowledge in their domains, improve on their attitude so that they can excel, attract, sustain patronage and ultimately contribute meaningfully to the national economy.
“The world is treading the skills highway for obvious reasons- generate wealth and create job opportunities. Skills competition has become an annual event which Nigeria has to key into.”