By Odimegwu Onwumere
Investigations have revealed that majority of university graduates face in the labour market what they didn’t learn in school. This is creating a heated argument that the curriculum – 6,3,3,4 system of education – is not really structured for the Nigerian system.
Accordingly, the society is in dearth of skilled technicians like bricklayers, carpenters, painters and auto mechanics; laboratory and pharmacy technicians, electrical/electronic technicians and skilled vocational nurses. Just to mention but a few. Professionals have said.
The country is in lack of the above, and the federal government formerly accredited this, saying that about 80 per cent of Nigeria’s youths are without-a-job and 10 per cent underemployed. What this means is that the aim of creating the National Board for Technical Education (by Act No. 9 of 11th January, 1977), which boasts as a principal organ of Federal Ministry of Education specifically created to handle all aspects of Technical and Vocational Education has been defeated, as this aspect of education is not enshrined in the country’s conventional education curriculum.
Ebele Orakpo and Tare Youdeowei, Nigerian journalists argued in a public debate, “By provisions of the National Policy on Education, we will need at least one technical college in each of the 774 local government areas of the federation. For each local government, you need a minimum of four vocational centres so the products of the vocational centres will be the raw materials for the technical college. The technical college will produce the craftsmen who will be the raw materials for the polytechnics.
“The polytechnics will produce technicians and technologists. So in effect, we need to have 3,096 vocational centres in the country. For every four technical colleges, we are supposed to have one polytechnic. So Nigeria, with 774 local government areas, will need about 194 polytechnics to service our much touted technological revolution.”
Unlike Nigeria, Victor E. Dike, the author of ‘Leadership without a Moral Purpose: a Critical Analysis of Nigeria and the Obasanjo Administration, 2003-2007’, in a civic presentation, said, “Before the Industrial Revolution (between 1750 and 1830) the home and the “apprenticeship system” were the principal sources of vocational education. Vocational education became popular in the elementary schools in the United States after 1880 and developed into courses in industrial training, bookkeeping, stenography, and allied commercial work in both public and private institutions.”
Mrs. Ruqayyatu Rufa’I as then education minister noticed how the government and Nigerians have grown thick skin in waving away vocational education with the left hand, hence she stated at the launch of the 2012 Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report (GMR) in Abuja, that she identified poor public discernment of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), as part of the constrictions encumbering Nigerians from copiously embracing the hypothesis.
It is evidence that globally, Nigeria has been termed by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that she has the worst education indicators. The UNESCO’s Country Director in Nigeria, Professor Hassana Alidou at the summit hinted that since the first edition of GMR in 2001, Nigeria was yet to follow modalities in making sure that the six goals of Education for All, adopted in Dakar in 2000, is achieved. The highlight of this is that the 2012 report, positioned a somewhat unmistakable picture of Nigeria’s progress and challenges on vocational education.
Regret on vocational education
Apart from the USA, findings are, according to Dike, “India and the “Asian Tigers” could not have become what they are without massive investment in technical education.”
It was opined that in these climes, they have improved on by adding emphasis in their vocational and technical schools to training in the computers and information technology, due to the economic meltdown in the world.
Against this backdrop, vocational and technical educations which were once abandoned in Nigeria, have been incessantly talked-about in the recent times to be relevant to refilling the gap in the Nigeria’s educational system in the area of providing manpower and technical knowhow.
This is because it is regret everywhere that governments at all levels had abandoned vocational education in Nigeria for a long time, making graduates from such educational system to be treated unfriendly, for the exaltation of university graduates.
For example, many persons that went to technical colleges come out with trade certificate and most times end up their careers on the roadside. The disparity between Higher National Diploma and Bachelor of Science certificates is another proof that technical education is relegated to the background.
But the reverse is that the unceasing unemployment in the country today has made many parents to start registering their children in technical schools, because university graduates who do not have skills go back to vocational schools to acquire skill for the enablement of employment. Technical schools were once termed as where never-do wells go; for second rate students.
Lessons from the USA
Dike said that the number of public and private vocational schools has greatly increased in the United States since 1900. He added that there was an impetus on vocational education during World War II (1939-1945) when the armed services had great need for technicians that the civilian world could not supply.
“There was a further upsurge on vocational training from the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (the G. I. Bill of Rights), which allowed World War II veterans to receive tuition and subsistence during extended vocational training.
“There was also the Manpower Development Training Act (1962), the Vocational Education Act (1963), and the Vocational Education Amendments (1968) and the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Act (1984). These programs help to improve the nation’s workforce and ensure that vocational training is available for economically (and physically) challenged youths,” he said.
Connoisseurs, however, have said that such notion being exhibited against technical schools graduates in Nigeria is a very bad mentality, which was inherited from the colonial masters. The resultant of the abandonment of vocational education is the fact that Nigerians have seen that grammar and white collar jobs cannot drive the country’s economy.
And there is apprehension that schools in the country produce graduates who can’t swank of skills. Again, there is angry-speech that a typical graduate in the country is unemployable. Hence, Nigeria is looking for a way to improve on her educational system for the enablement of her youth to be independent and acquire employable skills and re-skilling and retraining those that have.
It is believed that there are the fundamental energy needs of the normal rural family but few persons are educated about the technical knowhow. What those in this line of thought are suggesting is that every measure to put in place necessary teaching implements that will boost teaching, learning and skill is needed.
Government has said that this will enable entrepreneurial programmes in the Nigerian educational institutions. In November, 2015, the Rector of Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, Owerri, Dr. Cele Njoku was passionate about this with her 80-page, first foundational lecture of the institution, titled “Technical and Vocational Education and The Business Education Question.”
In making sure that Nigerians acquire skills in different occupations, at least, in October 2015, Osun and France signed N8bn solar plant agreement to build a 13 megawatts solar plant in the state. In November 2015, experts canvassed more initiatives on renewable energy. The Bank of Industry, BoI, and the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, saw the need in technical education and provided a long-term financing for the fitting of off-grid solar home systems “in six communities in a pilot phase.”
Even Major General Mohammadu Buhari, during the Nigeria Alternative Power Expo, NAPE, saw the need to call on investors in the power sector to modify stress towards environmentally friendly substitute sources of power generation in order to guard the ecosystem. The BoI Managing Director, Mr. Rasheed Olaoluwa, distinguished the need to impact on the lives of thousands of people through the initiative.
With vocational education in place, the quest for rural-urban migration won’t be fad; Mr. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in October 2015, promised enormous solar power in one year, while inspecting Solar power stands mounted at a Trade Fair by the Department of International Development (DFID), which was a follow up to the conformity signed between Nigeria and the UK for gigantic solar power in Nigeria.
In 2014, an assemblage of Nigerian engineers, technologists and scientists designed a state-of-the-art model solar car that was expected to put Nigeria on the technology and innovation internationally. They did not build the car with grammar, the Team leader and Creative Director, 9jaBOLT Solar Car Project, Mr. Ebube Ebisike said Nigeria was invited to officially contend as Africa’s sole delegate in the World Solar Challenge in October 18-25, 2015 in Adelaide, Australia.
Improving on vocational schools
Proprietors of vocational schools have called on Nigeria to come to their aid due to what they said is the expensive cost of running such institutions. According to a source, this is important, because “Most of them do not have required workshops, laboratories, buildings, and so on.”
The source went further, “We have 171 technical colleges approved so far but not up to a quarter of them have passed accreditation. Most are owned by state governments, only about 22 are owned by the Federal Government.”
The source added that Nigeria will expend about N1 billion to launch a technical college of international standard. This amount is both for the infrastructure and equipment. And in the 774 local government areas, it will cost Nigeria N774b.
Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet/Writer; he writes from Rivers State. (firstname.lastname@example.org). Tel: +2348057778358.