‘Nigeria needs technical education to solve manpower challenges’
Dr. Philipa Idogho recently bowed out as Rector of Federal Polytechnic, Auchi, Edo State, after eight years of stewardship. She was the first alumnus and first female to be appointed rector. She spoke with ALEMMA-OZIORUVA ALIU on her eventful tenure and the strides she made to position the polytechnic on the path of academic glory
How did you fare being in the saddle for eight as the first female rector?
When I came on board in 2008 I met a polytechnic that was somehow moribund; there was no infrastructural development as well as poor human capacity. So, I embarked on massive infrastructural development knowing that Auchi Polytechnic is the only big polytechnic in the South-South geopolitical zone of Nigeria. The general outlook of the polytechnic with regards to discipline of students and the perception people had about it, as a school of cultist was not good.
The first thing I did was to encourage members of staff to go for further training. We started by encouraging them to pay N50,000 to those going for MSc and N100,000 for those going for PhD programmes. Then fortunately, the Federal Government came out with a policy through TETFund on staff training and development. It then gave us the opportunity to encourage more staff to go for further training. So we set a deadline for those having first degrees and HND certificates to go for further training.
They responded well. We gave a percentage to those who wanted to go outside the country; it was our belief that cross-fertilization of ideas would help the system grow. We also set aside funds for those going for conferences within and outside Nigeria so that their perception will change for the better.
We also encouraged Information and Computer Technology (ICT) training. When I came on board we had just about five per cent ICT compliance. Then we started by organising workshops in ICT because we knew that it was what was happening around the world.
What were some of the challenges you encountered?
The first was change. When you want to change the perception of humans, you discover that you certainly face challenges, but as a student of administration I knew I was going to face all that. However, I still went ahead to effect the change. I had a mission and that mission was to ensure that by the time my tenure ends, I would leave behind a polytechnic people will reckon with; and that was exactly what I did. Today Auchi Polytechnic is in the world map. Webometrics now has Auchi Poly in its ranking. Since 2009, Auchi Poly has been ranked one of the best polytechnics in Africa; the best in West Africa and the best in Nigeria. It has maintained that status till date. So if efforts were not put in place to ensure that we had massive infrastructural and human capacity development and were ICT compliant, we couldn’t have reached that height. Now, the polytechnic is visible to the world and they can see what is happening at the polytechnic through our website. Today, all payments and every other thing we do with regards to admission are done online.
Definitely, it is good that those in a particular system, who know the system very well, should run it. It is better for those who are already in the system and who know what is happening there to head it. They know what and what is pinching the system; they will be able to focus on those areas and fix them.
How are Nigerian polytechnics responding to the manpower needs in technical fields?
I want to say that polytechnic education is for the development of the manpower needs of a particular country. In Nigeria, the polytechnics train skilled manpower to drive the economy. I want to say that polytechnic graduates are those we require. That is why you discover that the entire world is moving towards technical and vocational education; that is what we need. We need people with skilled manpower.
Recently, the Federal Government announced that skills would be developed because we import most of the skills we need. Meanwhile, we have people we can teach these skills and those who already have them. We import skills to do our roads, but we have trained people with such skills in the polytechnic sector. It only requires for us to develop the curriculum to suit what the nation needs. We need to redirect our focus to the area of lack and retrain those that have been trained before or start training the ones that we need.
For example, Nigeria needs an efficient railway system. Do we have the skilled manpower to drive it? So, it is for us in the polytechnic sector to develop a curriculum that suits the railway system and then start teaching students who want to read such a course. When they are now proficient in it, we wouldn’t need to import those skills because we already have them. So these are the things that we need. We need to really sit down and then look at the direction we want our country to go and then refocus and come up with a curriculum that suits our needs.
What are your expectations from you successor?
Whoever is going to take over from me already knows or might have heard or might have seen the level we have attained. The person would have to take a cue from there. Even though the country is going through some economic problems and he or she may not able to add much to what we have put in place, he or she should be able to maintain what is on already on ground.
What you will do differently if you are given the opportunity again?
If tomorrow I’m called again to come to the polytechnic, I’m not going to do anything differently because what I did is something that should be built upon.
I said I wanted the polytechnic to be the best and it is the best. I said I wanted Auchi Polytechnic to be transformed into a university of technology. Today, we are in collaboration with the University of Wolverhampton in the U.K. We are also in collaboration with Nnamdi Azikiwe University (NAU), Awka; we already have three programmes running – BSc Accountancy, BSc Business Administration and BSc Estate Management. Just before I left, National Universities Commission wrote to Nnamdi Azikiwe University based on our request to have educational collaboration with them in some educational courses. NUC is coming to look at the human capacity and facilities so they can give us the go-ahead to run those seven programmes. With NAU, Awka, we can give out BSc in Physics, Chemistry, Education, Computer, Educational Management and other courses.
So, I’m not going to do anything differently because I have touched all the aspects that I marked out for my administration.